and what kind of job is it, really? It’s easy to look at Donovan’s record there and believe that it is now firmly a top 10 sort of gig but if you look around some of the coverage out there over the last few days you’ll find a strong case to me made for that perhaps not being the case. It’s definitely a situation where there’s reason to wonder if the job is that good or if it was that good for and with Donovan. The pluses are great facilities and resources, and location in a state which produces very good talent on a regular basis. The negatives are that it’s not and never will be a basketball school (only Kentucky gets that status in the SEC), all that local talent doesn’t seem to have much reluctance to leave the state, and that you’re following a guy who won two national titles and reached four Final Fours and three more Elite Eights in 19 years.
The likely candidates seem to be the following:
Archie Miller – His profile is similar to Donovan’s prior to taking the UF job except that if anything, it’s significantly stronger. Donovan had two good years at Marshall prior to being hired but he wasn’t coming off anything close to what Miller has done at Dayton…he’s been to an Elite Eight and a Round of 32 in four years at Dayton. Like Donovan, he was a point guard at a high level program (NC State for him, Providence for Donovan). He’s young, though admittedly not quite as young as Billy D. was when he took over (Miller is 36…Donovan was 31 IIRC). Miller is as close to a duplicate of what Donovan was 20 years ago as you could hope to find. The difference is that he’s not in a situation where Florida is absolutely a no-brainer job to take. Miller just signed an extension… I can’t find financial terms but I have to think it’s significantly north of what he had been making, which was a bit short of $400K. The thing is, it’s not as simple as saying “Florida will pay much more therefore Miller will take the job.” Miller is likely to remain an attractive option for any major program looking to replace a coach in the near future. Yeah, there’s a gamble in that…he has to keep winning…but would you bet against him? More importantly, do you think he’d bet against himself? I think he needs to be convinced that Florida is the right place for him and that it can continue to be a place where you contend for national titles.
The positive side for Florida is that he’s got an example very close to home to draw upon which is somewhat analgous to what he’d be facing in Gainesville. His brother Sean took the Arizona job several years ago, replacing Lute Olson, who had built that program from nothing into a consistent Pac 10 and national contender. In fact, that one might have been even more daunting…Arizona doesn’t produce the kind of talent Florida does as a state. Yet, he decided to follow a legend and while he hasn’t yet had the Final Four breakthrough, he’s had Arizona knocking on the door every year and it would seem to be an inevitability at some point, given the kind of talent he’s been able to assemble. So, if big bro can follow a legend and make it work, perhaps the task won’t seem daunting to Archie either.
Chris Mack is the other main name you hear. The eternally wrong Jerry Meyer is reporting he’s at the top of UF’s list, which is likely the kiss of death to his candidacy but Mack makes a lot of sense. He’s older at 45 but you can’t argue with his success either. In 6 years at Xavier he’s been to the Sweet Sixteen 3 times and to the Tournament all but one season. He doesn’t seem to fire imaginations quite as much as Miller, perhaps because Xavier was handed to him in almost perfect condition and he’s maintained it. I can see where he’d be attractive based on his experience…he was Sean Miller’s top assistant before taking the head coaching job and is the latest in a long line of guys who succeed at Xavier…will he be the next to move on to a bigger job?
Other names mentioned seem like longer shots but if the top two decide against UF, they could easily come into play…
Ed Cooley was mentioned by Jerry “I’m almost never correct about anything” Meyer and I can see that one I guess…Cooley has proven himself as a hell of a recruiter at Providence and he finally managed to translate that into wins this year.
The two UF assistants, Anthony Grant and John Pelphrey have been mentioned by Jeremy Foley, the Florida AD. Both failed and were fired from SEC jobs, though…I can’t see Florida trying to sell that to their fans.
Jeff Capel was mentioned the other day and Fox has brought his name up. He won at VCU and OU until he had that program wrecked by a scandal. That got pinned on an assistant but that plus a rough on court year cost him his job with the Sooners. He’s been on the Duke staff since. It would be an interesting hire…it’s the SEC, so I can’t imagine his OU troubles rule him out in any way. One to watch as a darkhorse candidate, I think.
Little Ricky Pitino has been mentioned due to his having been on Donovan’s staff and his surname but c’mon…
Louisiana Tech’s Michael White is an interesting guy. He turned down the Tennesse job last year. He’s won big at LaTech in the regular season but hasn’t been able to win their conference tournament, so no NCAA appearances as of yet…of course, Donovan didn’t have any at Marshall either. He’s 38 and four years into his head coaching career he’s won 71% of his games. He’s going to move at some point to a big time job…I’d look at him as a distinct possibility if Mack and/or Miller turn UF down.
Steve Prohm would be the other darkhorse mid major guy to watch. He’s 40, so young enough to make sense. In four years he’s won 78% of his games. He only has 1 NCAA appearance but it’s a similar deal to White…some tough conference tournament luck has kept him from more. His style of play would be easy to sell…his Murray State teams have been fast paced and are exciting offensively. He, like White, is inevitably going to get a Power 5 job.