In honor of Opening Day, I decided to use some baseball analogies to go along with my thoughts of the potential candidates being mentioned at Tennessee. Here is my list of candidates that I think would be great, okay, and bad hires at Tennessee.
These are the guys I think that can make Tennessee an elite basketball program and annual national title contender.
1) Lawrence Frank (Boston Celtics Assistant Head Coach)
2) Brad Stevens (Butler Head Coach)
3) Chris Mooney (Richmond Head Coach)
4) Blaine Taylor (Old Dominion Head Coach)
Thoughts on the group: Frank has been my number one contender since this all started in September. It would have to be a huge contract to bring him here, but he is someone who can lead UT to the promise land. His transition from the pro’s to college would be smooth. Stevens’ track record speaks for itself. He would have immense success here. Recruiting would not be an issue. Chris Mooney is my favorite mid-major candidate, and someone who I think is an excellent choice. He has revived the Richmond program, and won in the toughest mid-major conference. Blaine Taylor has been the lost name throughout this process. He’s won at least 24 games in five of the last six years at ODU, and has made tourney two straight years. Taylor is a very good coach. I believe he could recruit here, and I think he has what it takes to make the Volunteers an elite program.
These are the guy who I think will continue what Bruce has done, and has the potential to take UT to elite status. These coaches will get us to the NCAA tourney every year. Basically continue what Bruce has made here.
1) Shaka Smart (VCU Head Coach)
2) Greg Kampe (Oakland Head Coach)
3) Chris Mack (Xavier Head Coach)
Thoughts on the group: Smart would be a risky hire. Yes, he’s had solid success at VCU…with Anthony Grant’s players. Can he recruit and develop his own players? Greg Kampe isn’t getting any notice, mostly because he’s been at Oakland forever. He’s a little older, but he can coach, and I believe he can bring a consistent winner to Knoxville. Chris Mack is basically Shaka Smart. He’s done very well at Xavier, with Sean Miller’s players. Can he recruit? Can he build his own program? Everyone at Xavier has done well the last twenty years.
Guys who are good coaches, but I just don’t think they would continue what Bruce has done. While there’s a good chance we can make the tourney every year, I think it would be a downgrade from Pearl in the coaching aspect.
1) Gregg Marshall (Wichita State Head Coach)
2) Rick Byrd (Belmont Head Coach)
My thoughts on the group: I like Marshall. He’s had success. He almost made the tournament every year at Winthrop. But he hasn’t made the tourney once at Wichita State. Yes, it’s a tougher conference, but it’s still the Missouri Valley Conference. I really want to hear his reasons why he hasn’t made the tourney yet. Rick Byrd is a good coach. He’s well respected amongst his peers. Yet he isn’t a big time coach. I don’t believe he could recruit well. He’s perfect where he is at.
1) Oliver Purnell (DePaul Head Coach)
2) Bobby Knight (Retired)
3) Larry Brown (Fired from Charlotte Bobcats)
My thoughts on the group: If Oliver Purnell is hired, Hamilton deserves to be hung in the street. That would be an absolute atrocious hire. Hire someone who just won seven games? Bobby Knight is a great tactician of the game, maybe the best ever. However, he just cannon recruit anymore. Players don’t want to play for him. Larry Brown is held in the same regard at Larry Brown. Great coach, and he could recruit here. But I can’t imagine him staying long, and he’s never been easy to work with. Plus, I don’t the NCAA would like that we hired someone who got in trouble with Kansas and put them on probation and suspension at his last college stop. He would be here for three years, maximum.
Who will be the final list of candidates?
The starter: Lawrence Frank. While Bruce did very well here, I don’t believe he was going to make us a Final Four contender consistently. Some people disagree, and I understand that, but that’s just my opinion. If Tyler Smith isn’t kicked off, and Wayne Chism doesn’t step in to be the leader, we are on our third straight one and done in the NCAA’s. Lawrence Frank changes that. His name and resume alone could recruit for him. He is very well respected as a strategist around the league. I believe there is serious interest here. However, I don’t think it will happen for one reason: The Boston Celtics job. Doc Rivers will probably take a sabbatical very soon, and Frank would be a candidate for that job. I just don’t think he would take the UT job with that looming.
The setup man: Shaka Smart. He’s the hottest name on the market right now. He’s young, energetic, and brings a style of basketball the fans would love. He looks to be the “Next Big Thing” in college basketball. However, who hasn’t done well at VCU? It’s one of the top five mid-major jobs in America. He’s only been there two years, winning with Anthony Grant’s player. Can he recruit and develop his own talent? That will probably be the hang up, because the closer has built a program.
The Closer (The man who I think will be hired): Chris Mooney. Another big name, but he has an edge over Smart in this category: It’s his program. Jerry Wainwright did not do well at Richmond, and Mooney has taken the program over and turned it around. Not only has he won at Richmond, he’s won in a relatively tough conference (the A-10), which says a lot. My personal feeling is that he will be the hire, and that it would be a great hire. His teams are well disciplined, play good defense, and most importantly, they run a GREAT half-court offense. Bruce Pearl was able to recruit at Tennessee. I believe that Chris Mooney can do the same also. I think Chris Mooney is the guy, and I believe that would be a great hire.