If you put up blind résumés for coaches, much like we do with bubble teams, then you would probably pick Billy Gillispie and Tim Floyd for available jobs over a number of other candidates.
Rebuilding programs, win totals and NCAA appearances, save Gillispie's second season at Kentucky, would probably indicate that these two would be solid choices to take over programs.
Both coaches are well respected in terms of practice, game and tactical decisions. Both are hard-working. Both are tireless recruiters.
But both have baggage.
And yet Gillispie and Floyd are seriously in the running for three open Conference USA jobs: Houston, Central Florida and now UTEP.
Both have ties to UTEP. Gillispie engineered quite a turnaround at the school by taking the Miners to the NCAAs. He did the same at Texas A&M before his tumultuous stint at Kentucky. Gillispie took the Miners from six wins to 24 in his two seasons with the school. He took the Aggies to two NCAA tournaments in three seasons and one of two at Kentucky. Gillispie was fired at Kentucky and then had a rough offseason, as he was arrested for a DUI before checking himself into rehab.
The UTEP job might be more of a rebuilding situation if Derrick Caracter leaves, as expected, for the NBA draft. Caracter wasn't on the team charter back from San Jose last week after losing to Butler. UTEP officials are expecting him to declare for the draft and possibly not return to school to finish the semester.
Meanwhile, Floyd has coached in the NBA for the Chicago Bulls and New Orleans Hornets and all levels in college (Idaho, New Orleans, Iowa State and USC). He was an assistant to Don Haskins at UTEP before moving on to a head-coaching job.
Floyd's last college stint, at USC, ended with his abrupt resignation last year, and was marred by an NCAA investigation of violations, including an allegation that he paid O.J. Mayo's confidant Rodney Guillory $1,000 cash -- a charge Floyd denied. USC appeared in front of the committee on infractions in February, with a decision due sometime in the next month. Floyd was out of coaching for the first part of this season before being hired as an assistant on the Hornets' staff.
But what will it take to hire Gillispie or Floyd at one of these three jobs?
According to a few sources, at least one within Conference USA, there has to be a few things going for the schools to make these hires:
• A school president who is willing to take a gamble, who puts a premium on winning and who can stand in front of the media and handle the tough questions.
• A strong athletic director who is empowered by the president. The AD can't make this hire alone. But by making the hire, he is saying that he wants to win. At the time then-Indiana athletic director Rick Greenspan hired Kelvin Sampson, Greenspan was in a powerful position. Sampson had already had NCAA issues at Oklahoma, and when similar violations occurred at Indiana the coach was forced out and, eventually, so too was Greenspan.
• Whichever school makes the hire, it would need to have a sympathetic community and fan base. Clearly, UTEP and Houston would fit this more than a potentially apathetic Orlando community around Central Florida.
If you remember, at the time Bob Knight was available, he needed this base to line up at Texas Tech after he was fired at Indiana. He had all of the above elements in place in Lubbock. The same was true for Bob Huggins when he was looking for work at Kansas State after being fired at Cincinnati.
No one disputes that Gillispie deserves a second chance. Floyd, however, will be an interesting case to watch. It might be hard to see if a school hires him before the NCAA renders its decision on USC. There is also a split view among a number of coaches of the timing of Floyd's decision to resign. His former assistants were a bit miffed at the time that Floyd didn't stand his ground and fight the allegations. He might not have had a choice from USC athletic director Mike Garrett, but the resignation caught a number of coaches, including his staff, off guard. Floyd has started to become more outspoken recently about not being supported by Garrett. That's why Floyd will need a sympathetic ear, and his best chance is likely at UTEP, where he is fondly remembered. Houston would likely do the same for Gillispie since he was so well-liked at nearby Texas A&M for helping turn the program around.
If they both end up in Conference USA, then it would truly be the landing ground for coaches in search of a second or third chance. Southern Miss' Larry Eustachy, one of Floyd's good friends, and SMU's Matt Doherty are two of the latest examples. East Carolina just hired Auburn's fired Jeff Lebo. Rice coach Ben Braun was fired at Cal.
Houston is looking closely at Floyd, Gillispie, Sam Houston State's Bob Marlin and Texas assistant Rodney Terry. UTEP will likely focus on Gillispie, Floyd and Marlin, while UCF has already targeted Gillispie, Floyd, Murray State's Billy Kennedy, Marshall's Donnie Jones, former Sacramento Kings and New Mexico State coach Reggie Theus, Morgan State coach Todd Bozeman and former Alabama and current ESPN analyst Mark Gottfried.
If Floyd and Gillispie are going to get back in as Division I head coaches at a high level, then it appears one of these three Conference USA jobs might be their best chance.