I’ve said from the early goings of this Minnesota coaching search that Buzz Williams would both make a great new Gophers coach and could in fact be getable should athletic director Norwood Teague and Co. go that direction.
Now that Marquette has been eliminated from the NCAA tournament with the search still going, I expect Williams to be at the top of Minnesota’ list.
Well, let’s start off with why he would be a good get for the Gophers:
- He’s a name. What’s in a name? Well, not everything, but it sure goes a long way for getting people in seats (which Minnesota needs), getting financial support for a practice facility (which Minnesota needs) and just generally ramping up a fan base that has become negative lately.
- He’s had recent success – the Golden Eagles have gone at least as far as the Sweet Sixteen in the past three seasons, including an Elite Eight run this year, which just ended on Saturday.
- He’s a phenomenal players’ coach, which would be a good change from the hot-and-cold relationship some Gophers had with former coach Tubby Smith. He dances on the sidelines, which is just awesome. He’s used to coaching athletes, is used to *not* having a lot of shooters, and could play to the strengths of the current team.
- It would start a trend of Minnesota only hiring coaches with catchy nicknames: Tubby vs. Orlando (although, come on, Orlando is pretty good too); Buzz vs. Brent.
Of course, there are a lot of coaches that could be good for the Gophers. Whether the feeling is mutual is a different story. On the surface, the Minnesota job is a lateral move at best, and a step down at worst for Williams.
Marquette’s facilities are prime and lush and have kept Williams and his teams quite comfortable. Williams reportedly makes $2.8 million a year, several hundred thousand more than the Gophers paid Smith. It’s possible Minnesota could give him a raise beyond that, but it’s just as possible that Marquette – which is topped nationally only by Duke in the amount it spends on it’s basketball program – could top any offer. Williams is already in a major conference – heading to an exciting new Big East next season – and so the draw the Big Ten might have for other coaches wouldn’t apply in the same degree. Would Williams want to make that move just to (maybe) get a minor raise and then be faced with the project that is Gophers basketball? I wholly admit it would be a tough sell. But there are still some reasons for hope in that regard:
- The relationship is there. I keep going back to this, but that’s because I think Teague and associate AD Mike Ellis represent some of the best arguments there are for Minnesota. Many coaches have expressed sentiments about how attractive that administration is to work for – those who know Teague and Ellis know they will strongly support their basketball program and coaches. Williams is a Villa 7 guy, and the two parties have remained close.
- Williams might not have an ideal situation relationship-wise at Marquette. I hear differing reports of just how poor his relationship is with current athletic director Larry Williams. Some have told me the rift is overblown, while others have said the state is fairly toxic. Whatever the case, its clear that things could be better in that regard.
If Williams were to agree to come to Minnesota, he would really be taking a leap of faith with Teague in believing that he could do with the Gophers what he did with Marquette: make them into a power.
Getting him would be momentous for the current Minnesota administration, which is conducting the most high-profile search of Teague’s career. Landing Buzz won’t be easy.
That said, I’m not ruling it out.