Monday, April 2, 2012

Del Conte speaks

It's official now- Jim Christian is leaving TCU. Horned Frog athletic director Chris Del Conte released this statement on the matter this afternoon:

"Jim Christian will not be returning as TCU's head men's basketball coach. We appreciate Jim's contributions to TCU and wish him the best. A national search for a new head coach will begin immediately. With our entrance into the Big 12, the momentum on the TCU campus and the great city of Fort Worth, we are very excited about the future of our men's basketball program."

This certainly isn't a big surprise given what we've been hearing over the past 24 hours, but at least now we know the school can move on. With so many coaches in New Orleans right now for the Final Four, I'd expect that many of them are discussing this opening and we should have a clearer picture of who might be realistic candidates within the next few weeks, if not days.

Daily Discussion: UK or KU?

Another college basketball season will officially be one for the books tonight, and we already know that a giant in the collegiate hoops world will be crowned champion, whether it be the Wildcats of Kentucky winning their 8th championship or the Jayhawks of Kansas taking home their 4th. If you've got money riding on one of these teams winning, it's pretty obvious who you'll be rooting for, but it's not nearly as clear-cut for the rest of us.

If TCU were joining the SEC next year, we would all clearly be rooting for Kentucky. That's just the way the SEC works- they all root for their conference brethren against outsiders. The MWC had a bit of that, and obviously I think most of us would be cheering for UNLV or San Diego State had they made it this far.

But I'm not so sure that's the way things go in the Big 12. Correct me if I'm wrong, but the rivalries between Big 12 teams seem to be such that they always root against one another- even if they're playing for a title against a team from another conference. I don't have anything against Kansas in particular, other than their arrogant and nerdy fans, but I would also bristle at the thought of being put in a position where I had to root for Baylor or Texas or Oklahoma.

So are you pro-Kansas because of the Big 12 connection, or anti-Jayhawk for just the same reason? Does the thought of watching slimeball John Calipari raising the trophy make your skin crawl, or are you in a position to win some cash depending on who wins tonight's game?

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.

Morning Dump