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Getting Realistic About College Hoops Coaching Hires

It’s a who’s who of college basketball in San Antonio with all of the #1 seeds making the Final Four. While the games should be great, there may be just as much drama at the Coach’s Convention, which takes place in conjunction with the Final Four. Many tough choices will be made there and by athletic directors in the coming weeks to see who will fill the available vacancies and head up a school’s multi-million dollar basketball program. There seems to be no better identifier of where you reside in the collegiate pecking order than the annual coaching carousel. Whether you are searching for a new leader or someone is coming after your coach, nothing reveals your identity like the reaction of outsiders to your school and what your job is worth.

The Oklahoma State search to replace Sean Sutton will be a very interesting. Alum Bill Self’s name was the first to surface when Sutton resigned. Obviously, Self would be the first choice for Cowboy fans, but he would have to make a very tough decision-leaving a Top 5 job for a solid job at his alma mater. The X-factor in Stillwater is T. Boone Pickens (he of the $165 million donation a couple of years ago), who can almost personally decide what the Cowboys can offer. The Oklahoman does a great job of pointing out just how much more Oklahoma State will have to pay to get big-time candidates to listen to them. Pickens’ deep wallet will make Self’s decision more difficult, but in the end, I believe he stays with the tradition and stature that is Kansas basketball.

Tennessee was known as a basketball coach’s chopping block in the 80s and 90s, but now seems to be gaining momentum as a solid program. Coach Bruce Pearl has built that program, and now his name surfaces almost every time there is an opening. But UT Athletic Director Mike Hamilton says that Vol fans - constantly worried about other programs pursuing Pearl - have “to quit having an inferiority complex about this basketball job.” He believes that with the huge crowds (over 20,000/game) and great facilities in Knoxville, the Big Orange program has become first rate. While Tennessee still has to prove they can win over a period of many years, everything seems in place for that to happen. When the Vols’ coach is not interested in the Indiana job, you can tell times have changed.


LSU and South Carolina both entered the offseason with vacancies to fill. The Gamecocks selected Western Kentucky’s Darrin Horn to be their new leader. He’s the second straight Hilltopper coach (Dennis Felton-UGA) to parlay success in Bowling Green into a SEC head position. This defection probably hurt Western fans even more because Horn played there, but once again, even an alum can look at his school as a stepping stone when it comes to the college pecking order. At the end of the day, money and stature tend to win out for most candidates. The LSU Tigers are rumored to be favoring Travis Ford, but that may be just speculation. If it is Ford, it would be the third former Pitino assistant (Donovan/Pelphrey)to man an SEC bench. However, I wonder how much discussion there was about area native and current USC coach, Tim Floyd. The Louisiana Tech alum and former New Orleans coach would seem to be a great fit, but LSU’s brass may worry that Floyd feels he’s now at a higher profile job in Los Angeles. That and so many other questions will soon be answered as the coaching carousel turns.

- Patrick Snow

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