Both coaches are in precarious positions. I don’t know that I’d bet on both getting canned but I do think odds are good that at least one goes…I just can’t decide which one is more likely. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of chatter about Pitino losing his job yet but man…if things unfold the way I think they’re going to, and with a new AD, it would seem at least possible that he goes.
Anyway, some quick thoughts as to names perhaps worth watching if either decides to make a change. This list undoubtedly expands as we move into next month, some mid majors make an impressive showing in March, etc.
Ben Jacobson/Northern Iowa – A native of North Dakota, he’s having a down year at NIU at 3-6 in the league. However, he’s won 65% of his games overall there and 62% in the MVC, which is a very tough league year in, year out. He’s been there 10 years but is still only 45 years old…IOW, it’s a perfect time for him to step up in class. He’s from that part of the world, so Minnesota would offer no culture shock. He’s also used to winning with less than overwhelming talent, something which would help in a Minnesota program where you’re probably not going to have the most athletically gifted team in the league on a consistent basis. Negative is a slow style of play but I think winning would enable people there to get past that pretty quickly.
Jerod Haase/UAB – Former Cal/Kansas player who’s done a great job at UAB. Got them into the Tournament last year and has them leading CUSA and at 17-4 overall. He has no connection to the region but he coached under Ol’Roy at KU and then UNC over 12 years. I would think he’s going to be a very hot name for any P5 openings.
Leon Rice/Boise State – Another name with no regional connections but someone I could see maybe being tempted to move up in weight class. He’s done a very good job at Boise…has them sitting at second in the Mountain West currently and in line for a possible Tournament bid, which would be his third in five years. He’s shown an ability to use international connections in recruiting, doubtlessly honed during his time as a Gonzaga assistant.
Scott Nagy/South Dakota State – Sort of the Greg Kampe of that program. Took them from being a D2 power to D1 membership and 2 NCAA trips in the last 4 years (and they lead the Summit currently). Did two years as a grad assistant at Illinois, so he’s not totally unfamiliar with the Big Ten. He’s been in the Upper Midwest for a long time now.
Mike Lonergan/George Washington – Again, no regional connection but a nice track record of success and rebuilding a program. Started at Vermont, replacing a legend there in Tom Brennan. He struggled early but ended a 6 year run winning 65% of his games overall and 72% in the league, with one NCAA appearance and 4 post season trips. He’s had a similar pattern at GW. Took his lumps early but has two straight 20 plus win seasons, including one NCAA trip and has them at 15-5 and in Tournament conversation again this season. Would seem to be a guy possibly ready to move up.
I suppose all the names mentioned above would apply here as well, though I suspect Illinois would be potentially capable of getting someone a little more established. Then again, people thought that last time around and they ended up with a MAC head coach. To add to the names above…
Brad Brownell/Clemson – This is a pure guess. He’s been a bit up and down at Clemson but is having a very strong year in ACC play so far (6-2). He’s a Midwestern guy from Indiana. Could he be tempted to move back “home” and to a placewhere basketball actually matters? He might never have a better chance to trade up than after this season if he continues on the samepath he’s been on and Illinois would be “trading up” from Clemson IMO.
Jamie Dixon/Pitt – Again, total guess and I’d rate the chances well below 50% even if they’re interested. That said, though he’s having something of a bounce back season, there’s a sense that things are getting a little stale for him at Pitt. Would life be easier recruiting to C/U?
Tad Boyle/Colorado – Flyer time…he’s a native of Colorado, played at KU. He’s had real success in the Pac 12 and is having another good year. Question is, might he be willing to take a job with potentially a higher ceiling?
Archie Miller/Dayton – I don’t think he’d take the Illinois job. My guess is he figures if he bides his time, he could end up with one of the *really* elite jobs down the line. That said, Illinois would be intriguing. Would they offer enough to make him at least think about it?