Author Topic: Mount Rushmore of D3 Coaches  (Read 14750 times)

Offline SpringSt7

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Re: Mount Rushmore of D3 Coaches
« Reply #150 on: May 08, 2020, 11:49:44 am »
I agree with Sager and his Harry Truman quote, but the one thing I would add, and this is somewhat repeating what he said, is that you can probably tell what kind of program a school/coach is running based on A.) The age of the head coach and how long he has been the HC of said program and B.) How long the assistant coaches tend to stay at the program. There are certainly exceptions I would imagine, but the younger the HC, the more likely it is that they are doing nearly all of the emailing and calling and what not, although the assistants will always be useful in identifying preliminary targets at AAU tournaments and what not. But if a team is cycling assistants in and out every 2 or 3 years, it is unlikely that they are playing in a huge role in recruiting guys, knowing that they probably won't be there by the time that recruit is an upperclassmen.

Offline ronk

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Re: Mount Rushmore of D3 Coaches
« Reply #151 on: May 08, 2020, 12:24:05 pm »
 No set criteria; each may weigh individual coaching aspects to their own degree; accomplishments would seem to ranking higher in weight for others than for you, Ryan.
 WRT recruiting, Gary Williams of MD(and Ohio State, BC, and American) would seem to be in the Tom Izzo school(winning with less-recruited players). Gary would not recruit McDonald-s All-American type prospects, yet still won a title.

Offline Titan Q

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Re: Mount Rushmore of D3 Coaches
« Reply #152 on: May 08, 2020, 02:00:28 pm »
A couple of questions to help me understand the recruiting discussion. I've heard that some schools have a natural advantage in getting good players because of the nature of the institution, i.e. high caliber academics, and that rather than beating the bushes for good players they only have to actively court players who themselves express an interest in their institution (and maybe compete with their peer institutions, who these same student athletes have applied to). Does this sound right? Also, how much credit for successful recruiting goes to assistant coaches who have that as one of their primary responsibilities?

I'd say different schools have different recruiting advantages.  Advantages can be gained via:
* Academics
* Cost
* Location
* Facilities
* MBB Program Tradition (historical success)
* Social Fit

(I'm probably missing some areas, but those seem like the big ones to me.)

Rarely is one school good in all 6 for a given recruit.  For example, a UAA school might be attractive academically...but might be too expensive...or not a good fit socially...or might have a bad men's basketball program historically.

Also worth noting, those 6 factors are weighted very differently for each recruit.  (Coaches spend a lot of time during recruiting trying to determine what factors will be most important to the recruit and recruit's family in the final decision.)

Across the 6 factors, some schools certainly tend to have a more attractive mix of the 6 overall on a consistent basis.  It's what leads to "power programs" - schools that are historically strong in MBB.

If there are D3 schools that can succeed at the highest level in MBB (be a Top 25 program, make the NCAA tourney often, get to Sweet 16s, etc) without aggressively recruiting - and rather simply be able to "actively court players who themselves express an interest in their institution" - I sure have not seen it.  From what I have seen, even the schools with the most built-in advantages across those 6 factors I identified above end up in intense battles for the caliber of MBB players needed to be a top program. 

No program in Division III is fortunate enough to just take who walks in the door, coach them up, and become a Top 25 team.  Recruiting is the most important element to success for every program in Division III.

Assistant coaches play a HUGE role in D3 recruiting at most schools.  The head coach is almost always the most important in recruiting, and certainly the deal closer, but assistant coaches play a vital role in schools establishing and developing relationships with recruits during the long recruiting cycle -- May of the JR year through April SR year.  (I have seen some situations where an assistant coach was actually more impactful in recruiting than the head coach.)

I'm the anti-Ryan on recruiting.  I really enjoy following D3 MBB recruiting - I find it really interesting.
« Last Edit: May 08, 2020, 02:15:20 pm by Titan Q »

Offline SpringSt7

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Re: Mount Rushmore of D3 Coaches
« Reply #153 on: May 08, 2020, 02:13:56 pm »
If there are D3 schools that can succeed at the highest level in MBB (be a Top 25 program, make the NCAA tourney often, get to Sweet 16s, etc) without aggressively recruiting - and rather simply be able to "actively court players who themselves express an interest in their institution" - I sure have not seen it.  From what I have seen, even the schools with the most built-in advantages across those 6 factors I identified above end up in intense battles for the caliber of MBB players needed to be a top program. 

