Wednesday, April 4, 2012

...and What it Means for the Future of TCU Basketball.

So what can a TCU Basketball fan realistically expect going forward?  Lyle already put together a pretty comprehensive list yesterday, as have Purple Menace and Horned Frogs, both Blitz and Sports, so I'm not going to rehash them here.  And while those lists all have enough candidates to generate both excitement and mehs, the one published today by friend of Spitblood Stefan Stevenson of the Star-Telegram paints a more grim picture.  It's also the most realistic.  His list includes six candidates. One coaches at Pittsburgh, used to be really goofy looking during his time at TCU, and is untouchable unless fired, two of them coach small schools in the North Texas area where they have experienced moderate success, another is currently employed by ESPN, another is an assistant and the third is a Big Ten washout.  Do any of those make you happy?  Well, I hope so for your sake, because chances are someone along those lines is all you're getting.

That is, unless TCU is willing to use some of that newly proposed Big 12 scrilla and go to war in the bidding process.  Christian's current TCU contract had him being paid $590.000 per anum as head man.  The poorest Coach in the Big 12, Texas Tech's Billy Gillispie, makes $800,000.  Keep in mind, Gillispie took the Lubbock job with hat in hand because his driving history, coupled with the fact that Kentucky fans nearly murdered him before he was fired, made him a DIFFICULT hire.  And while I think TCU is going to have to hit the seven figure range with lots of guaranteed years, without even mentioning a blueprint for facility improvements, you might be surprised what it would take to get our new head man on par with that of everyone else. 

For instance, did you know that Colorado's Tad Boyle only makes $580,000/yr?  Or that Big East Coaches Stan Heath (USF) and Mike Brey (ND), two guys who had teams finish in the third of the Nation's toughest Conference, currently draw $875,000 and $573,974 (!!), respectively?  We complained about Christian's salary, but compared to him, Xavier's Chris Mack is a veritable pauper  at $484,399.  SDSU's Steve Fisher, a coach with a National Championship in his back pocket, pulls in $800,000 and SDSU basically just told him basketball was second rate with the football only BEast move.  He'd be receptive if he weren't so old.  Wouldn't popular choice Larry Eustachy at USM jump at the chance to double his salary of $475,000?  Actually, considering the proximity of the sorority houses to the DMC, he might actually take a cut.  CDC, get on this.  What do all of these coaches have in common?  Their teams all made the NCAA tournament this year.  So it's possible to make the Dance on a modest budget.

On the flip side of that equation, though, is this:  Money clearly doesn't always talk in the head coacing world.  In fact, the hard truth is, it's probably secondary.  Look at Christian.  Look at the guys in the paragraph above.  Chris Mack could have his pick of quite a few of the better jobs in the country, yet he remains at Xavier A) because it's his alma mater and where he is from and B) He could realistically win a Championship there.  The long term contract and job security that comes with it don't hurt, but he could easily earn more money elsewhere.  The point I'm trying to make is, as opposed to college football, in college basketball anyone can rise up and win, so why completely uproot your comfortable life to chase a dollar?  It's why Brad Stevens remains at Butler.  It's why Shaka Smart at VCU has turned down big jobs and will continue to do so.  It's why, unless one of these attractive coaching candidates is just absolutely ready for a change, wants a true challenge and is chasing the money, TCU is going to have to dumpster dive for a new head coach.

Without question this is the biggest moment in Chris Del Conte's career to this point.  Yes, he helped lead the charge on stadium renovations and into the Big 12, but let's be honest - any AD worth his salt could've piggybacked on Gary Patterson's success and done those things.  The Big 12 was a lot of "right place, right time" but once Patterson led the Frogs to back to back BCS bowls, the Big 12 would've been laughed off the face of the planet had they not extended the invite.  Patterson is also 90% responsible for the stadium situation as well.  I'm not trying to belittle CDC because he's done a phenomenal job and the folks that are on his ass about the ticket situation are morons.  I'm just saying, having Gary Patterson as your head football coach makes an AD's life a LOT easier at a football school in the football crazed.  Even he would admit that.  

