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Gopher Basketball Coaching Search Continues But One Has to Wonder...Now What Do We Do?

Rob Carr

If you believe the rampant speculation, which you have to do because there is no actual information available, the Gopher coaching search is at least 0-2 with little reason to think that a candidate willing to accept the job is near.

Norwood Teague made a significant push for Shaka Smart and was rebuffed. Shortly after Smart committed to a VCU extension we saw Josh Pastner, Fred Hoiberg and Ben Jacobson also receive contract extensions, but no actual Minnesota offer was reported. It was then reported (or assumed) that Flip Saunders was going to be offered the job that he was excited to accept, but apparently that deal fell through. We are one week into the search and after missing out on what most believed were the two most viable candidates (admittedly one was more viable than the other) we are left with just one question.

So now what are we supposed to do?

The coaching search moves on, but the sliding scale of confidence in Teague to nail this hire begins to move toward skepticism with each passing day. I'm typically one of the last to criticize and usually jumping off the "don't fire Coach" ship right before it goes down in flames, but I really am wondering if Teague overestimated the Minnesota job and people's interest in it.

In an interview with Doogie on 1500 ESPN in late 2012 I remember Teague being pressed hard on the decision to pay North Carolina to get out of playing them in football. Teague was giving the canned answers for a bit and then gave what I felt was an honest answer stating that he underestimated the negative response to this decision. So I wonder if this is another case of Teague assuming there would be more interest in coming to coach the Golden Gophers than there really is? I wonder if he is surprised that a number of coaches he had on his list would rather stay at other jobs than come here? And with Flip, do you think he is surprised that Flip would actually want control over the hiring of his staff?

This was part of my fear over the decision to fire Tubby. Clearly this was decided weeks ago by Teague/Ellis (TEllis?) and the assumption that most media and fans have gone with is that he has a plan. Many fans were thrilled that TEllis pulled the plug on Smith. But as I've stated several times, firing mediocrity with the mantra of "why can't we have higher expectations" doesn't always mean you will take that next step. And there is now an image problem with this job, one that makes it more difficult to hire the guy you want who is capable of taking us to that proverbial next level.

Hiring a retread coach or hiring someone who is the best on the list of guys just willing to take the job, isn't what we are after here.  This move is being made to take the program to the next level.

So where does that leave us? With a list of guys who Teague is going to pursue, who are unrealistic. And then a second list of guys that will be willing to take the job, but are likely less sexy and would underwhelm the Gopher base. Remember, the reason Tubby was fired was because this program was stuck in mediocrity. Maybe it was fundraising issues, maybe it was season ticket sales, maybe it was the poor Big Ten performances but all of those are functions of mediocrity. Hiring a retread coach or hiring someone who is the best on the list of guys just willing to take the job, isn't what we are after here. This move is being made to take the program to the next level. It will have to start with recruiting and continue to on-the-floor things like player development and game prep. Does anybody believe we are heading down the road of hiring that coach?

I've been preaching patience as much as anybody, Illinois took nearly 3 weeks last year to hire John Groce. But maybe it is time for Teague to at least let the world know he is doing something...anything. In 2013, people don't have much patience for information.

Rather than putting up a Hot Board 3.0, I'm going to list who I desire the most, regardless of how realistic they may or may not be.

1 - Buzz Williams - UNREALISTIC - Williams is coming off an Elite Eight season and back-to-back Sweet 16 seasons. Marquette is a basketball school, he is making $2.8 and has no reason to leave his current job. Rumors of not getting along with his AD are out there but we can't offer enough where I see him moving. This would be a home run hire, a guy who has been very successful in the other best basketball conference in the country.

2 - Flip Saunders - UNREALISTIC - I'm going to keep him listed here until a coach is hired. Maybe the door isn't completely closed on Flip, assuming Teague would have to back off their assistant coach demands. This is very (VERY) unlikely but until told otherwise, I'll leave him on the list. I was initially excited about Flip, then wasn't so sure and then came back around to really liking the idea. His assistant staff would be key however and creating Country Club U would not set him up for success.

3 - Andy Enfield - I'm willing to take a chance on Enfield, if he would come here. Comparisons to him being the next Dan Monson are unfair to both parties. Monson came into a toxic situation with severe recruiting restrictions. And Enfield does actually have a decent resume with NBA experience, player development experience (particularly shooting), he spent 5 years in the ACC at Florida State earning a reputation as a very good recruiter and he now has a tiny bit of head coaching experience. FGCU is going to try and double his salary to pay him a bit above $300,000! I think we can match that. If he chooses to leave he might get to decided between USC and Minnesota.

4 - Chris Mack - UNREALISTIC and UNDERWHELMING - maybe the most realistic of the unrealistics, but I don't see Mack leaving Xavier for this job. Another basketball school where Mack has been successful and there is little incentive for him to leave. Based on what I've been reading, this one wouldn't excite the masses (but it should) thus making the underwhelming list as well.

5 - Anthony Grant - Grant might be the one coach still rumored to be in the running who might actually get the job. A successful head coach at VCU and has done OK at Alabama. Grant is also known as a very good recruiter and he produces very good defensive teams. I don't see him leaving Alabama, especially when he has a nice core of talent returning with just one senior (non-starter) on the roster. His contract extension will probably come this week! I would be pretty happy with Grant. Recruiting and defense go a long way in college basketball.

6 - Gregg Marshall - Riding high with his team in the Final Four! Maybe this process is dragging out because Marshall is the guy. Personally I don't think he'd come to Minnesota and while I think he'd be a good hire, this is just too unrealistic for me. He will be a leading candidate for every open job in the future along with Smart and Brad Stevens; he can be patient till he gets one he really wants. Hard to argue with his success and probably shame on me for not having him higher on this list.

7 - Tony Bennett - I'm more excited about this name than most, I think. I had a few conversations with his father, Dick and I think these guys know their basketball and know what it takes to win in the Big Ten. Tony is not a Dick clone and he was pushing for Wisconsin to get more athletic when he was there; it showed during his time at Washington State. Decent recruiter, good ties in the region. Virginia to Minnesota is probably lateral so I'm not holding my breath.

8 - Tad Boyle - UNREALISTIC - Has the markings of being a great recruiter and has done well at Colorado taking them to the NCAA Tournament 2 years in a row. But he is a Colorado guy and likely won't be leaving that job to move to Minnesota.

9 - Tim Miles - UNREALISTIC - I'm not nearly as high on Miles as most Gopher related message boards. He was successful at North Dakota State and left town before he had to replenish that initial recruiting class. He got Colorado State

10 - Dwayne Stephens - UNDERWHELMING - Michigan State assistant, big man coach and a decent recruiter. But Stephens has been at MSU a long time and he is a Michigan State graduate. Maybe he would leave for the opportunity to be a head coach, but I'd be surprised. And in my opinion if he has been a part of a very successful program for so long, while being recognized as a talented assistant most of that time; why hasn't he been given a head coaching opportunity by now?

11 - Jeff Caple - UNDERWHELMING - Duke assistant who was rather unsuccessful at Oklahoma. Caple is a recruiter and has a current relationship with at least the Tyus Jones camp, but this hire isn't about landing one recruit and I'm not convinced that Caple has what it takes to take Minnesota beyond mediocrity.

12 - The Field - If I were betting on this coaching search, I'd take the field.