"There have been some names attributed to the search, of course, and I am saying that there is no inclusive list," Baird explained. "There are no official lists whatsoever. There are lists. I have got one. John Mengelt has one and they haven't been combined. They haven't been finalized. They haven't been paired down and so there simply is not an official list or an inclusive list."
"We are working toward that as quickly as we can get there and I hope that that process will be finalized within the next few days," Baird continued. "At that point in my mind it would be stage two of the search, but right now as far as I am concerned we are still in the first initial stages of trying to identify the best candidates and access their interests. I know that is redundant, but that's simply the truth."
He also said that Auburn interim president Ed Richardson's statement on Tuesday was in no way suggestive of a complete list of candidates. "I think the best way to reckon that out is to say that when I asked him about it he said the names he mentioned were simply some of the names that he had seen and heard in the newspaper and had come across his desk from different sources," Baird explained. "There has been no paring of the list. The process has pared some people out, but in terms of a finite list to start with that has been paired down, that is just not the case."
Baird, who was named athletic assistant to the president on Thursday, said that he was still looking at quite a few names as possibilities.
"I would say that there have been 40 names that I have felt were worth making additional phone calls to check into," Baird explained. "There have been many more names than that, but when you take the categories of candidates that exist for a high profile job at a great school, you have got head coaches, you have got assistant coaches, you have got coaches that are looking to get back in the profession. So, you can paint with as broad a brush as you like to, but where we are right now it started at 40 and frankly there have been some of those through phone calls and background checks that have been eliminated and there have been some added almost everyday."
However, the Tigers' former baseball coach went on to explain that 40 candidates would be too many for an effective interview process.
"Whatever that number is it looks like they fit all of the criteria for Auburn," Baird said when asked how many candidates he would like to get in-depth with on the search process. "I don't want a large number. I am not sure that is the way for the search to progress.
"I would like for it to be a small number that emerge as the best candidates and we move quickly and move forward," he continued. "I know there have been some questions and concerns about the pace with which we have moved and under normal circumstances at a school like this I would agree with that. However, given the NCAA investigation and the findings, whatever is going to happen to us, I am not so sure that we are behind at this point."
As for the criteria that he is looking for in the right candidate, Baird says that is the simple part. "I think it fairly straight forward," he noted. "Competitive success on the court is clearly number one, but commitment to academics, commitment to compliance and recruiting base and styles of play also staffing opportunities and how they approach that. I would like to think that it's going to be a situation where the program is going to be built brick by brick and not another way. So, those are areas that would need to be a good fit in my mind."
Another thing that Baird says he will be looking at in all of the candidates is their stance on non-conference scheduling. "It's an interview question without regard," he said. "I have got a number of questions that I will ask every single candidate. It may vary from one to another, but there are going to be some questions that are going to be asked to every single one of them and one of them is what is your non-conference scheduling philosophy.
"I think a balance is needed," Baird added. "We play in one of the highest RPI conferences in the country and we have a very demanding SEC schedule, but whatever it takes to maximize national exposure and prepare your team for the conference. I would be very interested in a coaches response to those questions as it relates to a non-conference schedule."
Baird also addressed how much of a factor hiring a minority candidate would play into the decision making process.
"We want the best coach and I am sure that is exactly what you would expect anyone to say, but that is really the thing," Baird said. "If there were two candidates that looked to be the best two, for example and all things were considered equal, I think it would be wonderful to have a minority coach in charge of the basketball program. But, I am telling you that we want the best coach and that's the only way that I think the honest answer comes."
As for the level of experience he is interested in Auburn's next coach having coming into the job, Baird said that he is looking into candidates from all levels of experience.
"As I have said there are several classifications of candidates," Baird noted. "You have got head coaches, assistant coaches and people who have coached before who are currently unemployed. I mean there are lots in each category. I will tell you though that the head coaching group is the first group for me, in my mind, to look at. I think that is probably for obvious reasons because it does give you some track record of a person who has administered the program in all likelihood built a program.
"But, there are some real great assistants out there," Baird added. "And as you have noticed in the last few years in football coaching searches it used to be taboo for a school of our status to go after an assistant coach, but probably the last four or five football hires in the country that have been the best have been assistants. So, that is certainly not going to preclude anyone from being a candidate."