Which brings up another point - how to balance football and basketball success.  Looking at this year's Sweet 16, only Wisconsin, Ohio State, Florida and Michigan State could be considered football first schools... and they're all huge state funded institutions.  Any Baylor fans reading will clearly try and point to their team as balancing both, but one transcendent year doesn't erase the past 20 years of failure.  Sorry, guys.  Clearly it's VERY hard to do both.  Heck, Texas hasn't been able to do it since Durant was on campus and they have the most resources of any of them.  One great recruiting class can turn a basketball team around overnight, but it's clearly a lot easier said than done, something our fans do not and will not ever understand.  If you don't want your patience to continue to be tried, you may want to stop paying attention.

It goes without saying that, no matter who TCU picks, this coaching hire needs to stick or we will not win a Conference game for many years.  As we've beaten into the ground, it's going to take a commitment from a facilities standpoint as well as a promise to whoever is hired that they are going to have time to build the program, because no matter what you think of the CBI, TCU is DOWNDOWNDOWN right now.  Even if you were to hire John Calipari, the ultimate get rich quick coach, it'd take him at least 3 years to get this train back on the tracks.  If CDC wants a blueprint for how to proceed with this decision he need only look at the last two men who took the job and run the other way.  

When he arrived on campus, [redacted] was one of the hot assistants in the country at Kansas and brought an air of confidence to the program not seen in years.  Unfortunately, Neil was jaded by his success at Kansas, didn't realize that it's not like that at other schools and that TCU is a situation where you can work your ass off and still only but 500 butts in the seats.  He was used to success and couldn't calculate why his tactics weren't working in Fort Worth. His failure to find a solution led to his dismissal.  

Jim Christian was a different kind of hire - the semi-hot, small school head coach coming off multiple post-season berths at Kent State.  Again, we were very excited about his hire because, at the time, TCU looked like Kent State but in a more basketball rich area. The problem we were all overlooking with Christian was that he inherited an already solid program from Stan Heath and kept the ship sailing, but never improved upon his predecessor's product.  What TCU needed - and still needs - is a program builder, and Christian was a program maintainer.  I think he realized this which is why he took over an already solid Ohio squad where I genuinely believe he will be successful.  

I genuinely do not have a front running candidate in my mind for the gig.  My head says that, after a couple of outsider washouts, it probably needs to be someone local who knows how to recruit the area, someone like UTA's Scott Cross or UNT's Johnny Jones, guys that have taken middling programs and led them to the Dance.  Of course, those guys aren't very exciting, may not be ready for the big time and almost certainly would have trouble building program support, so there's that. 

If we were able to lure a big name, clearly you could sacrifice location for the sake of making a splash that would get the fanbase excited, but I'm not confident we can swing that kind of situation.  I would LOVE for TCU to at least kick the tires on a guy like Bruce Pearl, a coach that clearly would have to be on his best behavior going forward due to his past.  Yes, it'd generate some bad pub and yes you'd have to take on his sanctions for a couple of years, but let's be honest - beggars can't be choosers, and TCU isn't going anywhere for a few years anyone, post-seasonwise.  They won't do it, of course, but the risk could be worth the reward.  After all, look at what Calipari, Jr. has done at Baylor?  

It probably goes without saying the leading candidates, guys we won't necessarily get, need to have a proven track record of building a program from the ground up, because that's essentially what they will be doing, and that limits your options considerably.  The Shaka Smart's and Brad Steven's of the world don't just grow on trees and, of course, both were previously assistants, which is something we saw fail miserably last go around.  Not to mention that, once the potential candidates see how much the job sucked Christian' will to live out of his body, they'll run the opposite direction if they know what's good for them.  

In case you can't tell, I am utterly clueless as to what the best course of action is here.

Just in case it seems like all I've done is dog the TCU job - and I have - there are some attractive things about it.  For one, the Big 12 is going to open recruiting doors never available to TCU in the past.  We saw it with the Big East and we will see it even more now.  Being in the much ballyhooed recruiting hotbed of Dallas doesn't hurt matters, either.  And TCU is a brand name.  But will that be enough to hire the kind of person TCU needs to have moderate success on the court?  All I can say is that Chris Del Conte has his work cut out for him and it should be very interesting to see how he handles the process going forward.  Good Luck, CDC, and godspeed.  If you can knock this hire out of the park, you're my write-in vote for President come November.

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