I think this is the most important part. That MIT volleyball anecdote is great but I'm struggling to think of any other academic institution that is similar to MIT in the sense that it is so outstanding in its field. I'm struggling to think of another other elite elite STEM universities that can hang with MIT athletically--and I know nothing about volleyball. Johns Hopkins and Cal Tech were the two that came to mind, and I don't think that when it comes to STEM stuff specifically, either are on that level.

But when you consider a UAA or NESCAC school for example, there are too many schools that excel in most of the aspects of a program that Titan laid out. To think that coaches could just let the recruits come to them is a little hard to believe. Would you rather reach out to WashU and see if you could make the team, or go to Rochester or Emory if they were actively courting you? Especially when you consider that a lot of the top D3 guys are D1 level prospects that just came up short, they are still being recruited at a very high level of interest.

Offline y_jack_lok

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Re: Mount Rushmore of D3 Coaches
« Reply #154 on: May 08, 2020, 02:45:18 pm »
Thanks to everyone formtheir thoughts on my recruiting questions.

Offline Gregory Sager

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Re: Mount Rushmore of D3 Coaches
« Reply #155 on: May 08, 2020, 02:51:58 pm »
If there are D3 schools that can succeed at the highest level in MBB (be a Top 25 program, make the NCAA tourney often, get to Sweet 16s, etc) without aggressively recruiting - and rather simply be able to "actively court players who themselves express an interest in their institution" - I sure have not seen it.  From what I have seen, even the schools with the most built-in advantages across those 6 factors I identified above end up in intense battles for the caliber of MBB players needed to be a top program. 

I think this is the most important part. That MIT volleyball anecdote is great but I'm struggling to think of any other academic institution that is similar to MIT in the sense that it is so outstanding in its field. I'm struggling to think of another other elite elite STEM universities that can hang with MIT athletically--and I know nothing about volleyball. Johns Hopkins and Cal Tech were the two that came to mind, and I don't think that when it comes to STEM stuff specifically, either are on that level.

That's why I was careful to stress that it was a men's volleyball anecdote. As I said, I don't think that the same thing holds true in men's basketball, which is simply too competitive a sport for a D3 school to get away with only taking potluck by fielding a team that consists solely of unrecruited walk-ons. Every school in D3 that isn't an all-women's institution has a men's basketball team, and, not only that -- so does every D1, D2, NAIA, USCAA, and NCCAA school that is coed, as well as most jucos. Men's college basketball programs are thick on the ground here in the United States. I don't care how elite a D3 school's academic or social status happens to be; when it comes to men's basketball, if it's not recruiting, it's not winning.
"Talent is God-given. Be humble. Fame is man-given. Be grateful. Conceit is self-given. Be careful.. -- John Wooden

Offline kiko

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Re: Mount Rushmore of D3 Coaches
« Reply #156 on: May 08, 2020, 08:34:54 pm »
See, I'd tend to say the best coach is the one who can get the most out of five random human beings who may or may not have ever seen a basketball. I give recruiting zero influence inn my decisions. Obviously wins reflect recruiting to some extent, but recruiting is definitely my least favorite part of d3hoops.

But, like, all those teams we end up voting for in the Top 25, or the ones we talk about as Pool C candidates, or those we enjoy watching in Fort Wayne...they all got there because of recruiting more than anything.  You can't be a good team without good players.

But you can be a good coach without good players.  That's my point.

I completely disagree. Being a good college basketball coach means acquiring good players. As Bob said, you're reducing the job of coaching to its constituent parts and only selecting some of them (teacher, motivator, etc.) as "coaching," while dismissing another constituent part (recruiting) as something outside of coaching.


I struggle with the idea that you can't be a good coach without acquiring good players.  In some cases, your school's circumstances will create a sort of ceiling that limits what caliber of player you can attract, and no matter how good of a recruiter you are, you can't overcome that.  It doesn't mean you aren't a good coach -- just that what success looks like may be different.

