Notes on today's news
- Shaka Smart is out. After a day of rumors (he was seen at the lakes, on a bus with Sid Hartman, at the airport in Minneapolis, you name it), the news came out that the VCU coach signed an extension to stay in Richmond. The search goes on.
- The sense surrounding the program is that – while coaching searches often stretch way out – that this could be happening pretty soon. If a deal is already in the works that would seem likely to eliminate possible candidates Buzz Williams (Marquette), Andy Enfield (Florida Gulf Coast) and Gregg Marshall (Wichita State) since their teams are all still playing. But then again, if Minnesota waits until Monday those coaches could potentially be had.
Who is possibly in the mix, you ask:
The Best-Case Scenario: Buzz Williams. The Marquette coach just might be get-able. AD Norwood Teague and associate AD Mike Ellis know him well thanks to Villa 7, and there are whispers that Williams’ current situation isn’t ideal. The Gophers would have to give their old friend a raise from his already hefty salary, but the exciting coaching style and ability to win despite lacking elite recruits could be draws.
The Other Old Buddy: Anthony Grant. Remember him? Teague and Co. hired the current Alabama coach to his first head coaching job, back at VCU. That was the hire that put this administration on the map. Would they go back to the future? It’s not a terrible idea, and Grant could be looking to get back to a place that cares more about basketball.
The Underdog: Andy Enfield. Who could be hotter now that Florida Gulf Coast – which beat Georgetown in the round of 64 in the NCAA tournament and then blew past San Diego State? But now that we know the Eagles’ coach might have made plenty of money elsewhere and is living comfortably with his model wife, just how hard would it be to coax Enfield out of Florida?
The Switcheroo: Ben Howland. Yes, the Gophers wouldn’t have to pay a buyout, but at this point, who’s skimping? Hiring the former UCLA coach seems like a pick too similar to Smith. Some are calling for it, but I think between his coaching style and his less-than-flowery personality, this one is highly unlikely at best.
The Once Trendy: Gregg Marshall. Marshall was an early mention, but his candidacy seems to be losing a lot of steam. On the face of it, the Wichita State coach seems to be a good fit, but is there interest on both sides?
The Dark Horse: Chris Mack. The Xavier coach’s name has been tossed around a lot and with Mack coming out of Villa 7, the relationships are there. This wouldn’t be a bad move either.
The I’m-putting-this-in-just-to-be-mean: Brad Stevens. The 36-year wonder boy hasn’t really given any indication that he wants to leave Butler. And if he did, Minnesota doesn’t seem like the next logical spot. This hire would be on par with a Smart splash. But it’s even less likely.
The Other Hometown Guy: Chris Mooney. Who would be more familiar with this administration other than Smart? At Richmond, Mooney was practically sitting in Teague's backyard. But the Spiders' coach just signed a 10-year extension in 2011. Is he ready to give up so soon? My gut tells me no.
The Local Hero: Flip Saunders. Everyone in Minneapolis loves him, and he's got the "NBA card" ready to use with recruits at a moment's notice. What's more, I think the former Gophers player and Timberwolves coach is interested. But the fact is, Saunders made his mark in the NBA, not college, and wouldn't bring the up-and-coming factor that I think the Gophers want. He would certainly rejuvenate the fan base. But I don't think Teague and Co. are going in this direction.
Then again, it could be someone else entirely. Hopefully, we'll all know soon.