Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Kentucky Resolution, Heath Firing Fallout, Iowa Chasing Pearl?

With what some considered "over-coverage" of the NFL coaching carousel, you had better expect the same for my forte, college basketball. In college basketball, the 'carousel' is more like a circular metropolis. Instead of 32 coaching staffs, you've got more than ten times that number. The very second that a name is swirled around as a potential candidate, universities and boosters start ante-ing up to keep their beloved coaches. It's a different animal than pro sports, but a business nonetheless.

Kentucky Resolution?
Last Thursday, Tubby Smith left the blue grass to freeze his ..., well, you know. Since then, numerous analysts, most notably Andy Katz of ESPN, have said that many coaches are in line to benefit financially from the Kentucky vacancy even if they have no intention of taking the job. Earlier this week, John Calipari agreed to an extension through 2011-12. Also, sources report that newly-anointed basketball school Texas A&M will do its best to match any offers for head coach Billy Gillispie. And let's not forget about former UK assistant and current god of Gainesville Billy Donovan. He's going to make bank whether he's at Florida, Kentucky, or the Miami Heat. Shall any of these coaches leave their posts, coaches from lesser programs will occupy their posts and move up a few tax brackets. For those who read my post suggesting former players such as Ford and Pelphrey as coaching candidates for this position, they are not even being mentioned by the real media (aka people who have coaches' digits), so I'm content in ceasing conversation about the pair.

Heath Firing Fallout
Staying in the SEC (said with a Tony Barnhardt-esque southern drawl), Arkansas fired its head coach Stan Heath yesterday in what was considered a surprise to all of us except for Heath, who made his second trip to the NCAA Tournament in as many years. In his defense, Heath's team - a much younger one than the previous year - won 21 games; however,winning 21 nowadays isn't your father's 21 when considering that most D-1 schools play in excess of 30 games per season.

Many, including myself, think that the firing was made with a successor already in mind. Although Heath was somewhat successful, his results were always compared to his predecessor's (Nolan Richardson), and in comparison, it's not even close. The Heath style of play isn't exactly the appealing 40 Minutes of Hell either. With that said, everyone returns from an Arkansas team that is expected to win the SEC West (and not with a 8-8 record), making the job more appealing than at first glance. College sports are the only game in town, to boot. For those reasons, expect Arkansas AD Frank Broyles to make a concerted play for the aforementioned Gillispie and possibly Nebraska head coach Doc Sadler who is more of a contingency. Given the athletic makeup of their roster, Arkansas should consider giving VCU a call to see if head coach Anthony Grant is available. Nevertheless, I expect them to go after a more proven head coach despite the obvious upside (yes, that word means the NBA Draft is only 3 months away). Whomever he is, expect him to be paid, as Broyles expects to make a big splash before he dives into retirement.

Iowa's Chase for Pearl Rendered Useless
Now that Steve Alford has left the Iowa rebuilding project (Blair Witch Project) for the New Mexico rebuilding project (Tony Rich Project), the Hawkeyes are chasing former assistant and current Tennessee head coach Bruce Pearl. Hoping for the nostalgia hook, Iowa received permission from the Tennessee AD to speak with Pearl, but he rebuffed the overtures informing Iowa that he is not interested in their head coaching position. For his troubles, Pearl earns a one-year extension through 2013.

In my opinion, given the saturation of big-name/talented head coaches in the Big Ten, it may be career suicide for whomever is audacious enough to take the reins at Iowa during a rebuilding period (notice how I did not say "year"). This may result in Iowa hiring from within the extended Iowa family or going after a coach of a mid-major program with ties to Midwest recruiting.

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