Three examples to illustrate this:

1. You've written at length on these boards about the challenges that NPU football faces, and I don't disagree with much of what you suggest.  I think we would both agree that John Thorne was/is an outstanding coach.  But put him in NPU's environment, with the challenges you've articulated, and I think it is fair to say he would not be able to land the same caliber and depth of talent.  Does this mean he suddenly has become less of a coach?  Not to me -- he would likely make the most of what he had to work with even if that recruiting effort did not translate into a lot of Thanksgiving morning walk-throughs.

2. By your definition, a coach in, say, the SLIAC, could not be a good coach, as the caliber of player in that conference is not especially strong.  But is it the coach's fault that top-level D3 recruits are not especially interested in SLIAC schools based on reputation, history, quality of competition, etc.?  In D1 terms, a five-star recruit is not going to take calls from a coach in the Atlantic 10.  If that coach progresses in his career and eventually lands a gig in the ACC, his calls will get through.  And I would argue that nothing about his recruiting chops has really changed.

3. An extreme example, but I would point you to Caltech.  A coach there faces significant recruiting constraints that are both well-known from the outset and also not of his or her own making.  A coach who can win even a few games in those circumstances is probably doing pretty well, even if he is not able to fill a roster with the same caliber of player as the teams in the opposing locker room. 

I'm not suggesting any of these coaches should be chiseled into a mountain, but being a good coach sometimes means succeeding within the constraints of an environment as much as it does rolling up with the most talented roster.

Offline Gregory Sager

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Re: Mount Rushmore of D3 Coaches
« Reply #157 on: May 08, 2020, 11:07:52 pm »
Everything is relative, kiko. Given a roughly equal playing field -- which is a safe description of the typical D3 conference for most of its sports, more or less -- coaching acumen shines through, and it's in large part because of recruiting. To use your example of the SLIAC, Chris Bunch of Webster and George Barber of Greenville, who are currently the two most successful coaches in that league, are excellent recruiters who are very creative in terms of where they look for players. Just take a look at their rosters. I'm not denying that it's more difficult for some coaches to make a mark on the national scene due to institutional limitations, including membership in a non-elite conference (although even in that respect there's still the occasional Nebraska Wesleyan or Yeshiva or Benedictine). But, graded by their performance against their league peers, you can see who is out-recruiting the other coaches and putting the better team on the floor. And if you move up to a stronger league (e.g., Mike Schauer from Gordon to Wheaton, Tom Slyder from Anderson to North Park, and Matt Nadelhoffer from Eastern to Millikin), then your coaching acumen gets judged by a higher standard.

Caltech, incidentally, was an extreme example, because of the highly unusual faculty-controlled admissions process it employed. That has been altered in recent years, and the success of the Beavers on the court has changed for the better in part because of it.

Lastly, sports are not always in correspondence with regard to recruiting issues. Just as you can't extrapolate anything about MIT men's basketball from the example of MIT men's volleyball, you can't really compare North Park football to any of the other sports on the NPU campus. Why? Because none of them require their respective coaching staffs to bring in 40-60 new student-athletes every year. Bob talked about the different recruiting advantages various schools have; they're also recruiting disadvantages for some schools, as it's just the opposite side of the same coin. For NPU, location is a disadvantage when it comes to recruiting Chicagoland suburban student-athletes, because most Chicagoland suburban kids don't want to go to school in the city. That can be worked around in other sports that don't require anywhere near the volume of new recruits each season. Even in a sport that requires a moderate number of new recruits per season the Chicagoland suburban thing is not prohibitive of success, as NPU's nationally-competitive men's soccer program has proved, for instance. But it's extraordinarily hard to work around it in football, a sport that is all but dead in the city on the high-school level. The question then becomes, how high can you raise the program above the long-established yardstick? Mike Conway snapped an 89-game conference losing streak, and had some minor success within the CCIW's second division over the course of his tenure that dwarfed the accomplishments of his three predecessors -- and he did it because he outrecruited them (namely, by establishing new recruiting footprints in Hawaii, American Samoa, and the Austin, TX area). That's the sort of yardstick by which John Thorne would be measured if he were to take over at NPU.

