Now that Billy Donovan has taken the job with the Oklahoma City Thunder here is a list that includes five realistic options, five off the radar types and five of the longest of long shots.
Why he would leave Minnesota: Yogi Berra would almost call this dejavu all over again. The last time there was an opening at UF, Jeremy Foley went to Rick Pitino and hired Billy Donovan, only 30 years old at the time but already with two years as a head coach. Donovan was and is almost like a son to Rick. There’s another opening at Florida and Richard Pitino is available. He’s a little older than Billy was and has three years of head coaching experience but a lot of folks think he’s got what it takes to be a great college head coach. He’s in year three of a six-year deal that pays $1.2 million a year. He won the NIT in his first year at Minnesota. As an assistant he was considered an elite level recruiter. He coaches offense like Billy Donovan and coaches defense like his dad.
Why he would stay: Probably the only reason he would stay is to become the odds-on choice to succeed dad Rick Pitino when Rick retires at Louisville.
2. ARCHIE MILLER, Dayton: Age 37; Career record 90-47; 1 NCAA Elite Eight.
Why he would leave Dayton: He signed a contract extension through the 2018-19 season that is said to have doubled his salary to something like $700,000. He’s very content at Dayton, but everybody knows he’s a rising star who is a bright tactician and an extraordinary recruiter. It’s only a matter of time before he’s coaching at a power school. If Florida wants him, there is a 99.9% chance he says yes.
Why he would stay: He’s a North Carolina State alum and he grew up in Pittsburgh. There is a chance he will stay put and wait for one of those two jobs to open up.
3. Bryce Drew, Valparaiso: Age 40; Career record 94-42; 3 Horizon League regular season and 2 Horizon League Tournament championships.
Why he would leave Valpo: Even though he signed a 10-year extension back in 2013, he’s still only paid $300,000 a year. He will never win a national championship coaching at Valpo. He’s young, bright and for those who ask if he can recruit at a higher level, just look at his brother Scott at Baylor. Prior to Baylor, Scott had never coached anywhere but Valpo. If Florida offered, there’s a 99% chance he would say yes.
Why he would stay: He’s a Valpo legacy. His dad is legendary coach Homer Drew. His brother Scott is the coach at Baylor. Bryce is the greatest player in Valpo history. Valpo is home.
4. CHRIS MACK, Xavier: Age 45; Career record 134-71; 2 Atlantic 10 Conference regular season championships; 3 Sweet 16s NCAA Tournament.
Why he would leave Xavier: He makes $1.09 million and nobody wants to play his teams because they are so fundamentally sound and they play such physical defense. Every time there’s a job opening his name comes up and some experts think he is simply waiting on the right job. Most agree that if Florida called he would think it’s the right job.
Why he would stay: He grew up in Cincinnati, played at Xavier for the late Skip Prosser and then worked as an assistant under Prosser at both Xavier and Wake Forest. He returned to Xavier and was an assistant to Sean Miller before succeeding Miller. His Cincinnati roots and ties to Xavier are strong enough that no one would be surprised if he was a Xavier lifer.
5. Mike White, Louisiana Tech: Age 38; Career record 101-40; 1 WAC regular season championship; 2 Conference USA regular season championships.
Why he would leave Louisiana Tech: He just signed a six-year deal worth $3.6 million. Whenever he leaves he will at least triple that $600,000 a year salary. He’s a bright basketball mind with a nice pedigree (dad is the AD at Duke, played college basketball at Ole Miss under Rob Evans, worked as an assistant at Ole Miss under Rod Barnes and Andy Kennedy). It’s only a matter of time before he’s somebody else’s coaching star.
Why he would stay: He’s waiting for the right job. He’s already said no to Tennessee and several other higher paying jobs. He’s young enough and has enough security that he can wait for what he perceives to be the right job.
1. STEVE PROHM, Murray State: Age 40; Career record 104-29; 1 Ohio Valley Conference Tournament and 2 OVC regular season championships; 1 College Invitational Tournament championship
Why he would leave Murray State: Murray State plays in a one-bid league so you have to win the conference tournament to get into the NCAA. You don’t have to win the SEC regular season or the SEC Tournament to make it to the NCAA from an SEC school. He just got a raise to $490,000 and a contract extension. He would at least triple his salary at a place like Florida. He’s young, energetic and will be someone’s coaching star sooner and not later.
Why he would stay: In five years he’ll still be a young coach and will have a resume that will allow him to go anywhere he wants.
2. KEVIN KEATTS, UNC-Wilmington: Age 42. Career record 18-14; 1 Colonial Athletic Association regular season championship; 262-17 record at Hargrave Military coaching the post grad team.
Why he would leave UNC-Wilmington: There isn’t enough space to count the reasons. He’s an off the charts recruiter who is part of the Rick Pitino coaching tree. UF has a great history with former Pitino assistants (see Billy).
Why he would stay: If Florida offered, he would crawl backwards to Gainesville.
3. TOMMY AMAKER, Harvard: Age 49; Career record (336-216); NIT championship at Michigan; 5 Ivy League championships at Harvard
Why he would leave Harvard: There are no athletic scholarships at Harvard and even though he has a little bit of leeway when it comes to academics, the guys he gets that are lower academic rung at Harvard would be the smartest guys on the team in the SEC. He will never win a national championship at Harvard, but he could win one at Florida. Harvard pays him $700,000.
Why he would stay: He’s set for life at Harvard. When you’ve got a good thing going, why go somewhere else and live with the pressure?
4. DANNY HURLEY, Rhode Island: Age 40; Career record 83-72
Why he would leave Rhode Island: He’s taken two bad jobs (Wagner and Rhode Island) and turned them around. If he were to leave, he brings strong east coast recruiting connections, particularly in New Jersey where dad Bob is the legendary coach at St. Anthony and where Danny was the ultra-successful coach at St. Benedict Prep. He’s young, aggressive and his teams are fun to watch. At some point he’s going to be on a lot of coaching radars.
