As the inevitable coaching changes took place after last season, four coaches in particular made the kind of move that raised eyebrows.
Jamie Dixon (Pittsburgh to TCU) started it and was quickly followed by Kevin Stallings (Vanderbilt to Pittsburgh), Josh Pastner (Memphis to Georgia Tech) and Tubby Smith (Texas Tech to Memphis).
All four coaches are now in a way intertwined by their decisions. None were fired and each, in some ways, took a risk by leaving their current program for a new one. But who ultimately made the best move?
Dixon took Pittsburgh to the NCAA tournament 11 times in 13 seasons. In leaving the Panthers to lead his alma mater in Fort Worth, he'll guide a program that hasn't made the tournament in 18 years. The last time the Horned Frogs won a tournament game was 30 years ago, when Dixon led the old Southwest Conference in assists during the 1986-87 season.
Pastner might have the team with the least talent this season, but Dixon by far has the toughest challenge with his program. TCU can't point to a rich tradition as a reason why the program can turn around. The Horned Frogs have posted a 20-win season just once this century and have won just eight conference games overall since moving to the Big 12 four seasons ago.
Dixon's hire seems to indicate TCU is serious about improving its basketball program. A year ago, the school reopened Daniel-Meyer Coliseum after pouring $72 million into renovating it. Now the Horned Frogs hope their prodigal son can field a more competitive team to match its shiny, new surroundings.
Pastner made a shrewd move in leaving Memphis for Georgia Tech before his tenuous status could have led to termination. Given his proclivity to recruit top talent, Atlanta seems like a comfortable landing spot. But it's not without big obstacles.
The Yellow Jackets don't have much to get excited about this season, as Pastner was left with a roster void of much experience. Tech lost all four players who averaged double figures last season. Their leading scorer who is returning, Quinton Stephens, averaged just 6.0 points last season, although he played in every game.
Pastner now joins a coaching lineup of heavy hitters in the ACC. It's arguably the toughest league in the nation and now has the depth many envisioned when it expanded to a 15-team behemoth. If Pastner can survive the crucible of the league schedule long enough to stay out of last place this season, it will be no small feat.
Stallings coached Vanderbilt for 17 seasons and was the longest-tenured coach active in the SEC, but he gave up that title to replace Dixon at Pittsburgh. And Stallings might have the best chance among these four coaches to make an immediate splash this season.
Guard James Robinson was the only player of significance that Pitt lost off a NCAA tournament team that finished .500 in the ACC. Stallings is known for being an offensive mind, and he'll have the firepower to be successful, with four of the Panthers top five scorers from last season back, including leading scorer Jamel Artis.
That doesn't mean Stallings' made the best move. Pitt might ultimately be a tougher job than Vanderbilt. And how will Panthers fans react if Stallings has a roster with two future NBA first-rounders that gets bounced in the First Four games like he did last season at Vandy?
Smith's move to Memphis was the biggest upgrade of the four. He could become the only coach to take six programs (Tulsa, Georgia, Kentucky, Minnesota, Texas Tech previously) to the NCAA tournament, if and when he achieves that measure with Memphis. He was the only one among the four who wasn't feeling pressured from boosters and fans to produce at a higher level. Smith won the Big 12's coach of the year award this year for guiding Texas Tech to the NCAA tournament.
Basketball in the state of Texas will never be on the same level as football, but now Smith is at a place where the roundball is king. He no longer has to contend with being overshadowed by a love of football. And the Tigers' program didn't even suffer when the NBA's Grizzlies came to town.
Smith has never been known as the most ferocious recruiter, but now he'll have more of a built-in recruiting base in a place where basketball matters. And among the schools he has coached, only Kentucky has a stronger tradition than Memphis.
At age 65, Memphis could be the last coaching stop for Smith. He'll be in a position to make his move count.