To sum up, nothing you've said really challenges the idea that recruiting is central to the task of coaching, and is therefore a definitive factor in determining that coach's competence. You've simply raised the question of what the benchmarks are for measuring a coach's success, which, to bring this back around, is what we have been debating ever since this board was started two weeks ago.
« Last Edit: May 08, 2020, 11:10:40 pm by Gregory Sager »
"Talent is God-given. Be humble. Fame is man-given. Be grateful. Conceit is self-given. Be careful.. -- John Wooden

Offline kiko

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Re: Mount Rushmore of D3 Coaches
« Reply #158 on: May 09, 2020, 12:26:11 pm »
To sum up, nothing you've said really challenges the idea that recruiting is central to the task of coaching, and is therefore a definitive factor in determining that coach's competence. You've simply raised the question of what the benchmarks are for measuring a coach's success, which, to bring this back around, is what we have been debating ever since this board was started two weeks ago.

But that's not what you said in your earlier post.  Your position was, verbatim, that being a good college basketball coach means acquiring good players.

I think what you have just shown, which largely concurs with my pushback, is that this is not necessarily an absolute.  There is most definitely a sliding scale at play when it comes to judging a coach's performance, and to some extent it hinges on performance versus expectations.  Some of those expectations are set by the school's situation or other external factors -- Titan Q touched on some of these earlier -- and some by a coach's prior performance.  Recruiting well within the constraints you are operating under does not always translate into landing good players.

There are a lot of outstanding coaches who we have not mentioned in this discussion because being good did not translate into landing players who can produce results at a national level.  And its appropriate that they are not in the conversation.  If you're sitting for a Mount Rushmore portrait, you probably need to be in a situation where you showed sustained success at a national level.  We will all differ on how we define that success (titles, sweet sixteen berths, tournament berths, win-loss percentage, players drafted, etc.)

From my POV, there is a Venn Diagram between the coaches who are in a situation where they can recruit good players and coaches who I would consider good or great.

Offline kiko

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Re: Mount Rushmore of D3 Coaches
« Reply #159 on: May 09, 2020, 12:29:11 pm »
Also:

For NPU, location is a disadvantage when it comes to recruiting Chicagoland suburban student-athletes, because most Chicagoland suburban kids don't want to go to school in the city. That can be worked around in other sports that don't require anywhere near the volume of new recruits each season. Even in a sport that requires a moderate number of new recruits per season the Chicagoland suburban thing is not prohibitive of success, as NPU's nationally-competitive men's soccer program has proved, for instance. But it's extraordinarily hard to work around it in football, a sport that is all but dead in the city on the high-school level. The question then becomes, how high can you raise the program above the long-established yardstick?

If you didn't cut-and-paste this, you should save it away in a file somewhere.  :D  (Not that I disagree with any of it, BTW.)

Offline Gregory Sager

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Re: Mount Rushmore of D3 Coaches
« Reply #160 on: May 09, 2020, 03:08:29 pm »
To sum up, nothing you've said really challenges the idea that recruiting is central to the task of coaching, and is therefore a definitive factor in determining that coach's competence. You've simply raised the question of what the benchmarks are for measuring a coach's success, which, to bring this back around, is what we have been debating ever since this board was started two weeks ago.

But that's not what you said in your earlier post.  Your position was, verbatim, that being a good college basketball coach means acquiring good players.

Yes, it is. And George Barber and Chris Bunch acquire good players by SLIAC standards. That is why they win in the SLIAC.

I think what you have just shown, which largely concurs with my pushback, is that this is not necessarily an absolute.  There is most definitely a sliding scale at play when it comes to judging a coach's performance, and to some extent it hinges on performance versus expectations.  Some of those expectations are set by the school's situation or other external factors -- Titan Q touched on some of these earlier -- and some by a coach's prior performance.  Recruiting well within the constraints you are operating under does not always translate into landing good players.