Why he would stay: He just signed a six-year extension that will get him over the million dollar mark about halfway through. He’s got a $1.2 million buyout. He might figure that he has more bargaining power if he stays another year or two, wins a conference (A-10) championship and gets into the NCAA Tournament.
Why he would leave Northern Iowa: Not only is it tough to think about winning an NCAA Tournament, but it’s getting tougher to even win the Missouri Valley as long as Gregg Marshall is coaching Wichita State.
Why he would stay: He just signed a 10-year contract extension, average salary $900,000 per year. He can go to the NIT at Northern Iowa and people will be thrilled. Do that in the SEC and you’re on the hot seat.
1. GREGG MARSHALL, Wichita State: Age 52; Career record 398-175; Final Four 2013; NIT champions 2011; 7 NCAA Tournaments at Winthrop; 4 NCAA Tournaments at Wichita State; 7 Big South Tournament and 6 Big South regular season championships at Winthrop; 1 Missouri Valley Tournament and 3 Missouri Valley Tournament championships
Why he would leave Wichita State: Although he’s been to a Final Four and helped to elevate Wichita State and the Missouri Valley Conference to unprecedented heights, how many chances will he have to win a national championship. It can be done at Florida.
Why he stays: He’s set for life at Wichita State. He’s got a 7-year, $3.3 million extension and with boosters like the Koch brothers, if it takes more money to keep him they’ll ante up. He is comfortable in his own skin, likes what he’s doing and where he’s doing it. Alabama offered $4.2 million, then upped the ante to $4.9. Marshall didn’t budge. His backcourt of Fred Van Vleet and Ron Baker will be seniors next year and they’re as good as any guard tandem in the country.
2. MARK FEW, Gonzaga: Career record 438-103; 14 West Coast Conference and 12 West Coast Conference Tournament championships; 1 NCAA Elite Eight and 5 Sweet 16s; 16 consecutive NCAA Tournament bids.
Why he would leave Gonzaga: As successful as he’s been, Few has never gotten to the Final Four. Few might get Gonzaga there someday and he might even win a national championship, but once he gets to the NCAA Tournament every year the kids he has to develop at Gonzaga go against the superior talent of the bluebloods from the power conferences. It’s a lot easier to get to the Final Four from Florida and he could win an NCAA title here.
Why he stays: He’s a west coast guy and he’s been at Gonzaga since 1989. He was married there in 1994 and all four of his kids grew up on Spokane. This is home. He’s a good enough coach and Gonzaga is a bright enough star that he can get the kind of talent he wants without having to get in these extended recruiting battles with college basketball bluebloods. He’s got a pipeline into Canada for quality players and he is well enough known in Europe that he can attract top talent. He’s got Kyle Wiltjer, Domantas Sabonis and Przemek Karnowski coming back next year, one of the best front lines in all of college basketball. He’s already said no to the likes of Arizona and UCLA.
3. Jay Wright, Villanova: Career record 315-151; 1 Final Four; 2 Elite Eights; 4 Sweet 16s; 10 NCAA Tournaments; 1 Big East Tournament and 3 Big East regular season championships; 2 America East regular season and 2 America East Tournament championships at Hofstra.
Why he would leave Villanova: The Big East of 2015 isn’t the Big East of old. Syracuse, Louisville, Pitt, Notre Dame and Boston College are all in the ACC. UConn is in the American Athletic Conference. The Big East is still a good conference but how many of the nation’s top recruits flock to Big East schools anymore? Because the power
Why he stays: Except for a three-year run as a Jerry Tarkanian assistant at UNLV, Wright has been east coast all his life. He was a Rollie Massimino assistant at Villanova for six years so his ties to the school are extensive and he’s been there as the head coach for 14 years. His recruiting base is a 100-mile radius of Philadelphia and there are a lot of good players. He could still win an NCAA championship at Villanova although it will be increasingly more difficult against the power conferences with their big television contracts and network money.
4. Tony Bennett, Virginia: Age 45; Career record 205-97; 1 ACC Tournament championship and 2 ACC regular season championships; head coach Team USA FIBA Under-19 World Championship 2013.
Why he would leave Virginia: At $1.94 million he’s a regular bargain. He’s under contract until 2021 ($1.4 million buyout) and might be swayed by a long- term contract that would more than double his salary.
Why he stays: He’s got a good thing going at UVa. He’s won the last two ACC regular season titles and has built such a solid foundation that the program is poised to sustain success. He’s the head coach of a championship program in the best basketball conference in the country.
5. FRED HOIBERG, Iowa State: Age 42. Career record 115-56; 2 Big 12 Tournament championships.
Why he would leave Iowa State: He’s paid $2 million a year and has a $500,000 buyout. If he wanted to leave Iowa State a lot of schools would be happy to double his salary.
Why he stays: He just had open heart surgery for the second time. Heart surgery ended his NBA career in 2005. In Ames, where he’s so popular that his nickname is “The Mayor,” he’s got a job that has less pressure and more security than he could find any place else. He has never been an assistant coach, only the head coach at Iowa State.
Are you more comfortable with a young, up and coming coach or do you think Jeremy Foley should seek a coach with a few years under his belt to succeed Billy Donovan?
Back in the 1990s when I was spending as much time in Europe as I was in Florida, I had a chance to spend at day in Switzerland at the Montreux Jazz Festival. They bring on plenty of blues, R&B and rock bands to this yearly event. If you ever get a chance, take it and go. The music is great and the crowds are unbelievable. This is Stevie Ray Vaughn’s Montreux concert back in 1985.