Dick Versace interested in EIU job

LISLE, Ill. -- Former NBA and college coach Dick Versace is contemplating a comeback and has expressed interest in the Eastern Illinois men's basketball opening.

Versace, 71, last coached as a Milwaukee Bucks assistant in 1998. He was also previously the head coach for the Indiana Pacers and Bradley University, general manager for the Vancouver Grizzlies and a television commentator.

"I've been looking at it. I've been researching the school," Versace said Sunday while observing a high school club team practice. "I am what I am. I'm a coach.

"I'm not looking at their end of it. I'm looking at my end of it -- what do they bring to the table versus what I bring to the table, and do they see the value of making a hire like me. I'm going to give them a higher profile than they've ever had in basketball. The athletic director has to see value in that. I've always been known as a great teacher of the game."

Eastern Illinois athletic director Barbara Burke was unavailable for comment on Monday.

Burke announced Feb. 27 that Mike Miller would not return after seven seasons. Miller compiled a 75-130 overall record at Eastern Illinois.

Eastern Illinois has had three winning seasons since the 1999-2000 season. The Panthers have reached the NCAA tournament twice in program history with their last appearance coming in 2001.

Versace last coached college basketball at Bradley. He was the Braves' head coach from 1978-1986 and went 156-88, reached two NCAA tournaments and won an NIT championship in eight seasons.

Versace's coaching itch came back after helping friend and Northwood University coach Rollie Massimino with his team this season. Versace said he spent about 40 days with the team during the season while Massimino battled health problems. He also recently assisted Massimino during the NAIA Division II national tournament.

"It was the old routine -- 8 in the morning, play during the day, shoot-arounds, walk-throughs, all that," Versace said. "We were doing film sessions until 1:30-2 o'clock every night. I just loved it."

Versace said he didn't believe his age should be a reason to not hire him and pointed to the fact there were many Division I coaches who were older than 60, including Syracuse's Jim Boeheim (67) and Connecticut's Jim Calhoun (69).

"Age is not a factor," Versace said. "I'm big and strong and forever young. Age isn't a factor. If I felt different, I wouldn't be doing this."

Versace believes he could win at Eastern Illinois and already has a plan in place. He said he would recruit from Chicago, Indianapolis and St. Louis, which are all within three-hour drives from Eastern Illinois' campus in Charleston, Ill. He would also stock up on shooters.

"I don't think I'll be flying around the country recruiting nationally," Versace said. "I'm still pretty wired in Chicago. If you look at the NCAA tournament teams, you see how many teams have a key Chicago player. These Illinois players are terrific.

"I said if I ever coached again, I would load up on 3-point shooters, just load up. Look at schools like Northern Iowa. How did they get someone to go there? But they do go, and they get a 3-point shooter, they find a few straggling players someplace on the farm, and they do a very good job. I just think it's doable.

"You have to look around and look at the totality of hiring a person like me would do. I think it's a huge plus. They have to just see it. That's all. "

Scott Powers covers high school and college sports for ESPNChicago.com and can be reached at spowers@espnchicago.com.