Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Who'll Be the Next in Line for Heartaches?

At Jaleh's request, I was going to write a post assessing the various and sundry possibilities for the next head men's basketball coach at IU. However, Mike Pegram (founder and operator of, the IU site) beat me to the punch, with a nice article about whose names have been mentioned as possibilities thus far. Obviously, it is very early in the search process. I will not leave you without any of my own input, however.

Generally, I think IU should go after a big name coach who has proven that he can win at a major level. I hesitate to go with a mid-major coach because there is a huge difference between a mid-major and IU (expectations, pressure, recruiting, etc.). Some might argue that IU got Bob Knight from a mid-major (Army), but my response is that Bob Knight is the greatest basketball coach of all-time. You can't expect that every mid-major coach will turn into another Bob Knight. For every Bob Knight, there are dozens of Dan Monsons.

Also, I will say right now that I do not think that interim coach Dan Dakich is the right person for the job, even if IU makes a deep run in the NCAA tournament. He had a mediocre record (156-140) in 10 years at Bowling Green and has not impressed thus far during his tenure as IU's interim coach.

In order of preference, here are my choices for coaches who I think IU should go after, both from those mentioned in the Peegs article and from several others that I added myself for shits and giggles (with a comment about each):

My Top Choices

1. Bruce Pearl, Tennessee head coach - Perfect combination of Xs and Os and passion for IU; he may be the only coach who would piss off Illinois fans more than Kelvin Sampson (which I would love); has Midwest connections (assistant at Iowa and head coach at UW-Milwaukee and University of Southern Indiana); may not be willing to leave Tennessee.

2. Rick Barnes, Texas head coach - Has Final Four experience and is a great recruiter; may not be willing to leave cushy job at Texas, although he is not a Texas guy and has coached all over (George Mason, Providence, Clemson); he is 53, so he may not coach for more than another 10-15 years.

3. Jamie Dixon, Pittsburgh head coach - Great up and coming coach who has done well at Pitt since taking over for Ben Howland in 2003; has the potential to be at IU for a long long time; potential downside is that he is currently under contract until 2013, so the buyout might be large.

4. Rick Pitino, Louisville head coach - One of the premier coaches in the NCAA; has expressed interest in IU in the past, but very unlikely to leave Louisville at this point.

5. Thad Matta, Ohio State head coach - Good Indiana ties (Butler alum and former coach) and can obviously recruit in Indiana (see Greg Oden and Mike Conley); has had great success at Butler, Xavier, and Ohio State; may not jump to another Big Ten school.

6. Tony Bennett, Washington State head coach - Has done very well in his two years at WSU (49-15; 3 seed last year and 4 seed this year; national COY in 2007); is young, so could stay at IU for a long time; comes from a great coaching family (father Dick coached UW-Green Bay, Wisconsin, and Washington State; sister Kathi is IU's former women's basketball coach); major concerns are that he only has 2 years of head coaching experience and that he may be waiting to take over Wisconsin once Bo Ryan retires (which I hope is tomorrow).

7. John Calipari, Memphis head coach - Great coach with Final Four experience; has expressed interest in IU in the past, and he could potentially get over the championship hump at IU; there is a feeling that he is somehow shady (his players seem to get arrested fairly often and then not suspended or kicked off the team), although he has never been sanctioned by the NCAA.

Second Tier (good coaches who don't particularly excite me, who I think IU shouldn't even look at until the above 7 options have been exhausted)

8. Trent Johnson, Stanford head coach - Has done fairly well and recruited well at Stanford; took 10-seeded Nevada to Sweet 16 in 2004; has no ties to Midwest; may not want to leave Stanford.

9. Jay Wright, Villanova head coach - After disappointing first 3 seasons at Villanova (3 NITs), he as done well (4 NCAA appearances, one Sweet 16, one Elite 8); did well at Hofstra before coming to Villanova (2 NCAA appearances); Villanova has slipped the past 2 seasons (9 seed in 2007 and 12 seed in 2008); he's a Pennsylvania guy, married to a former Villanova cheerleader, so he may be in it for the long haul at Villanova.

10. Tom Crean, Marquette head coach - Has done well at Marquette (Final Four in 2003), although not extraordinarily well (2 NITs, 2 NCAA tournaments, 0 NCAA wins); is young, so could stay at IU for a long time; has a fat contract at Marquette through 2017, so buyout may be huge; was assistant coach under Jud Heathcoate and Tom Izzo at Michigan State, and there is a perception that he may be waiting for Izzo to retire to take over at MSU.

