Saturday, August 05, 2006

More on the coaching search

By now it's fact that Mark Fox of Nevada has withdrawn his name from consideration for the head job of Nebraska Basketball. While I'm disappointed, I'm not surprised. Fox is going to be worth a lot more next April, what with five starters back for a tournament team including All-America candidate Nick Fazekas.

The search, I think, still starts and ends with Karl Hobbs of George Washington. GW went undefeated in the A-10 last season and lost to Duke in the second round of the NCAAs. If it happens, this won't be a long term hire -- probably 3-5 years tops. He will be the leading candidate at UConn when Jim Calhoun retires, and was a former player for the Huskies.

John Pelphrey and Doc Sadler, it appears, remain top candidates. Sadler seems to be comfortable leaving UTEP, but the word yesterday was that Pelphrey was luke warm, but Pederson and Boehm have been granted permission to speak with him.

Another name popping up now is St. Mary's coach Randy Bennett. Bennett inherited a program that was 2-27 the year before he was hired and they earned an at-large bid from the Gonzaga dominated West Coast Conference in 2005. Last season, they finished 17-12 and played Gonzaga very tough in the league final in Spokane.

This seems to be moving along quite nicely for the head men in Lincoln. I would think an announcement before school starts is very likely. It appears that Pederson and Boehm and looking strictly at head coaches, but that if they had to go with an assistant that UCLA's Kerry Keating and former Husker assistant Scott Spinelli would be at the top of the list.

Posted by Tony Chapman @ Saturday, August 05, 2006 || 3 comments

Friday, August 04, 2006

The August Vacancy

Lord knows I never would have thought that I'd be following Nebraska basketball in August, but Barry Collier's move back to his alma mater has Husker Athletic Director Steve Pederson and his sidekick -- Marc Boehm -- searching for a replacement.

(As an aside, who can blame Collier for wanting to go back to Butler Fieldhouse, where they shot the movie Hoosiers and where the Bulldogs have one of the neat home court advantages in NCAA Hoops. They normally schedule home games for mid-afternoon just when the afternoon sun shines brightly in their old barn -- you may be getting the drift -- and they curiously fix it so the opponents always have to deal with it in the second half. A great venue where all college hoop fans should attend at least one game.)

Back to this search thing. Whatever, I hear the football team is ranked.

If you have any care for NU Hoops you have to get goosebumps thinking about who Pederson and Boehm have hired in their time together. One of them coached in national title game last year (Ben Howland) and the other (Howland's replacement at Pitt) Jamie Dixon has kept the Panther program up with the nation's elite.

Let's take a brief look at possible candidates.

The way I see things, Pederson probably has anywhere from 3-5 guys he is absolutely gunning for and I'll list them in order of what I believe to be Steve's preference.

1. Karl Hobbs, George Washington. First, there are no black head coaches at Nebraska. Now, Pederson isn't going to hire a guy because he is black but there may be pressure from the BCA. Remember, in 2000, after going after Bill Self first, former AD Bill Byrne went for Leonard Hamilton (then at Miami) and Oliver Pernell (then at Dayton) before landing Collier.

Hobbs, is a wonderful candidate and the thought around the nation is that the former Connecticut assistant will take Jim Calhoun's post when he is through winning titles in Storrs. However, wouldn't Hobbs at least think about a stop to a BCS league to get some experience before going to UConn? Coaching in the Big 12 for 3-5 years wouldn't hurt his resume before heading to UConn.

2. Mark Fox, Nevada. The ties to the Midwest are a huge factor. Fox, 37, grew up in Garden City, KS and was an assistant at Kansas State (and has his Master's Degree from KU) under Tom Asbury. He took over in Reno after Trent Johnson bolted for Stanford two seasons ago. Fox is 52-13 at the helm in Reno and has been dancing twice.

Reno TV station KRNV is reporting that Fox had dinner with Pederson in Los Angeles on Thursday night, but no word from the AD on whether there has been permission even requested by Pederson to speak with Fox. Who knows if Fox would leave? He has five starters back from a season ago, including All-American Nick Fazekas.

3. Jim Christian, Kent State. Another young one, Christian is 40 and the connection here is that he was an assistant at Pittsburgh early in Pederson's tenure with Ralph Willard. Now, Pederson fired that guy so who knows what that connection is. Anyway, at Kent he has been superb. In four years as a head coach, they have won 20 games every year. They advanced to the NCAA Tournament this past year, but lost to (guess who?) Pittsburgh in the first round.

I'd be surprised, not shocked, if this were the hire. One thing he may have going for him is that he was a talent evaluator for a private sports firm for a couple of years and worked with Big 12 talents Chris Mihm (Texas) and Jacque Vaughn (Kansas), so he does know the league and what it takes. The early rumor was he would take it, no questions asked, if offered.

4. Doc Sadler, UTEP. Sadler is making a late push, but the UTEP coach bears plenty of watching. In his third year after taking over for current Texas A&M coach, Billy Gillespie, Sadler has been to the NCAA tournament twice and last year they lost to Michigan in the NIT.

Prior to coming to UTEP, he was a head coach at the junior college level in Arkansas. Sadler has also been in Los Angeles, according to the El Paso Times.

5. John Pelphrey, South Alabama. The word on the street is that Pelphrey has turned down an offer to speak to Pederson (apparently in Los Angeles if you aren't already catching the drift). While three of his four seasons at USA have been losing ones, last year was much better. They made it to the NCAA Tournament, but drew national champion Florida in the first round.

Pelphrey would bring a lunchbox to Lincoln. He was, for years, a Billy Donovan assistant and played for Rick Pitino and Eddie Sutton at Kentucky. (If you wonder, Pelphrey was a senior on Pitino's team that took Duke to the buzzer. Pitino was famous for saying during the tournament, "I wouldn't trade any player in America for John Pelphrey.") His first assistant job was for Sutton at Oklahoma State.

We may know a lot more by Monday. The guess here is that Pederson and Boehm were busy beavers on Thursday in Los Angeles. They probalby had a little morning meeting with Ben Howland on Friday and they could be really close to a decision already.

I will do my best to keep this blog updated if anything comes up.

Posted by Tony Chapman @ Friday, August 04, 2006 || 0 comments

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