Cyclone Nation has learned that as many as five candidates will be interviewed for Iowa State's vacant head coaching position. The identities of three of those individuals are already known.
Current ISU assistant coach Wayne Morgan interviewed in Des Moines yesterday. Wyoming's Steve McClain is also one of the three candidates slated for an interview, although Cyclone Nation has been unable to confirm when he will interview or if he already has. McClain, an Iowa native, considers Iowa State a "dream job." The third confirmed interviewee surfaced Friday afternoon courtesy of John Walters over at Channel 5 WOI.
Tennessee-Chattanooga's Jeff Lebo, a former standout point guard at North Carolina who is considered one of the real up-and-comers in national coaching circles, will interview today for the job. At first blush, Lebo's candidacy seems skeptical to Cyclone Nation because of his lack of ties to the state, area, and Big 12 Conference. Nonetheless, as a source very close to the hiring process told Cyclone Nation this morning it should be noted that Lebo's resume includes an excellent pedigree worthy of a thoroughbred. Lebo comes to Iowa State with the high recommendation of legendary former Tar Heel Coach Dean Smith, for one. In the past he has either played or coached for Smith, Roy Williams, Bill Guthridge, and Eddie Fogler. In his first season at Tennessee-Chattanooga Lebo guided the Moccasins to a 21-9 record.
Lebo and McClain in particular fit the specific mold of what ISU is looking for in its next head coach. Both are young, energetic coaches who are known to embrace the local media and fanbase. Two characteristics beloved in current Cyclones Dan McCarney and Bill Fennelly.
Cyclone Nation has learned as many as two more candidates could also interview for the position before a final decision is made. Speculation centers around Wichita State's Mark Turgeon as one possibility. Turgeon has not yet been contacted by ISU, but Cyclone Nation is aware of at least two sources with knowledge of the hiring process who have spoken very highly of Turgeon, a former Kansas player. Another possibility is Utah State's Stew Morrill, who we were told would not be a candidate earlier this week. Cyclone Nation has learned that Morrill has not been contacted by ISU despite the fact he is highly-regarded by at least one source close to the hiring process.
Another intriguing possibility is Creighton's Dana Altman, despite Friday's ESPN.com report from Andy Katz quoting sources close to Altman as saying he has no interest in the job. One source Cyclone Nation spoke with close to the hiring process refused to rule out Altman, perhaps the most qualified candidate for the position, despite several reports to the contrary this week. It should also be noted that nobody at ISU has heard from Altman himself that he is not interested.
Cyclone Nation can also report today that several top candidates referenced in our exclusive article published Tuesday on ISU's short list have been contacted but politely declined to pursue the position.
Gonzaga's Mark Few told ISU he is not interested in leaving Spokane, where he has worked since starting out as a graduate assistant in 1990. The Zags are expected to have a preseason top 25 team returning.
Duke assistant Johnny Dawkins was one of the first people contacted by ISU, but he is not interested in leaving the Blue Devils' powerful program. Dawkins is already a multi-millionaire from his days in the NBA, and just built a house for his family in the Raleigh-Durham area. He is apparently content to stay at Duke for the time being.
Xavier's Thad Matta was also contacted, but was not interested. Other names discussed by ISU fans like former UCLA Coach Steve Lavin were looked at by ISU early in the selection process, but after careful vetting were not considered to be good fits in Ames. Earlier this week, P.J. Carlesimo and Lon Krueger indicated they were not interested in returning to college coaching.
With the exception of Altman, there likely aren't any names out there that would knock any Cyclone fan's socks off. But it's likely the names Tim Floyd and Larry Eustachy didn't make anybody in cardinal-and-gold swoon right away, either. At Kansas when Bob Frederick took a chance on Williams, he was the third assistant at North Carolina behind Guthridge and Fogler. That obviously worked out. Recently a top-tier program like Illinois had to settle for Bruce Weber from Southern Illinois as its new head coach, hardly a household name despite leading the Salukis to a Sweet 16 appearance in 2002.
Whomever the new coach is will need the Cyclone Nation to rally behind him. Cyclone Nation has learned two rising seniors have academic hurdles to clear before they can play next season, plus the possibility of freshman Adam Haluska transferring remains. In addition, it is unknown how many, if any, of the current recruits will choose to honor their letters of intent.
Finally, a source close to the hiring process informs Cyclone Nation there is no timetable for naming a new head coach. It will simply take as long as it takes to find what ISU perceives to be the right person. Nonetheless, it is very likely we will know within days the identity of ISU's next men's basketball coach.
Stay tuned to Cyclone Nation for further updates on Iowa State's search for a new men's basketball coach.