Robert McCullum spent the entire 2006-07 looking over his shoulder.
After receiving the dreaded “significant improvement” ultimatum, the Bulls’ 12-18 season wasn’t enough for McCullum to remain with the team. Athletic Director Doug Woolard deemed McCullum’s performance unworthy of his lofty standards for USF athletics.
But Woolard should have cut ties with McCullum after his third season with the team instead of allowing him to serve as a lame duck coach for an entire season.
“When I stepped back and looked at the entire past four seasons, I did not see enough progress in our program over that time,” Woolard said in a press release. “I felt like we should be further along over the four-year stretch.”
As a result, USF let a proven commodity in men’s college basketball slip away in former Cincinnati coach Bob Huggins, who signed with Kansas State a year ago.
Under Huggins’ guidance, the Bearcats recorded 399 wins, 14 NCAA Tournament appearances and 14 20-win seasons. In his first season with Kansas State, the team turned its record around from 15-13 to 21-10 and will be considered a tournament lock if it defeats No. 2 Kansas in the Big 12 Tournament on Saturday night.
It is not often a coach with a career winning percentage of .740 and ties to the Big East becomes available.
Amid rumors of his much expected replacement, McCullum knew the end was drawing close as the losses piled up. His fate was all but sealed when the Bulls failed to make a Big East Tournament appearance for the second straight season.
During conference play, the Bulls compiled a record of 4-28 without a win away from the Sun Dome in two seasons in the Big East.
As each round of the Big East Tournament was broadcast live on ESPN from Madison Square Garden, Woolard must have grown frustrated his team wasn’t gaining the national attention 12 other teams in the conference are enjoying.
With USF’s move to the Big East two seasons ago, pressure to succeed quickly has mounted on USF.
McCullum became the latest coach to be replaced since the conference shift. Last summer, baseball coach Eddie Cardieri and women’s soccer coach Logan Fleck were replaced after failing to qualify for conference tournament appearances. Susan Holt left the women’s golf team to join Notre Dame.
Those three were the longest-tenured coaches at the school.
Woolard has brought in his own coaches, replacing Cardieri with Lelo Prado, a switch that seems to be working — the baseball team is 12-5 in a young season. Denise Schilte-Brown was brought in to replace Fleck after leading Virginia Commonwealth to two NCAA Tournament appearances.
If this trend holds true, a proven winner will be brought in to become the new men’s basketball coach.