will replace Cronin?
With Associate Coach Mick Cronin leaving the University of Louisville last week to accept the head coaching position at Murray State University, it seems appropriate to ask the question; Who will replace him on Coach Pitino's third staff at Louisville?
It is widely assumed that current Cardinal Assistant Coach Kevin Willard will be elevated into Cronin's former spot as the chief recruiting assistant for Pitino. Willard, who's currently responsible for game prep, scouting and assists in identifying recruitable underclassmen, has been groomed as Cronin's successor from day one, learning the ropes from Cronin and gaining valuable contacts within the adidas grassroots network.
Last summer, Willard was praised by TheInsiders.com recruiting guru Dave Telep for his tireless and dedicated work ethic at the adidas Big Time Tournament in Las Vegas. Specifically, Willard was praised for being the first coach in the gym to see Michigan Hurricanes prospect Olu Famutimi in an early session game.
Willard, the son of former Western Kentucky, Pittsburgh and current Holy Cross head coach, is a rising star in the coaching profession and has been compared by Coach Pitino to another of his young protoge's.
"Kevin reminds me a lot of a young Billy Donovan," said Pitino. "He was with me at the Celtics for the four years as a chief scout and has had a major job in working with professional athletes." Willard is personable, bright and energetic and clearly has bright future in coaching ahead of him.
It is also expected current Assistant Vince Taylor will remain on staff as one of the two off campus recruiters for Coach Pitino. Taylor's name has been mentioned in connection with a couple head coaching positions this spring, most notably the Cleveland State job. But at this time, Taylor looks like he'll return to the Cards bench next season.
Which brings us to the main question. Who will fill the remaining spot on the Cards bench next season? If Willard becomes the chief recruiter and Taylor remains as one of the two off campus recruiters, Pitino may seek someone with significant coaching experience to a balance out his current staff.
And one surprising name that's been entered into the mix is recently released North Carolina Head Coach Matt Doherty. According to a source close to the program, Doherty requested an interview with Coach Pitino about the vacancy on his staff and will likely speak with Pitino this week, possibly as early as Thursday.
Doherty, the 2001 AP National Coach of the Year, spent three seasons as the Tar Heels top man. Doherty compiled a 53-43 record in Chapel Hill and took the Heels to one NCAA Tournament. Doherty also guided UNC to the 2002 Preseason NIT title and a run to the quarterfinals of the post season NIT.
But Doherty was plagued by numerous problems with players and never seemed to endear himself with those close to the North Carolina program. Upon arriving in Chapel Hill, Doherty replaced Tar Heel legend and long time assistant coach Phil Ford on the North Carolina bench, embittering former coach Dean Smith and other prominent boosters of the program.
After Doherty's first season, All American Joe Forte left school after his sophomore season citing a lack of respect and other problems with Doherty and his coaching style. And player discontent didn't end with Forte.
Following Doherty's second year on the UNC sidelines, three players, including former McDonald's All America Adam Boone, left the program. Each player cited differences with Doherty and unhappiness with his coaching intensity and intense mood swings.
And after a 19-16 campaign this season, the hammer dropped on Doherty after several players and players' parents met with AD Dick Baddour following the Heels season. Apparently freshmen sensations Sean May, Raymond Felton and Rashad McCants threatened to bolt if changes weren't made. Evidently the message was received by the UNC administration as Doherty was forced to resign last week.
Former Louisville player Wiley Brown's name has also been prominently mentioned for the position and apparently has the support of key administrators in the athletic department.
Brown, a member of the 1980 NCAA Championship team, is most famous for leaving his artificial thumb on the breakfast table the morning of the championship game against UCLA.
Brown currently serves as the Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach for the basketball program and has strong recruiting contacts in the south, particularly in Alabama and Georgia. Brown appears to have a good repoir with the players and seems to be respected by players and coaches alike.
Vetrone's name was mentioned this week as a possible replacement by recruiting guru Clark Francis and was once regarded as one of the top recruiters in the nation while serving under Bill Bayno at UNLV. Vetrone was responsible for recruiting Lamar Odom to Vegas, but came under scrutiny when Odom's ACT test scores came under question. Alledgedly, Vetrone conspired to arrange an employee of the school where Odom took his test to fix his results and change any answers to ensure his passage of the test.