I disagree that that's not an absolute. The very thing that makes a school "slide" on that sliding scale -- up or down -- is recruiting. As for constraints, as I said before, leagues tend to be set up among similar institutions for good reasons, and one of them is a perceived rough balance of potential competitiveness. Occasionally there are circumstances that simply can't be overcome by good recruiting; Caltech men's basketball (and numerous other sports) under the old faculty-controlled admissions system, North Park football, Principia men's basketball (to cite another SLIAC example; Principia only accepts students from a Christian Science background, and there are fewer than 50,000 adherents of Christian Science in the U.S. now, according to wiki), Finlandia and UMPI in just about every sport that doesn't involve snow. The more even the playing field, the more that the presence or lack of recruiting acumen comes to the fore in terms of a coach's performance relative to his peers. And sometimes a disadvantage that's been overcome can even help to shine a light on a coach's recruiting ability. I think in this case of Eric Bridgeland, who built Whitman into a national power in spite of the fact that Walla Walla, WA is in the middle of nowhere. It's not as bad as the remoteness problems that UMPI and Finlandia face, but it's bad enough to not only make Whitman's location a tough sell to prospects, but to also make getting to those prospects in the first place a difficult task if you coach the Blues.

What isn't absolute is the definition of "good." "Good" is a relative term. A good player by SLIAC standards is not necessarily a good player by national D3 standards (although he certainly could be; Shea Feehan of Eureka, for example, sure fit that bill a couple of years ago). It's a given that performance is dependent to some degree upon external factors, such as the ones Bob named, and that success, like player ability, is relative to level. Otherwise, there would be no such thing as a successful D3 coach, because any coach who won in this division would be winning with players who are by and large inferior to those on the roster of your garden-variety D1 mid-major and who would lose mightily if they were competing at that level.

(Some argue that that's actually the beauty of the promotion/relegation system of European soccer. If you prove that you're good at one level, you'll then get the chance to prove that you're also good one level higher the next season.)

There are a lot of outstanding coaches who we have not mentioned in this discussion because being good did not translate into landing players who can produce results at a national level.  And its appropriate that they are not in the conversation.  If you're sitting for a Mount Rushmore portrait, you probably need to be in a situation where you showed sustained success at a national level.  We will all differ on how we define that success (titles, sweet sixteen berths, tournament berths, win-loss percentage, players drafted, etc.)

Agreed. For example, I always thought that Bob Gillespie, the old Ripon coach who ran that program from 1980 to 2012, was a great coach. He finished up with a 510-248 (.673) record at Ripon, and a lot of very solid D3 players went through his program over the years. But the Red Hawks never advanced beyond the second round of the D3 tournament under his (or anybody else's) tutelage, and it was obvious why that happened -- Ripon simply didn't have national Top 10 teams, and that was a function of the league it was in and the recruiting strictures that that league had in place.

Gray Fox brought up Gregg Popovich the other day, a guy with five NBA championship rings as a head coach who has a date in Springfield, MA looming in his future. (Popovich, not Gray Fox. ;)) Popovich took Pomona-Pitzer from a Caltechesque laughingstock upon his arrival there in 1979 to a SCIAC title in 1986, the first such title for the Sagehens in 68 years. But, as Popovich related in an article about him in the school paper of the Claremont Schools a few months ago, when his '86 SCIAC-champion Sagehens went to the D3 tourney they were ripped to shreds by Nebraska Wesleyan in the first round, 89-59, and he became aware of the limitations he was operating under at this level.

(Popovich also made it clear that the reason why he turned Pomona-Pitzer around was because he burned the midnight oil when it came to recruiting.)

From my POV, there is a Venn Diagram between the coaches who are in a situation where they can recruit good players and coaches who I would consider good or great.

I don't see it that way. Coaches are measured upon results, and it's obvious that, regardless of the level of competition, there's a direct correlation between recruiting good players and successful results. The question lies in what constitutes a good player for that coach's level.
"Talent is God-given. Be humble. Fame is man-given. Be grateful. Conceit is self-given. Be careful.. -- John Wooden

Offline Gregory Sager

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Re: Mount Rushmore of D3 Coaches
« Reply #161 on: May 09, 2020, 03:10:01 pm »
Also:

For NPU, location is a disadvantage when it comes to recruiting Chicagoland suburban student-athletes, because most Chicagoland suburban kids don't want to go to school in the city. That can be worked around in other sports that don't require anywhere near the volume of new recruits each season. Even in a sport that requires a moderate number of new recruits per season the Chicagoland suburban thing is not prohibitive of success, as NPU's nationally-competitive men's soccer program has proved, for instance. But it's extraordinarily hard to work around it in football, a sport that is all but dead in the city on the high-school level. The question then becomes, how high can you raise the program above the long-established yardstick?

