I admit, from the beginning I thought that assistant coaches were probably unlikely candidates in the Gophers coaching search. When one fires a name like Tubby Smith, it’s hard to replace him with someone that has never had head coaching experience.
In the same vein, athletic director Norwood Teague and right-hand man Mike Ellis have a huge cache of contacts – something I bet you’ve heard once or twice. I was told by someone close to the search that Minnesota started the search with a weighty list of about 20 candidates – most of whom are sitting head coaches. It would surprise me if the Gophers had gotten that far down that list already.
That said, one of the few names that has seemed to garner much excitement from the Gophers fan base is, in fact, an assistant, and seemingly, a pretty good fit.
So, is it possible? Could the Gophers have set their eyes on Michigan State top assistant Dwayne Stephens?
Head coach Tom Izzo told media on Tuesday that Stephens has been involved with a job search, but won’t say which one.
Izzo said assistant Dwayne Stephens has been a candidate for a head coaching job but did not want to discuss which team.— Matt Charboneau (@mattcharboneau) April 2, 2013
A couple people have told me that if Minnesota were the school involved, Stephens – who has never been a head coach and whose most recent job before Michigan State was as Tom Crean's assistant at Marquette -- would be very interested.
Stephens has attended Villa 7 four times, which gives the idea a little more steam. Also keep in mind that Stephens, who has the reputation of being a great recruiter, has had plenty of contact with at least two of “The Big Three” – as Michigan State is also recruiting Tyus Jones and Reid Travis.
Is Stephens ready?
That’s another question altogether. It would be a major step up without going through the mid-major ranks first.
From what I’ve heard from Gophers fans who have just about been breaking down my door lately – many would rather take a chance on an up-and-coming assistant rather than see a head coach with a somewhat disappointing track record stride into Minneapolis.