Rupp did take Louisiana Tech to the WAC semifinals for just the second time in Tech's decade long WAC existence. He really did do some really good things. Coach Rupp got teams like ULM, UALR, McNeese State, and Northwestern State back on the schedule. He was not afraid to play in state schools and he had success against them.
Things started to unravel when Josh Brown and Scottie Farrington, once thought to have signed with Tech, followed Nikita Johnson and signed with ULL. Tech was left scrambling and had to find last minute replacements in the signing class.
This season started off well, with Tech going 9-2 and beating teams like Houston, SMU, and UC-Irvine. Unfortunately, Brandon Gibson got hurt, Darius Redding became eneligible, and Rupp was forced to rely on a shorthanded and inexperienced roster.
With all the misfortune hanging over the program, Rupp could have used another year to get thingsa back on track. On the downside, no reliable scorer returns and Olu Ashaolu just received his release. Next season would have been a rebuilding year for Rupp or for a new coach, no matter how you slice it.
A new coach will be able to come in and take his hits in his first year, much like Rupp did in his first year. Making the switch now, allows the new coach a chance to identify players and to start putting his program in place.
Tech Athletic Director Bruce Van De Velde made a tough call, but he made the right call. Things just didn't work out and both Rupp and Tech needed to move on. Van De Velde hit a home run when he hired Sonny Dykes for football and he will find the right man for the job in basketball.
Louisiana Tech has to be able to recruit in the State of Louisiana, but also regionally. They started doing just that last year when they brought in Cordarius Johnson for Louisiana, Kenyon McNeaill from Arkansas, and Lonnie Smith from Alabama. Those three freshmen, along with freshman forward James Johnson, give the new coach a group of young experienced players to build around. The new coach will need to continue to dip into cities like New Orleans, Memphis, Birmingham, Little Rock, and Jackson as well as places closer to home like Shreveport, Monroe, Baton Rouge, Alexandria, and Lafayette.
McNeaill came on strong at the end of the year. He and Smith could form a really strong backcourt. Tech needs Brandon Gibson to come back healthy and they need a post presence to replace Ashaolu.
It can be done in Ruston. Tech ran off several twenty win seasons throught the eighties and early nineties. Tech made it to the Sweet Sixteen with Karl Malone on the team and they were a bounce away from advancing to the Elite Eight. Tech had more recent success with players like Antonio Meeking, Paul Millsap, and Magnum Rolle; but they weren't able to get back to the NCAA tournament.
The tournament is the goal, as it has now been twenty years since P.J. Brown and Anthony Dade led the Bulldogs to the Big Dance.
Names are already starting to surface as potential candidates and we will break them down in the coming days.