Monday, April 2, 2012

Replacing Christian

It would appear that Jim Christian's denial of the reports that he's leaving to take the head coaching job at Ohio are due to the fact that the story leaked before he had a chance to talk to his players. By most accounts, he's on his way out the door.

Some people will focus on the fact that our coach is choosing a MAC program over what is soon to be a Big 12 one. If I may spin this in TCU's favor, though, I think that Christian sees Ohio as a better fit for him personally in the long term. His wife's family is in the area, and he'll step right into what is a tournament-ready team that sets up well for him to coach in Athens for a long, long time. At TCU, he was facing a steep uphill climb in a new league and likely wasn't going to last another three years on the job.

Now, though, Chris Del Conte has a chance to lay the foundation for the future of TCU basketball by making his first high-profile hire during his time in Fort Worth. Let's take a look at a few of the options he'll have for choosing a new coach:

-Go after a pie-in-the-sky candidate. If SMU can go after Marquett's Buzz Williams (a Texas native), why can't TCU? And if Hall of Famer Larry Brown is reportedly interested in the SMU job, then wouldn't it stand to reason that he also might have interest in the TCU job? Up & coming coaching star Shaka Smart of Virginia Commonwealth has been mentioned by some fans, but he just turned down Illinois. Some people would want to try to pry Jamie Dixon (who played at TCU) away from Pitt, but all I'll say is good luck with that. And if we're dreaming of former Frogs coming back to coach, why not Oklahoma City Thunder coach Scotty Brooks, right? Billy Gillispie has had success recruiting and winning in Texas, but I have a hard time seeing him pull a David McWilliams and leave Tech after just one season. Longtime NBA coach Mike Dunleavy was the pie-in-the-sky candidate the last time around, and hell, Phil Jackson is out of a job right now. A lot of energy will be expended by fans getting excited about one or more of these names, but I wouldn't get my hopes up about any of them. Sure, it wouldn't hurt for Del Conte to call any of them- if only to hear them say "no" and possibly offer up some suggestions of their own. But I'll leave any more additions to this category up to you in the comments section.

-Use the draw of the Big 12 to lure a successful coach from a program in a lesser conference. Larry Eustachy had success in the Big 12 during his five years at Iowa State, and has turned Southern Miss into an NCAA Tournament team. Bruiser Flint has coached Drexel to seven winning seasons in his native Philadelphia, but perhaps a big-conference gig would warrant leaving home. Ben Braun has eight career NCAA Tournament appearances at Cal and Eastern Michigan and has done moderately well turning Rice around after he was hired there by Del Conte. Tom Herrion, currently at Marshall, is a former Dixon assistant who has never had a losing season as a head coach. Gregg Marshall at Wichita State and Scott Sutton at Oral Roberts both have multiple NCAA appearances while coaching within the Big 12 footprint. Steve Prohm, still very fresh in the head coaching ranks, was an assistant at three schools in Louisiana before winning 31 games this year in his first season at Murray State. I hesitate to include Pat Knight in this list, but he did take Lamar to the play-in games of the NCAA Tournament this year.

-Take on some NCAA baggage. A popular suggestion amongst fans has been Bruce Pearl, who boasts three Sweet 16s and an Elite 8 in his time at Tennessee and Wisconsin-Milwaukee and a Division II national title at Southern Indiana. He certainly has the track record, showmanship and charisma to ignite the fanbase...but he also would put TCU in the crosshairs of the NCAA. Like former Oklahoma and Indiana head coach Kelvin Sampson, though, Pearl is still subject to his NCAA show-cause penalty, which means that any school that wants to hire him will have to cut through a LOT of red tape and put up with a LOT of increased scrutiny. Personally, I doubt Del Conte and the TCU administration would even consider going this route. It's as close to being officially blackballed as you can get- think of a school trying to hire Jim Tressel to coach their football team right now.

-Look local or promote from within. Johnny Jones has coached North Texas to two NCAA Tournaments and three other 20-win seasons. Scott Cross has turned UTA around and almost took the Mavericks to a second NCAA Tournament this past year. Rob Evans, a Christian assistant and noted recruiter, has fourteen years of head coaching experience at Ole Miss and Arizona State, and has three NCAA appearances on his resume.

