It has been just over a week since Tommy Amaker was fired and the coaching search has already gone a different route than I originally expected. Plenty of things developed over the weekend, so I’ll try to get to all of them. Just as a preface, much of this post is based on speculation and opinion, so don’t take it all to be set in stone. Anything could and probably will happen, and unless this was Bill Martin himself posting, nothing will be 100% accurate.
Lon Kruger: UNLV was knocked out of the tourney on Friday and Kruger was asked about the Michigan job. He responded with his previous story that he wants to stay in Vegas.
Kruger said he was not contacted Saturday by officials at Michigan, where he is reportedly a candidate.
“I’m not talking to anybody. I have no thoughts or plans of doing anything else. We love Las Vegas and we love the support of the people.”
Kruger said he and his wife, Barbara, enjoy living in Las Vegas and neither wants to move to a cold-weather area of the country.
I’m not really sure if this is his honest feeling or a politically correct thing to say after losing and being eliminated from the NCAA Tournament. I have no doubt that Michigan is interested, and would love to see Kruger become the next coach, but I don’t feel he will leave UNLV. It seems that the Runnin’ Rebels’ boosters or alumni or willing to pony up and pay enough to keep him in Las Vegas. We’ll have to see if Kruger’s thoughts on possibly leaving Las Vegas change in the next few days, but don’t expect him at this point.
Ernie Kent: Not that I thought he would end up as the next coach in the first place, but I scratch him off the list for good. There already have been some reports of a shady personality in the past, but an article by Pat Forde on ESPN.com yesterday does it for me. Forde discusses and adamantly hints at the fact that there was something fishy in the recruitment of Malik Hairston and Tajuan Porter, two Detroit standouts that both ended up in Oregon. Other than the fact that Porter didn’t even know that Oregon was a state, the biggest piece of information I took out of the article was the name mentioned as the one that connects everything: William “Worldwide Wes” Wesley. I Googled the name and found interesting things. Wes, as he’s called, is mysterious yet connected to everyone it seems like in the NBA. The great NBA blog TrueHoop even has an entire section devoted to the mystery surrounding Worldwide Wes.
It seems Wes is a big fixture in the NBA amongst many superstars and specifically Nike. That leads me to my next point. Nike founder and Oregon alumnus Phil Knight, who pours big dollars into the university, is apparently good friends with Wes. Worldwide Wes has a tendency to befriend high school talents at a young age and eventually becomes a type of unofficial agent. Also, he is connected with The Family, an AAU team from the Detroit area that both Hairston and Porter played on. This leads me to my next point.
Corruptness obviously is involved in some form here. I’m sure it happens all the time, but that isn’t a valid excuse to bring it to Michigan… again. As I said, I never saw Kent as a serious candidate, but I don’t want any part of him after reading the article by Forde and everything else about Worldwide Wes. At the same time, it is pushing my attitude towards Memphis coach John Calipari in the negative direction. Let’s take a look at him.
John Calipari: In the last 24 hours his name has really started to create a buzz. According to some close to the situation, he “indirectly” expressed interest in the Michigan job. Some have said he may end up getting the Kentucky job, but as of now, the Wildcats are pursuing even bigger names. There’s no doubt that Calipari would be a solid coach, but the baggage concerns me. Here’s a line from the Forde article mentioned above.
Wes was in the Alamodome Saturday, cheering on Memphis and his buddy John Calipari.
Forde further states that Wes was closely associated with the Memphis program. With so much sketchiness involving Wes, would that transfer to Michigan if Calipari was hired. I don’t want to completely discard Calipari as a candidate because of a person he is “buddies” with, but it is something to take note of. We don’t want to end up undoing everything that Amaker accomplished by cleaning up the image of a program riddled by scandal. Wes sounds greatly similar to Ed Martin but on an even bigger level.
My thoughts are that Calipari should be near the top of the list. If Bill Martin wants to make a splash then hiring Calipari would do so. The only thing is Bill Martin would have to be sure nothing fishy would happen here as the NCAA already investigated us one too many times in recent memory. Stay tuned for Calipari’s name as I expect it to pop up on a grand scale in the next week.
Chris Lowery: Some speculated that Lowery was about to become the new Michigan coach over the weekend. Iowa reportedly is expressing great interest in Lowery, which may be causing Michigan to speed things up a bit. Though nothing has developed in the last 24 hours, I would also stay tuned for news regarding Lowery. If anyone is hired in the next couple of days, it’ll likely be Lowery as it would be a decision made to beat out Iowa. I have said before that I don’t want to go this route due to the fact that Michigan needs a proven winner, but this wouldn’t be the worst case scenario.
