The definition of fairness can take numerous directions but includes being open-minded, impartial and willing to consider other ideas.
With such in mind, should Jean Prioleau remain as the San Jose State University (SJSU) men’s basketball head coach? Please email your takes and we’ll post them at the bottom of this article.
Below is the current situation.
It’s difficult to produce supportive documentation. The likeliest element in Prioleau’s favor is proclaiming this year’s recruiting class as a promising collection of talent plus (but it isn’t on par with other Mountain West Conference members) predicting a few of the current Spartan players will take leaps forward in their production next season (maybe but history isn’t on that side) Are there any specific metrics to utilize?
A second reason for retaining him is the so-called maxim that coaches deserve more than three years to prove their capabilities.
Third is money. Prioleau has two years remaining on the five-year contract he originally signed and SJSU athletics is a cash-poor program.
As best could be determined from current information, a fourth factor is Prioleau’s players graduating and also remaining out of any legal trouble while a Spartan.
Three years into the position, and with records of 4-27, 1-17 and 4-26, 1-17 plus 7-23, 3-15 for the 2019-2020 season, are there signs of improvement pointing towards a likely .500 record , especially in conference play (since non-league schedules can be gerrymandered) in season four? There’s no visibility of this.
SJSU ended the season on a 10-game losing streak including an embarrassing nationally televised 94-56 loss to Utah State. The Aggies opened with a 19-0 run.
The Spartans are in a weak league (the Mountain West Conference) yet consider the 3-15 record this season in view of even lowly Air Force finishing ahead at 5-13.
There are six or seven MWC coaches annually out-recruiting Prioleau. So what is the likelihood of the Spartans ever finishing ahead of more talent-laden conference competitors? In fact, try this test: name the last time SJSU beat out San Diego State, UNLV, Utah State, Nevada, Boise State, New Mexico or Fresno State for any prospect.
Evaluating the talent
The Spartans are a collective of players who shoot poorly, especially from outside, and also are subpar defenders: 39% overall shooting accuracy versus versus 47% for opponents, 30% from three-point range to 36%.
Sophomore guard Seneca Knight certainly made strides this season at 17.1 points per game plus 202 attempts at the foul line but shot 40% overall and 29% from three-point range. 6-foot-9 sophomore Christian Anigwe possesses the most potential upfront but shoots with minimal arc, hence his 43%, 26% and 52% numbers. 6-foot-6 freshman guard Omar Smith enjoyed his moments if not consistency and finished with 23% three-point accuracy. 6-foot-3 sophomore Zach Chappell concluded with with 35% overall shooting, 33% from long distance and 6-foot-5 JC transfer Richard Washington was deemed a points-producing addition and he did score 10.3 per outing but shot just 37% and 34%, with but 52 free throw attempts.
Two new recruits have signed to play at SJSU next season: 6-foot-10, 200 Hugo Clarkin and 6-foot-4 guard Sebastian Mendoza. Clarkin is a project both physically and regarding his skills set while Mendoza is an athletic addition who needs greater shooting consistency away from his dribble-drives. A third player, 6-foot-5 Torey James, recently committed to come to San Jose. He’s out of Cape Fear Community College in North Carolina and averaged 18.3 points plus 5.1 boards as a sophomore while shooting 45%, 36% and 76% respectively. None of this trio are predicted to be game-changers for the Spartans next season.
Another compelling question worthy of consideration: Is current Athletic Director Marie Tuite the right decision-maker necessary to elevate Spartan basketball out of its longtime and still current fodder for jokes?
She fired Dave Wojcik for inappropriate behavior in 2017 and awarded Prioleau a five-year contract. This to an unproven Colorado assistant coach who wasn’t hired when seeking the head coach position in 2016 at lower level Northern Colorado.
As an aside: Jeff Linder, who was selected over Prioleau for that Northern Colorado (Big Sky Conference) 2016 opening, was recently named the head coach at Wyoming, another Mountain West Conference member. Linder produced 80-50, 48-28 cumulative records in four years as well as three consecutive 20-plus win seasons at the Greeley-based D1 school.
Prioleau also interviewed but wasn’t hired when Dave Wojcik got the SJSU job in 2013. But in fairness, that “opening” was a done deal between then AD Gene Bleymaier and Wojcik even before interviews were conducted. This was also the now infamous time when Eric Musselman couldn’t get Bleymaier to return his call.
However in 2017, Prioleau found himself in that same pas de deux with Tuite—”hired” prior to the formality of conducting on-campus interviews.
Other candidates for SJSU
Rick Croy, whose 2019-20 D1 California Baptist team finished this season 21-9 overall, 10-5 in the Western Athletic Conference, also interviewed when Wojcik was hired. Croy also took a look at SJSU when Prioleau was eventually hired but pulled himself out of the running. Notice the job he is doing despite the fact that CBU isn’t even eligible for Division I postseason competition until the 2022–23 season.
UC Riverside Coach David Patrick just completed his second season and also interviewed when Prioleau got the SJSU job. He posted promising 17-15 overall, 7-9 Big West Conference records this season.
It also turns out that Sacramento State’s Brian Katz also interviewed in 2017 for the SJSU opening:
“…Katz inherited a program that had a 55-game road losing streak. Beating Oregon State his second season was the first victory over a Pac-12 team for Sac State in 54 years. In 2015, Sac State won a program D-I record 21 games and came within a basket of reaching the NCAA Tournament, Sac State won a CIT game that season, the program’s first postseason triumph in 54 years. Katz earned National Mid-Major Coach of the Year honors.
Those sorts of achievements get coaches noticed. In the summer of 2017, Katz was interviewed by San Jose State for its basketball opening. Katz ultimately pulled out because he wanted to remain at Sac State with the understanding, he thought, there was an extension in the works.
It hasn’t happened, at least yet. But there is time.
Carroll Williams coached Santa Clara men’s basketball from 1970-92 and was the school’s athletic director from 1992-2000. A member of San Jose State’s athletic Hall of Fame, Williams recruited Katz to look into the San Jose State job…”
So Tuite boxed herself in with Prioleau’s initial five-year contract minus any need to do so as Prioleau wasn’t under consideration for any other head coach positions nor was he considered a hot head coach candidate. So why not a three-year base package, with built-in must-meet requirements for fourth and fifth year extensions?
Again, please email your takes and we’ll post them at the bottom of this article.