Friend of Spit Blood, David Peterson, has posted his own list over at that includes a number of provocative names that I did not mention here. As much fun as it is for fans like us to throw names out there and imagine certain guys leading our program to future glory, this is a very serious task for Del Conte. He's done a great job of raising funds and building facilities, but hiring coaches is the other major job on which athletic directors are judged. With the move to the Big 12 and very preliminary plans to renovate/rebuild Daniel-Meyer, Del Conte has a chance to do something great here.


The Showstopper said...

Larry Brown just seems like the perfect option given our circumstances. Is he a long term solution? Of course not. But, he'd energize the fanbase about basketball enough to bring in the money needed.

He'd also bring a level of quality and professionalism to the program that has been missing for a long time. His current players would get instantly better because of his coaching. He'd attract higher quality recruits.

He'd get us back in the tourney, retire and then his successor would lead us to the promised land.

Sir Wesley Willis said...

CDC can really earn his stripes right here. As I posted earlier, I don't think the perceived big names are going to be exactly lining up for the job, but if CDC can get the donors to inject a little cash into the discussion and have at least a modest framework for facility improvements, I suppose crazier things have happened. Of course, given how much effort was just exhausted in raising funds for the still-unfinished AGCS, plus renovations for Lupton supposedly in the works, this couldn't come a rougher time, so I'm not getting my hopes up.

I think going the "Big 12" route is the most preferable. TCU's past two coaches have had few ties to the area, and the results have been mediocre at best, deplorable at worst. Unless you can hit the jackpot and nab someone from the pipe dream section, having someone who knows the area and how to recruit it should be a top priority.

Regardless, CDC needs to get on this IMMEDIATELY and make it priority numero uno. No matter who we end up hiring, TCU needs to assure that coach that they are going to give him time to build the program and realistic assurances for program upgrades.

The fact that JC is leaving TCU for presumably a lesser job for the same pay suggests TCU wasn't trying too hard to hold onto him and can signify one of two things - that they have a plan for bigger and better things and are in a better position to reach them now that they don't have to buy out JC... or that TCU isn't quite ready to make that next level commitment to mens basketball. I hope its the former, but I fear it could be the latter.

However they choose to proceed will give a pretty good inclination of what we can expect from basketball over the next decade. Let's hope CDC steps up to the plate, as he always has.

But let's look at the most interesting thing about this whole situation - did Christian leaving just throw a HUGE wrench into SMU's own coaching search? On the one hand, they're in arguably a worse position than we are, program wise, and it's not like they have any other sports propping them up to make working for that athletic department more attractive. But on the flip side, they have one more year in CUSA for a new coach to get his kitchen in order rather than getting tossed into the Big 12 fire like TCU, are supposedly upgrading their arena and will likely be willing to shell out more cash. In fear of getting egg thrown on my face, I'm not going to dance on their grave... I'll just say having two major conference job openings between rival schools in one of the most basketball rich areas of the country at least makes the job search a little more interesting.

Travis said...

Coach K? Self? Calipari? Dixon? All realistic possibilities! Bring back Tubbs!

In all seriousness Lyle, you do great research, thank you for the updates. I admit we need our men's program to step-up, even though I don't really watch much of the men's hoops these days, and wouldn't even pee on the NBA if it was burning! But, I love my alma mater and losing or being mediocre year in and year out, especially now that we are joining a competitive, high profile conference, is no longer acceptable. I agree with SWW, this is where CDC is about to earn his stripes, pay, and maybe his legacy with this hire. Yes, I said legacy because pretty much everything else was already built, program wise, before his arrival. He has done an excellent job on the funding front, and I really like this guy. But, even a "meh" basketball fan like me understands the importance of this hire. Aim high CDC!

general125 said...

We can get Eustachy with a case of natty light. It's low-hanging fruit, but he'll love our greek scene.

Lyle Lanley said...

ESPN Insider is suggesting Dallas resident (and former Manhattan, St. John's and New Mexico head coach) Fran Fraschilla as a candidate.

Fraschilla's son James is currently a walk-on guard at OU.

Travis said...

Another coach Fran?