Karl Hobbs: The current George Washington coach hasn’t generated much of a buzz in the last week, but his name is beginning to pop up more than before. Hobbs has built a very good program at GW and is an excellent recruiter. When Hobbs previously was an assistant at Connecticut, he was credited for recruiting Rip Hamilton and a couple other great players. Out of all the mid-majors, I like Hobbs the best as he has had to build GW himself. He didn’t inherit an already successful program like others and we know he can recruit. Again, stay tuned.
John Beilein: Out of the gate it appeared that Beilein would be heavily considered. I’m not saying he hasn’t as I believe Bill Martin has done quite a bit of research on the guy, but his name is certainly losing that buzz factor from last week. Many writers liked him best for the job, but the reason he is slipping appears to be based on two things. The first is the hefty buyout that comes along with hiring Beilein. Second is the fact that many question if he could recruit. He hasn’t brought in any great recruits at West Virginia, and most say that is because it is West Virginia. The tone has changed over the weekend though as far as recruiting, and quite a few people now are saying he just can’t recruit. I’m putting his name down on the list based on what I think will happen and not what should happen. Beilein isn’t my top candidate but he’s up near the top of the list. At this point though, I just don’t see it happening.
Jay Wright: Up until this point, I have heard very little about Villanova coach Jay Wright in the sense that he is a candidate for the Michigan job, but his name is slowly beginning to appear. I’m not saying anything will develop, but sources say that Michigan is looking at him right now.
Former Michigan players: Two ex-Michigan basketball players are throwing their names out there for consideration of the coaching vacancy. One is doing it on a greater scale than the other, but nevertheless, both are worth mentioning.
Former Michigan point guard Gary “The General” Grant, who now coaches in the ABA, is heavily talking himself up as being the right man for the job.
“I just want to let everyone know that I would love an opportunity to have the job,” Grant said Saturday — a week after Tommy Amaker was fired. “I want to bring it back like it was before.”
“My first priority now is to do everything I can to come back to the University of Michigan as the basketball coach,” he said in a telephone interview from California. “I was going to move my team from the ABA to the CBA, but the only way I’ll be involved with that as a coach is if it doesn’t work out with me at Michigan.”
Although Grant was a great player at Michigan, I really have to say thanks, but no thanks. You can’t get more unproven than this, and at this point, Grant is not a person I want coaching Michigan. No offense to The General, but if this would’ve been 6 years ago then taking the risk would’ve been fine. But at this point a proven coach has to be the choice.
Phil Hubbard, another former Michigan great, is also talking about the job. I’ve heard Hubbard’s name mentioned before, so let’s listen to what he has to say.
Michigan fired Tommy Amaker and is in the process of looking for a replacement. Hubbard, who led the Wolverines to the 1976 NCAA championship game, is one of four Michigan players to have his number retired.
Hubbard has coached exclusively in the NBA as an assistant but believes
that like Lowe, who had no previous college coaching experience before taking the N.C. State job, he could successfully guide a college program.
“Right now, my focus is here with the Wizards, but Michigan is the one job I would dream of having,” Hubbard said. “The way I look at it is, if Sidney Lowe can do it, why can’t I?”
Again, thanks, but no thanks. Hubbard would be an interesting choice, but just as Grant, is far too risky at this point.
Others: I have received an inquiry as to why Butler coach Todd Lickliter hasn’t been mentioned more. Lickliter took Butler to the Sweet 16 and put the Bulldogs in position to have a chance at beating the #1-seed Florida Gators, who is on its way to the Final Four again. Lickliter certainly seems like a solid choice, but he slightly is classified in the mid-major that hasn’t proved enough category. None other than current OSU coach Thad Matta was Lickliter’s predecessor and built the program into what it was just as he did with Xavier. Lickliter has definitely continued that success longer than the other mid-majors, and I actually wouldn’t mind having him as coach that much, but for now, he just hasn’t been talked about. From what I’ve gathered, all of the names mentioned above in this post have been mentioned at the least, but nothing about Lickliter at this point. I’ll keep my eyes open though.
On the subject of basketball: Michigan committed (for now anyways) Manny Harris and Kelvin Grady played in the MHSAA state championships on Saturday and both had a bad ending to their high school careers. Harris and Detroit Redford lost to Saginaw High in a blowout. Grady and East Grand Rapids again lost in the finals, this time to Detroit Country Day, the former school of Michigan’s other committ, Alex Legion. Draymond Green, a member of the team victorious over Manny Harris in the state finals, has been committed to Kentucky. With Tubby Smith leaving however, he is opening things back up. Green hasn’t signed a letter of intent yet, and will likely look for a new school. A lot depends on who the new coach at Kentucky is, but one of the favorites to land Green right now is Michigan State.
One final thing to add as I wrap up this post. There was a great article on DeShawn Sims written by Nathan Fenno in yesterday’s Ann Arbor News. The article talks about the struggle Sims went through after his brother was shot and killed in Detroit. It really shows that there are other things way more important than basketball. I definitely advise you to take the time to read the article.