11. Sean Miller, Xavier head coach - Has done very well in four seasons at Xavier since taking over for Thad Matta in 2004 (3 NCAA appearances, one A-10 regular season title, one A-10 conference tournament title); good Midwest connections; has only been a head coach for four seasons; has a contract through 2013, so buyout may be large.

12. Mike Brey, Notre Dame head coach - Has done fairly well in 8 seasons at Notre Dame (142-78; 5 NCAA appearances) and did well before that at Delaware; recruits pretty well; was an assistant at Duke from 1987-1995 (6 Final Fours, 2 NCAA titles); has advanced to Sweet 16 only once; wears sportcoats with t-shirts far too often.

13. Scott Drew, Baylor head coach - As a member of Valpo's famed Drew family and Butler grad, he has Indiana and Midwest connections; has done a phenomenal job turning around a Baylor program that was left for dead (pun intended) after 2003's several scandals; this year took Baylor to first NCAA appearance in 20 years; because of sanctions from the aforementioned scandal and resultant hamstringing of the Baylor program, Drew's coaching ability/potential is unclear at this point.

14. Kevin Stallings, Vanderbilt head coach - Was hired by current IU AD Rick Greenspan as head coach when Greenspan was AD at Illinois State; did very well in 6 years at Illinois State (2 NCAA appearances, 2 NITs); inconsistent at Vanderbilt (too many NITs), but has done very well the past 2 seasons; is a Purdue grad and was a Purdue assistant under Gene Keady, which is a deal breaker for many IU fans.

15. Chris Lowery, Southern Illinois head coach - Is from Evansville (played high school basketball with IU legend Calbert Cheaney) and has good Midwest connections; has done well in his first four seasons at SIU (3 NCAA appearances, Sweet 16 in 2007); 2008 team vastly underachieved, starting the season ranked and ending in the NIT; has only been a head coach for 4 seasons; connected to Bruce Weber (played under Weber at SIU and was assistant under Weber at SIU and Illinois), which may leave him in a position to become Illinois's next coach after Weber is inevitably fired.

16. Brad Brownell, Wright State head coach - Is also from Evansville (and also played high school ball with Calbert Cheaney) and has good Indiana and Midwest connections; has done well as a head coach at UNC-Wilmington (2 NCAA appearances in 4 seasons) and Wright State (1 NCAA appearance in 2 seasons); has never won an NCAA tournament game as a head coach; has no coaching experience at a major program.

17. Anthony Grant, VCU head coach - Is 52-14 in 2 seasons as VCU head coach and lead VCU to upset of Duke in 2007 NCAA tournament; was an assistant at Florida from 1996-2006 (2 Final Fours, one NCAA title); has only been a head coach for 2 seasons; is rumored to be very close to a deal to be the head coach at LSU.

NBA coaches or retired coaches (none of whom I think would be good choices):

18. Scott Skiles, ex-Chicago Bulls head coach - Hard-nosed and passionate coach like Knight; is from Indiana and apparently lives in Bloomington; was not very well liked by players when coached Bulls; has little to no college coaching experience; is a Michigan State grad, so there is fear that he would one day want to jump to MSU after Izzo retires.

19. Lawrence Frank, New Jersey Nets head coach - Former IU manager who has led the Nets to the playoffs in every season he has coached them; was a former assistant under Kevin O'Neill at Marquette and Tennessee, so has some college experience; however, that experience was over 8 years ago and he is from (and lives in) New Jersey.

20. Keith Smart, Golden State Warriors assistant coach - Former IU player who hit the winning shot in the 1987 NCAA title game; coaching experience is mainly in the NBA.

21. Randy Wittman, Minnesota Timberwolves head coach - Former IU player on 1981 NCAA title team and Big Ten POY in 1983; all of his coaching experience has been in the NBA.

22. Mike Woodson, Atlanta Hawks head coach - Former IU player and Big Ten POY in 1980; nearly all of his experience (if not all) is in the NBA.

23. Mike Montgomery, Assistant AD at Stanford, ex-Stanford head coach, ex-Golden State Warriors head coach - Did very well at Stanford; was mentioned in IU's last coaching search; he is 61, though, and may not be the long-term solution IU is looking for.

24. Larry Brown, Executive VP of Philadelphia 76ers, ex-Kansas head coach, ex-NBA head coach - He would be a great choice if he wasn't 67.

∞. Bob Knight, ex-Army head coach, ex-IU head coach, ex-Texas Tech head coach - For those of you who are delusional to ever think that Knight would come back to IU or that IU would hire Knight, please go with the nice people in the white coats. I love Bob Knight, but I don't think he will ever again be the right man to coach Indiana University, and certainly not at 67 years of age. He had a great 29 seasons at IU. Look back fondly on them and move on. He has.

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