Thoughts on recent coaching vacancies

March, 12, 2011

GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Quick hits for Championship Week Saturday:

• Utah is likely to go with a more established name with its next hire as it begins Pac-12 membership after dismissing Jim Boylen. Some early names that will likely be involved in the search: Saint Mary's Randy Bennett; LSU's Trent Johnson, who was an assistant at Utah and head coach at Nevada and Stanford; Old Dominion's Blaine Taylor, who previously coached at Montana and was an assistant at Stanford under Johnson and former Alabama coach and current ESPN analyst Mark Gottfried, who was an assistant on the UCLA's 1995 national championship team. If Utah AD Chris Hill looks at assistants he should look strongly at Duke's Steve Wojciechowski. He's ready to be a head coach and his wife is from Utah. The Pac-12 has already turned to a Duke assistant in a head coaching search with Johnny Dawkins at Stanford.

Utah is still a very good basketball job. Rick Majerus wasn't the first to prove this point and he won't be the last. The fan base is extremely passionate about the team, and as the football program has proved, it can compete at a high level for a sustained period.

• Georgia Tech isn't as wonderful a job as it is made out to be in a city that is a pro sports town. The Yellow Jackets may have a hard time finding someone to come for a lower price, which is what they may have to offer after paying millions to buy out Paul Hewitt. I'm not buying the Tubby Smith to Georgia Tech chatter at all. Smith has been quoted in local media reports that he's staying put in Minneapolis. I wouldn't be surprised if Georgia Tech does what Clemson did in hiring Wright State's Brad Brownell: hire a quality head coach who isn't as well-known.

As for Hewitt, he had the St. John's job last year if he wanted it. Now he's out at Georgia Tech. Considering the buyout he's likely to receive, at least he won't have to work.

• Providence is looking for a "law and order" coach to replace Keno Davis after his brief stint with the Friars, according to a source with knowledge of the situation. Davis was criticized for the off-court issues of some of his players during his three-year tenure.

One name you can take off the Providence search list is Arizona State's Herb Sendek, a one-time PC assistant under Rick Pitino. Sendek said Friday night that he's not going anywhere and plans on being at Arizona State for the long term. Sendek had been a hot name for this job among college coaches but he has quickly snuffed out the chatter.

An early list of some candidates for the Providence job: ESPN analyst Fran Fraschilla; former Boston College coach Al Skinner; Fairfield coach Ed Cooley; former PC assistant and current Marshall coach Tom Herrion; Duquesne coach Ron Everhart and Saint Peter's coach John Dunne. I wouldn't be surprised to see Wagner's Bobby Hurley (and brother Danny) in the mix.

Providence is one of the toughest jobs in the Big East with no top-level players in the state, limited resources, a small campus and plenty of high-level coaches in the New England area poaching local talent.

One last thing on Providence: Why isn't AD Bob Driscoll feeling heat? Driscoll is the one who took a chance on Davis, hiring him from Drake, and then gave him an extension after the first season (an NIT year). Shouldn't Driscoll be held accountable for some of the buyout if that's the case? It was his mistake.

• Who made a worse decision? Jeff Bzdelik leaving an NCAA-bound Colorado to go to last-place Wake Forest or Oliver Purnell leaving NCAA-bound Clemson to go to last-place DePaul? My vote goes for Bzdelik since Purnell got more of a golden parachute. Multiple ACC sources are convinced that Wake Forest is years away from being a mid-level ACC team, so it wouldn't come as a huge surprise if Bzdelik ends up returning to the NBA as an assistant.

• If Kyrie Irving never plays for Duke again, the Blue Devils' training staff has done well by him to work with him and get him ready for the NBA after a freak injury.

Lost amid Duke's run to a possible No. 1 seed is the impact of Irving's injury. Purdue and Duke absorbed the loss of a major talent better than most programs. The Boilermakers challenged for the Big Ten title without Robbie Hummel. Few programs could be in contention for their conference title, let alone the national title, after losing players of that quality.

• The Miami locker room was one of the quietest and most stunned I've seen in two decades after the Hurricanes blew a 19-point lead and lost at the buzzer to North Carolina on Friday.

• A source in the officiating community said early Friday not to be surprised to see one of the three Big East officials who voluntarily withdrew from the tournament after the Rutgers-St. John's fiasco working in the Big Ten tournament. Sure enough there was Earl Walton at the Michigan State-Purdue game in Indianapolis Friday night.

Officiating is a tight-knit group and they don't like criticism from outsiders. But NCAA officiating head John Adams was right to say that what happened in the St. John's-Rutgers game was "unacceptable." Officials need thicker skin.

• USC coach Kevin O'Neill said he shouldn't have gotten into a verbal confrontation with Arizona booster Paul Weitman, resulting in his suspension from the Pac-10 tournament. He's right. O'Neill put his team at a disadvantage for the rest of the Pac-10 tournament and that's a shame.

• Bucknell and Iona went off the traditional grid, hiring its coaches from outside Division I and it has clearly worked. Dave Paulsen went from Williams College to Bucknell and won the Patriot League this season and Tim Cluess went from C.W. Post to Iona and reached the MAAC final.

Andy Katz | email

ESPN Senior Writer




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