clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Updated Big Board of Minnesota Gopher Coaching Vacancy Candidates, Shaka Smart, Brad Stevens, Buzz Williams, Andy Enfield and more

Ronald Martinez

Version 2.0 of the Big Board with more details. The initial list was quickly pieced together with names that were recently mentioned and names that have been on the radar, if a move was made, for some time.

The People's Choice(s)

Shaka Smart

This is the home-run hire that everyone is clamoring for. Smart is intelligent (smart, if you will), he is passionate, he is young, he has midwest ties, he has good BCS conference experience as an assistant and he has been very successful in his four seasons at VCU. Why Shaka?

Details - In four seasons at VCU Smart has an overall record of 111-36 (.755). He has taken Virginia Commonwealth to the NCAA Tournament three years in a row and has won at least one game with a dramatic run to the Final Four in 2011. He is originally from Wisconsin, played college basketball at a DIII school in Ohio. Smart also employs what is called the "Havoc" defense which is a pressing D that forces a ton of turnovers. In fact the last two seasons VCU has lead the nation in turnover%.

Why would we want Smart? - You mean besides the fact that he is young, intelligent and sought after by every school with an opening for the last two seasons? Smart would energize Gopher Nation more than the Smith hire in 2007! He isn't just a recognizable name, but he is a sexy name that would excite recruits. His brand of basketball is exciting to watch and fun to play. This one is the biggest no-brainer in the history of mankind.

Questions about this choice? The question isn't whether or not to pursue/offer Smart the job. The ONLY question is will he come? He has turned down other jobs already.

Chances? - very slim. If Norwood Teague wasn't his former boss and had a relationship with Smart, it would be ridiculous to think he would even take the phone call. I think our chances are better than some are giving us, but it is still a long shot. No doubt this was the first phone call and Teague will do whatever it takes, but it might not be enough.

Flip Saunders

The other popular choice for Gopher fans. Flip is a former player at the U and if you follow his Twitter account you can see that he has a love for his alma-matter and wants to see it succeed.

Details - Saunders started 101 games for the Gophers and played on the 1976-77 team that went 24-3. He is probably most known for his 10 years with the Timberwolves. He then moved on to Detroit where he took the Pistons to the conference finals three years in a row. His final NBA gig was in Washington where nobody wins. He lives in town, he goes to games, he watches the high school talent in the area and he appears to be interested in coaching the Gophers.

Why would we want Flip? - Because he is one of us, he is an alum and would likely stay for the long-term. This would not be a stepping stone job and if Flip could get this program to another level, he'd stick around. I also would really enjoy seeing Flip teach the Gophers how to run an offense. Best case scenario has Flip being very similar to Tom Izzo.

Questions about this choice - Recruiting. Flip has no experience recruiting and to be honest he has no experience coaching college kids. Is Flip interested in chasing high school kids all over the country? Certainly one or two of his assistants would have to be recruiting guys who love that chase.

Chances? - I think if offered he would take it. There is something else going on with Flip pursuing ownership stake in the Timberwolves so it is possible that he's more interested in that than he is college athletics. I'm not entirely sure that this is the direction Teague wants to so and that is probably the biggest hurdle to this deal happening.

Top Tier Candidates Who May or May Not Be Interested

These are established names, they would be great hires, there is some degree of speculation that they'd be interested but let's not get too excited until we hear something concrete.

Brad Stevens

Butler's coach who is as sought after as much as, if not more than, Shaka Smart. This guy has built Butler into a mid-major power that is on par with any high-major. Back-to-back NCAA Title game appearances is remarkable.

Details - He is young and one of the brightest in the game. This hire would be more shocking than Smart. Stevens is from Central Indiana and is coaching in Central Indiana at a place that supports him fully.

Why would we want Stevens? - Because he is arguably the best. At least he is the best who is not at a premier program like Duke or Kansas. We want him, period.

Questions about this choice - This one again is more about them than it is about us. Why would Stevens take this job? He does have a relationship with Teague, they know each other but how deep that relationship goes I don't know. The changing landscape of college basketball conferences makes the Big Ten more appealing, but that's not likely going to be enough.

Chances - I'm sure he would answer the call and talk to Teague before politely declining. This one has almost no chance of happening.

Buzz Wililams

Details - Marquette's coach who has been rather successful at Marquette and in the Big East. In five seasons he has a record of 121-53 and a Big East record of 60-30. He is known as being rather passionate and is very hard working. His teams at Marquette consistently are one of the most offensively efficient teams in the country. And Williams has a track record of recruiting some high caliber athletes to Milwaukee (he has four 4-star recruits coming in this year).

Why would we want Buzz? - He has high-major experience and has been very successful. He coaches a program that sits behind not only professional teams but his program isn't even the most popular college program in the state. He recruits kids to downtown Milwaukee, how much easier of a sell would Minneapolis be? Personally, I'd be thrilled with Williams. He is a known commodity that has proven he can win at a high-major level. There are no serious questions about his ability to win here for me. Did I mention that he has now been to three straight Sweet 16s? We've never been to three straight NCAA Tournaments.

Questions about this choice - Again, why? At best this is a lateral move. He'd be leaving an athletic department where basketball is the only major sport and he has had quite a bit of success. Why would he jump ship to Minnesota?

Chances - This one is kinda sneaky but still unlikely. Rumors are that he and his AD are not the best of friends, but if he is showing interest it is probably to get himself a fatter contract.

Jay Wright

Details - Villanova's current head coach who, like many above, has had some pretty impressive success. Prior to Nova, Wright was the head coach at Hofstra and took The Pride to back-to-back NCAA Tournaments before moving to Villanova. On his resume is a Big East title, a Final Four appearance and a track record of recruiting & developing guards.

