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Quality coaching hires key to making tough jobs easier

(or turning a good job into a difficult one, in a certain school’s case...)

NCAA Football: Louisville at Syracuse Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Bill Connelly’s Temple Owls season preview appeared on SB Nation today, and it got me thinking about how coaching hires shape a job over time.

He touched on as much in the preview, using both Temple and Boise State as examples of how hitting on multiple hires in a row has helped change those program cultures and the overall difficulty (or lack thereof) of the job. Boise State hired Dirk Koetter and became a Big West power. They hired Dan Hawkins and dominated the WAC. Chris Peterson continued that dominance and had the Broncos as a fixture atop the Mountain West.

For Temple, we saw first-hand how tough that job was, and the depths to which it sank while in the Big East the first time around. But then they hired Al Golden, who created a blueprint for what worked. They brought in Steve Addazio, who didn’t necessarily ruin it. And then Matt Rhule seemed to find the peak of what the Owls’ football program was capable of. He parlayed an AAC championship last year into getting the Baylor gig.

NCAA Football: American Athletic Conference Championship-Temple vs Navy Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

There are countless other examples around the country, too. And then there’s the opposite effect: what we’ve seen at Syracuse.

Way back, Ossie Solem started touching the ceiling of what the Orangemen could do, then things sort of faded toward the end of his time as head coach. Biggie Munn and Reaves Baysinger continued the downward trend before Ben Schwartzwalder arrived and eventually coached the program to a national championship.

But the end of his tenure probably came a few years too late. And then Frank Maloney kept the program mired in mediocrity.

Dick MacPherson took some time to turn the program back around, and that could’ve been the end of the successful run for the Orangemen. Paul Pasqualoni’s hire ended up continuing the stretch instead, though. That’s the value of two straight winning hires.

Since then, SU hasn’t been able to hit two straight -- hence the struggles. Greg Robinson was as big of a miss as you can have, turning a job that was about to get harder into one that was among the toughest in the power conferences. Doug Marrone created a path forward, but Scott Shafer couldn’t sustain it. Now, we’re seemingly back on the right track with Dino Babers. But the question of what happens next is always going to be in the back of our minds.

If Babers succeeds, he’s once again established a sustainable path forward for the program. But whether that path continues or not is entirely based on his successor’s abilities. Babers could be here one more year or four, and his impact on the program is still likely to be limited by the next hire.

People forget the importance of Pasqualoni because of the late fade and the hire after him. But they revere Coach MacPherson for the heights he brought the program to, in part because of what Coach P was able to do after him.

So now, with a tough job, Babers has a chance to make it easier. Maybe not as easy as Florida or Michigan or USC (and even then, all of those program have swung and missed in recent years). We think he’ll succeed, but that’s still dependent on what happens next. Babers’s lasting legacy may not end up being defined by what he does here at all. Rather, if he’s truly a landmark hire, the success that comes after him will be even greater.