April 6, 2007

The Coaching Carousel

This is shaping up to be one of the more interesting college basketball offseasons in some time. Major-conference schools are hiring coaches from other major-conference schools, leaving good coaching jobs still available after the top ones have been filled. The biggest example of this merry-go-round would have to be the Michigan-WVU-K State triangle; Amaker out at Michigan, Beilein from West Virginia to Michigan, Huggy Bear from K State to West Virginia, K State on the clock.

But the best news, BY FAR, in the offseason coaching stories to this point has been that the best coach (by a long shot) in Texas Longhorn hoop history has decided not to even interview for the vacancy at college basketball's winningest all-time program. That's right: Rick Barnes' lack of any interest in the Kentucky job is enormous for the future of Texas basketball. If Barnes won't leave Texas for Kentucky, it seems like a safe bet that he won't leave Texas for any other school. And how can anyone blame him? At UK he'd be coaching in the shadow of Rupp and Pitino, playing in a building named after the former. At Texas, when he retires The University will name the court (if not re-name the building!) after him.

And then there's the short-term implication of Ricky's loyalty: it leaves the door open that Kevin Durant may return to the Forty Acres for another season. It seems clear that if Barnes had departed, Durant may not have been far behind.

And then, the icing on the cake came this morning: not only would Texas keep its coach, but aggie would lose their coach. Billy Gillespie, who had arrived from El Paso and drummed up some hoop interest at the cow college with the well-known football tradition of losing to Texas, will be Kentucky's new coach. Aggie basketball is destined to return to the cellar of the Big XII, because despite recent success it is not exactly a sought-after post. Aggie will not be in the mix for big-name coaches such as Izzo, Few, Crean, etc. They'll have to get lucky with another small-time coach looking to make it big, and understand that as soon as a better opportunity comes along he, too, will move on. Because that's what aggie basketball is and always will be: a stepping-stone job.

(Side note: perhaps the most satisfying part of Barnes' very quick rejection of Kentucky's advances is that Dick Vitale's commentary from earlier Thursday, seen here, was immediately shown to be wrong. Only thing that could have made that better is if it had been Billy Packer.)

One final note: Coaching searches usually take a long time and involve a LOT of fan angst. Billy Donovan's long thought process notwithstanding, Kentucky moved along with their search extremely quickly. Donovan said no, Barnes said no, and Gillespie said yes within 24 hours of each other. Amazing.

1 comment:

Jaybro said...

Though Huggins is no longer at a rival school to KU, nor even at a Big 12 school, I still think he's an irresponsible jackass who preys on young girls and may be incapable of true love. Good luck to West Virginia, beginning their new lives without a soul.