New developments have taken place in Iowa State's search for a successor to Larry Eustachy over the last 48 hours.
An advisory committee has been formed to assist Iowa State Athletic Director Bruce Van De Velde in the search for a new men's basketball coach. Cyclone Nation has learned that two of the people involved in this process are Gary Thompson and Eric Heft.
Thompson, considered by many one of the founding fathers of ISU basketball as well as one of the program's most respected voices, also played a vital role in bringing Tim Floyd and Eustachy to Ames. This elaborates on an exclusive report published here at Cyclone Nation on Tuesday that said Thompson would be asked to offer his expertise in the hiring process. Considering Thompson's stature among the fans, alumni, boosters, and media it would be difficult for any new basketball coach at ISU to be considered legitimate without the blessing of Thompson, who disagreed with Van De Velde's decision to recommend Eustachy's termination last week.
Heft, thanks to his position as the longtime radio commentator for ISU football and men's basketball games on the Cyclone Radio Network, knows ISU basketball and its key players inside and out. It is Cyclone Nation's view that involving both of these very qualified individuals and their expertise in the hiring process is a shrewd move by the administration and demonstrates its willingness to extend an olive branch to those ISU loyalists that disagreed vehemently with Eustachy's removal.
Now onto the coaching search itself, where it appears the short-list of favorites has been narrowed down to three.
On Wednesday night, Channel 5 WOI's John Walters reported that Creighton's Dana Altman, considered perhaps the top candidate for the vacancy by many analysts, was not interested in becoming the next coach of the Cyclones. That should appease a vocal segment of Cyclone fans who were not shy about expressing their reservations that Altman could succeed at ISU and in the rugged Big 12 Conference.
That leaves Van De Velde and his advisory committee with at least three qualified candidates to start with: Wyoming's Steve McClain, Fresno State's Ray Lopes, and current ISU assistant coach Wayne Morgan.
Also according to Walters and Channel 5 WOI, McClain and Morgan will interview today while Lopes is slated to interview on Saturday. Cyclone Nation has learned at least one more person will also interview for the position on Saturday, although we have been unable to confirm his identity.
McClain, an Iowa native, is known as a dynamic recruiter. He previously won a national championship as a junior college head coach and has guided the Cowboys to 100 wins over the last five years. He's led Wyoming to three NIT berths and one NCAA Tournament appearance in 2002, which included a first round upset win over 6th-ranked Gonzaga. Perhaps no candidate has more actively pursued this opening since Eustachy's resignation than McClain.
Lopes is an intriguing candidate. He was a top assistant to Kelvin Sampson at Oklahoma for eight years. During a portion of that time Van De Velde was the associate athletic director for the Sooners. Lopes is also known as an effective recruiter, and in his one season at Fresno State he guided the Bulldogs to 20 wins and a league title. He was named WAC Coach of the Year for his efforts. Lopes is saddled with the burden of NCAA penalties at Fresno State dating back to the time of his predecessor Jerry Tarkanian.
Morgan is the candidate that might provide the program the most short-term stability. One source very close to the hiring process described Morgan to Cyclone Nation as "the best recruiter I've ever seen" and his candidacy is for real. Morgan was a top assistant for Jim Boheim at Syracuse, where he coached in two national championship games. He also had a winning record as a Division I head coach at Long Beach State before joining Eustachy as an assistant in 2002. Morgan was instrumental in signing at least three members of ISU's incoming recruiting class, and is also highly-regarded by several current members of the team as well. If Morgan does not get the head coaching position, it is very likely ISU would make a strong play to retain him as an assistant.
Stay tuned to Cyclone Nation and our "State of the Nation" premium message board for the latest developments on Iowa State's search for its next men's basketball coach.