Pac-12 MBB Hot Seat analysis: Cal, Stanford, UW could make changes

March will be busy in the Pac-12 for reasons unrelated to media rights negotiations, expansion decisions or the survival of the conference.

Instead, a different kind of survival will play out with at least three men’s basketball coaches on the (extremely) Hot Seat and others potentially leaving for bigger and better jobs.

The carousel hasn’t rotated much recently in the Pac-12, with only Arizona and Utah changing coaches since the pandemic descended three years ago. (Given the quality of play, there should have been more movement.)

But before the Ides of March arrive, the carousel could be spinning at warp speed across the footprint.

Our breakdown of each program and the likelihood of a change …


Coach: Tommy Lloyd (second year)

Contract: Signed through 2027 ($2.9 million)

Comment: Lloyd set a stratospheric bar in his first season with a conference title, a Sweet 16 appearance and national Coach of the Year honors. He inherited a loaded roster from Sean Miller but, based on his recruiting work for all those years on the Gonzaga bench, should keep the pipeline flowing from Tucson to the NBA. All signs point to the Wildcats maintaining their historical standard under Lloyd.

Chance of a vacancy: 0.001 percent. Until Gonzaga coach Mark Few retires and Lloyd doesn’t take the gig in his home state, we consider him an ever-so-slight flight risk.

Arizona State

Coach: Bobby Hurley (eighth year)

Contract: Signed through 2024 ($2.6 million)

Comment: Not a week goes by, it seems, without someone somewhere speculating on Hurley’s future in Tempe. Sure, the victory at Arizona helped deflect a little heat, but Hurley long ago righted the ship: Since the middle of February ’22, the Sun Devils are 27-11. Now that he has figured out the chemistry piece within the transfer portal process, the success should continue.

Chance of a vacancy: 10 percent. If ASU sneaks into the NCAAs and wins a game or two, Hurley might have options closer to home. East Coast transplants in the Pac-12 are always threats to return to their native turf.


Coach: Mark Fox (fourth year)

Contract: Signed through 2024 ($1.65 million)

Comment: Two things, equally true: 1) Cal is a very difficult job that’s getting tougher, relative to the competition, by the year; and 2) the Bears have underachieved, by a substantial amount, during the Fox tenure. In short, Cal basketball has become a complete and utter wasteland. There is no escape from that existence without regime change.

Chance of a vacancy: 90 percent. We’re hesitant to declare Fox’s termination a foregone conclusion because Cal is perfectly capable of being Cal. But this is the worst season in school history, and even the Bears know rock bottom when they hit it.


Coach: Tad Boyle (13th year)

Contract: Signed through 2027 ($2.4 million)

Comment: A loss this weekend at Utah would lock up Boyle’s worst regular season since the Buffaloes joined the Pac-12. That’s not entirely a surprise given the attrition from last spring and the inexperienced lineup. After all, the program isn’t set up for sustained success — there simply isn’t enough in-state talent to continually backfill the roster.

Chance of a vacancy: 1 percent. Unless the 60-year-old Boyle is quietly planning a retirement announcement, we foresee no changes in Boulder. He went to the NCAAs in 2021 and had posted four consecutive 20-win seasons prior to this year. His credit rating remains high.


Coach: Dana Altman (13th year)

Contract: Signed through 2028 ($3.8 million)

Comment: Unless the Ducks claim the conference tournament title, they will miss the NCAAs for the second consecutive season — a skid last matched in Altman’s first two seasons in Eugene. We have been struck by the frequency of poor efforts and bad losses, signs that his message no longer sticks. Or perhaps it’s simply this group of players, and the winning ways will return next winter.

Chance of a vacancy: 2 percent. Fact one: Altman will leave when he’s ready and not a day sooner. Fact two: Altman is turning 65 this summer. The thought of retiring after a sour season probably sits poorly with him, so we’ll presume he’s returning for ’24. But the end is drawing near.

Oregon State

Coach: Wayne Tinkle (ninth year)

Contract: Signed through 2027 ($2.6 million)

Comment: If there are degrees of dreadful, the Beavers have defined them: Four wins in conference play constitute a quadrupling of their total from ’22. The young roster, with freshman guard Jordan Pope in the leading role, provides a speck of a morsel of a reason for hope next season.

Chance of a vacancy: 10 percent. Tinkle is still living off the miraculous three-week stretch two years ago when OSU reached the Elite Eight and he received a massive contract extension. Our sense is the Beavers will give him one more year. If they are in the bottom tier again, that could be it.


Coach: Jerrod Haase (seventh year)

Contract: Terms not disclosed

Comment: The Cardinal is headed to yet another underachieving season under Haase, who arrived in the spring of 2016 and has yet to reach the NCAA Tournament. In fact, the product is getting worse (based on conference record) and has become completely irrelevant.

Chance of a vacancy: 51 percent. Anywhere else, and a coaching change would be inevitable. But Stanford, like Cal, has institutional issues to solve before the program is ready to compete for regular NCAA berths — whether Haase is running the show or not.


Coach: Mick Cronin (fourth year)

Contract: Signed through 2028 ($4.1 million)

Comment: Honestly, we don’t have much to say. The Bruins are rolling in Year Four of the Cronin era.

Chance of a vacancy: 0.0001 percent. Our strong suspicion is that Cronin, who grew up in Ohio, would only leave Westwood for a few jobs back east. Until we see which schools have vacancies this spring, the odds of his departure are essentially infinitesimal.


Coach: Andy Enfield (10th year)

Contract: Signed through 2028 (terms not disclosed)

Comment: Enfield is the first coach in USC history to win 20 or more games for four consecutive years and has proved success after the Mobley brothers is possible. (Admittedly, we were skeptical.) His use of the transfer portal has been adept.

Chance of a vacancy: 2 percent. In our opinion, the East Coast native is always a low-level threat to leave USC for a deep-pocketed program in the ACC or Big Ten … if just the right gig opens. At some point, he might find the lure of coaching for a basketball school too strong to resist.

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Coach: Craig Smith (second year)

Contract: signed through 2027 ($2.1 million)

Comment: The Utes underachieved a tad last season but have far exceeded expectations in Year Two of the Smith era. In fact, they are so far ahead of schedule that the lineup of soft non-conference opponents — it was designed with momentum, not March Madness, in mind — has undermined their prospects for the NCAA Tournament.

Chance of a vacancy: 0.0 percent. Smith probably hasn’t won enough to attract offers from other schools, and there is no chance of Utah making a change. Quite the opposite: The school would love for him to stay for years to come.


Coach: Mike Hopkins (sixth year)

Contract: Signed through 2025 ($2.9 million)

Comment: The momentum from the first two seasons under Hopkins has long since vanished as UW continues to struggle on the offensive end — and careens toward yet another mediocre season in a mediocre league.

Chance of a vacancy: 66.7 percent. One of the most interesting Hot Seat situations in the conference is unfolding in Seattle, where the Huskies reportedly would owe Hopkins for the remaining two years of his contract (approximately $6 million). Now that football is fixed, the administration can devote full time, and resources, to getting basketball right.

Washington State

Coach: Kyle Smith (fourth year)

Contract: Signed through 2027 ($1.5 million)

Comment: What looked like a smart hire in the spring of 2019 has proven just that. Smith won 22 games last season and has the Cougars in the middle of the pack again this year. His recruiting success, with both transfers and high school players, has been just this side of remarkable.

Chance of a vacancy: 15 percent. The fourth-year coach is perhaps the No. 1 flight risk in the conference given his success at three schools (Columbia, USF and WSU) and the limited resources at the Cougars’ disposal in the event a big brand comes calling.

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