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Game of coaching musical chairs continues


March 31, 2004 | ESPN.com's NCAA Tournament coverage
Final Four V-Previews: Connecticut-Duke | Georgia Tech-Oklahoma State

Not only is March Madness a busy time on the court, but also there's plenty of action off it.

As we head to San Antonio, the coaching carousel is spinning. There are already job openings in the Big East at St. John's, Georgetown and Miami. Elsewhere, will Gene Keady return to Purdue or is he bound for San Francisco? What about the SEC opening at Auburn?

The rumors will be flying as coaches convene for their annual convention. Yes, the game of coaching musical chairs has begun.

Will the Red Storm consider Bobby Gonzalez now or will Matt Doherty get a chance?

Matt Doherty
Matt Doherty
Bobby Gonzalez
If given consideration, Doherty would be an interesting choice at St. John's. He starred at Holy Trinity High School in Long Island and brings a love of New York to the table. From Holy Trinity, he went on to play at North Carolina for legendary coach Dean Smith as a member of the famed 1982 championship team that included Michael Jordan, James Worthy and Sam Perkins.

There's no doubt that Doherty would get people excited about basketball in NYC again.

While coaching UNC, Doherty did a phenomenal job recruiting blue-chippers for the Tar Heels, including Raymond Felton, Rashad McCants and Sean May. At Notre Dame, he revived a situation that was struggling. He brought enthusiasm and passion to the sideline.

Doherty believes in hard work, and I feel he's learned from his pressure-cooker experience at Chapel Hill. At one point, he had the Tar Heels at No. 1 in the nation, but expectations got out of hand and every loss led to serious scrutiny. Because of that experience, Doherty will be a better coach in the future.

I've spoken about Gonzalez many times for the Red Storm position. He has great contacts in New York and could revitalize recruiting for the Red Storm. Gonzalez showed his coaching ability in the NCAA Tournament, leading Manhattan to an upset of Florida and a near victory against Wake Forest.

Both are excellent candidates for this excellent program. Will other names blossom? Stay tuned.

It's also exciting to see former coaches getting a chance to fulfill their dreams with another opportunity.

Down at Houston, the Cougars program has been a sleeping giant in recent years. Just look back at what coach Guy V. Lewis built during the days of Phi Slamma Jamma. He gave the university and the city serious collegiate success, including appearances in back-to-back title games in 1983 and '84.

The Houston job went to Tom Penders, who has a wealth of experience. Remember, he brought in a load of talent and had great success at Texas. The Longhorns almost made the Final Four in 1990 before losing in the regional final to Arkansas. Penders has tons of contacts, especially in the New York area. He should provide solid recruiting for Houston, and he was an ideal choice for this job.

At Southern Mississippi, it's great to see Larry Eustachy getting another chance to coach. He has battled adversity by taking care of his admitted drinking problem, and now he gets another chance to show he's a winner.

I've always felt that he has a winner's mentality and really knows his X's and O's. Don't forget, he's been a winner wherever he's been, including his last stop, Iowa State.

He also knows how to get the most out of his players. I believe he will take advantage of this opportunity. Remember, nobody's perfect and people make mistakes. You hope and pray they learn from those errors and move on to better things. It appears that Eustachy has looked in the mirror and has solved his problem.

Billy Gillispie accepted the tough challenge of the Texas A&M position. He will try to get the Aggies into the upper echelon of the Big 12. A former assistant under Bill Self, Gillispie has energy, enthusiasm and an excitement for the game. He did a super job at UTEP, leading the Miners to the NCAA Tournament.

Keep an eye out for more coaching news in the weeks ahead.

Dick Vitale coached the Detroit Pistons and the University of Detroit in the 1970s before broadcasting ESPN's first college basketball game in 1979 (he's been an ESPN analyst ever since). Send a question for Vitale for possible use on ESPNEWS.

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