Why would we want Wright? - Successful coach with a Final Four to his name. He is a good recruiter and wins (257-144 at Nova).

Questions about this choice - Why, why why? Another move that is a step down.

Chances - Almost none. If anything the draw here would be the stability (and money) of the Big Ten. Wright has been at Villanova for 12 seasons and is maybe looking for a change, but I don't know why Minnesota would be the right fit for him. This one isn't going to happen.

Those in the Mid-Majors Possibly Ready to Make the Jump

Now we get to the interesting group of names. Most of, OK all, of the names above are extreme longshots. Flip is probably the only one who would accept without being offered, but I just don't think Teague would offer it to him. Up next is the mid-major guys who Teague and Ellis would have to identify as ones ready to be successful at the next level.

Gregg Marshall

Head coach at Wichita State with a career record of 331-152 (.685), includes his years at Winthrop.

Details - Marshall has been a hot mid-major name over the past couple seasons. He has proven to be successful in the tough Missouri Valley Conference. Prior to Wichita State he was at Winthrop where he won five Big South titles in six seasons and seven NCAA Tourney appearances in the nine seasons he was there. Currently he has the Shockers in the Sweet 16.

Why would we want Marshall? - Two stints as a head coach and has achieved success at both. His teams traditionally are very efficient on offense and are among the best nationally at defensive rebounding. While at Winthrop he lead the Eagles to an upset over 2-seeded Tennessee and as I mentioned he currently has his team in the Sweet 16 after an upset over #1 Gonzaga. The belief is that he would build the program and produce quality basketball teams.

Questions about this choice - Recruiting at the high-major level and winning in the Big Ten is much more difficult than winning in the Missouri Valley or Big South. Nobody wants to be the next Todd Lickliter or Dan Monson. This hire would not excite the fan base and it would take time before people would come around. Wins would do the trick.

Chances - Decent. Marshall appears ready to make a move to the next level and Minnesota might be a good fit. There are no Big Ten ties, there are no midwest ties (prior to his coming to Wichita) and this guy might not stick around very long.

Ben Jacobson

Details - Jacobson is a North Dakota kid who currently is the head coach at Northern Iowa. He won back-to-back Missouri Valley titles in 2009 and 2010, the second one ended with a big upset of Kansas in the NCAA Tournament.

Why would we want Jacobson? - I believe that he is a talented, young coach who would love the opportunity to be at Minnesota. Many of the names above would be happy with a big-time job, Jacobson would be happy to be a Gopher (I think). He has experience recruiting the area and already has relationships built.

Questions about this choice - His last three seasons have been 20-win seasons but they were around .500 in the Missouri Valley. We've seen that, what we need to see is someone who can takes us to another level.

Chances - Another one who would accept if offered, but may not get the chance. Less than 50%.

Andy Enfield

Details - This is the new hot name in coaching searches. Florida Gulf Coast is the first 15-seed to make it to the Sweet 16 in just his second season as a head coach. Enfield began his coaching career as a shooting consultant and ran specialized shooting camps. This evolved into a couple of NBA assistant coaching gigs. Enfield then took a break from coaching while he made it big (I mean $100,000,000 big) in the business world. But he went back to coaching in 2006 as an assistant at Florida State until he landed the FGCU job in 2011.

Why would we want Enfield? - Well, he is the new and hot name. More than anything, I think that Enfield would bring a really exciting brand of basketball to Williams Arena. There has not been a more fun team to watch in this year's Tournament. That alone isn't reason to hire him, but team appears to be well-coached and numerous "experts" and other coaches admire him. I think there is some substance behind this flashy, team.

Questions about this choice - Speaking of flash, is this just a flash in the pan? Would this be a wild swing and miss ala Tim Brewster (admittedly with some actual experience)? Enfield is hot right now, but this might set some records from being relatively unknown to a Big Ten coach in a matter of days.

Chances - I think there is actually a chance of this happening. Enfield is a Villa 7 guy and he isn't a new name to Teague and Ellis. They'll do their homework (if they haven't already) and he won't be their first choice. But I have a feeling that he is good enough to get offered and he would likely take this opportunity. He and his wife wanted to raise their kids in a college atmosphere (as opposed to a NYC business or NBA atmosphere) and Minnesota is a great place for families. Keep an eye on this one.

Will Wade

I'm going way deep on this one but I think it is one to keep an eye on.

Details - assistant coach at VCU with a reputation as a great recruiter and a tireless worker. Wade is young, he is Villa 7 material and Teague/Ellis know all about him. Wade learned his coaching trade at Clemson, was Tommy Amaker's first hire at Harvard and then went to VCU to work for Smart as his first hire as well. He appears to have a bright future and will eventually be a head coach.

Why would we want Will? - Well, I don't really know. We could clearly be buying low, getting in early on a kid who may be a very good coach.

Questions about this choice - youth, inexperience. This one could be a home run or a HUGE swing and a miss.

Chances - Slim, I don't think Teague would take this big of a risk with this hire. But I'm throwing it out there.

All Others

There are plenty of other names you will or already have seen. I'm less intrigued or convinced it won't happen by the following names.

  • Fred Hoiberg - will NEVER leave Iowa State for Minnesota. Lateral move and he is entrenched in Ames.
  • Ben Howland - I'd be OK with this, but I don't think Teague is going in the direction of old and recently fired coach.
  • Anthony Grant - his offenses have been pretty bad at Alabama. This name will surface and Grant will get an extension.
  • Tim Miles - I don't see it happening. Has the facilities in Lincoln to succeed.
  • Eric Musselman - Not the direction I see Teague going. Musselman would make an outstanding assistant coach for Flip!
  • Chris Mooney - had a couple successful seasons at Richmond but has been been pretty average since. Villa 7 guy but I doubt he'll be the choice.
I will try to update as more information comes to light.