If you didn't cut-and-paste this, you should save it away in a file somewhere.  :D  (Not that I disagree with any of it, BTW.)

I keep meaning to do so. In fact, I probably have ... and then promptly forgot where I filed it. ;)
"Talent is God-given. Be humble. Fame is man-given. Be grateful. Conceit is self-given. Be careful.. -- John Wooden

Offline thebear

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Re: Mount Rushmore of D3 Coaches
« Reply #162 on: May 10, 2020, 09:55:12 am »
Sorry if I'm being incredibly parochial, but exactly why Jerry Welsh belongs on Mt. Rushmore. 

Coached in an isolated location, in the center of hockey culture, two D-I hockey programs within 10 miles of the campus.
Best athletes in the home area play hockey not basketball.  Not exactly a hotbed of college basketball.

Mentor to NBA Championship coach Rick Carlisle

He went to FIVE Championship games and every team was built with players that were too short, 8th man in HS, D-I rejects, role players playing major minutes, distributed scoring. No prep school guys on those teams unlike Amherst or Williams.

Those five teams produced 7 first or second team all americans.

He also was a single basket (on the road) away from SEVEN final four teams (Scranton 1983-84 and Clark 1986-87)

Only coach that has ever taken a team to the championship game playing every tournament game on the road (1982).

Thoughts???



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Offline ronk

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Re: Mount Rushmore of D3 Coaches
« Reply #163 on: May 10, 2020, 02:00:19 pm »
Sorry if I'm being incredibly parochial, but exactly why Jerry Welsh belongs on Mt. Rushmore. 

Coached in an isolated location, in the center of hockey culture, two D-I hockey programs within 10 miles of the campus.
Best athletes in the home area play hockey not basketball.  Not exactly a hotbed of college basketball.

Mentor to NBA Championship coach Rick Carlisle

He went to FIVE Championship games and every team was built with players that were too short, 8th man in HS, D-I rejects, role players playing major minutes, distributed scoring. No prep school guys on those teams unlike Amherst or Williams.

Those five teams produced 7 first or second team all americans.

He also was a single basket (on the road) away from SEVEN final four teams (Scranton 1983-84 and Clark 1986-87)

Only coach that has ever taken a team to the championship game playing every tournament game on the road (1982).

Thoughts???

     I'll add that to Bob Bessoir's credentials - that he defeated a strong candidate(Welsh) for Mt. Rushmore in an NCAA quarterfinal.  ;D  Bessoir also defeated Hixon(Amherst) in their only meeting(regular season) and was 1-1 versus Coach K(Army).  I would think any other coach in college basketball has, at best, a losing record vs Coach K.
    Bear, you have presented strong arguments for Jerry Welsh. The selection committee may have to go to the secondary criteria to choose the Final Four.
« Last Edit: May 10, 2020, 02:05:11 pm by ronk »

Offline SpringSt7

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Re: Mount Rushmore of D3 Coaches
« Reply #164 on: May 10, 2020, 03:40:02 pm »
In regards to the recruiting and limitations argument, isn't the counter to that to say that the coaches in this conversation should be able to showcase their coaching abilities enough to earn opportunities to move to better jobs where it is easier to recruit/win/etc.

I look at a guy like Dale Wellman at Nebraska Wesleyan, for example. He inherited a 2-23 program when he took over at Alfred. His 6th and final year at Alfred they went 19-8, clearly a good team but far from being national contenders. But his teams at Alfred scored nearly 100 points per game, and lead DIII in rebounds and offensive rebounds per game. He parlayed that success into getting the job at NWU, where his teams scored nearly 100 points per game, and were also at the top in rebounds and offensive rebounds, but did it with a more talented group of players that translated into national success.

I find that to be a great example of the sliding scale of recruiting vs. coaching and what not. Just as the old adage goes, "if you can play, they'll find you", if you coach, they can usually find you too.