1. Sean Miller
Status: Current Xavier Head Coach
What Makes Him a Viable Candidate: Miller is a very intriguing candidate this late in the process for the Wolfpack. Miller spent five seasons in Raleigh as an assistant under Herb Sendek, so he is already familiar with the area and the expectations of NC State's rabid fanbase. If he was named the Wolfpack's next head coach, Miller would know exactly what is expected of him, and that is certainly a positive.
Miller is also a relentless recruiter. He was one of the top recruiters in the ACC before he left NC State, and also landed quality talent at Xavier under Matta. Because he is familiar with the region, Miller could step right in and rebuild the relationships he had developed during his stint with the Wolfpack.
Perhaps Miller's most appealing trait is his fiery demeanor and the passion he shows on the sideline. A great competitor, Miller hates to lose and he would be up for the challenge that awaits him in the ACC. A former standout point guard at Pitt, don't expect Miller to be intimidated by his neighbors at NC State. He knows what he would be in for.
What Makes Him a Longshot: Although he has had two solid seasons at Xavier, Miller is still relatively inexperienced as a head coach. Is he ready for the rigors of the Atlantic Coast Conference, or would he have the growing pains Sendek experienced his early years at NC State?
While his age is a positive, it can also be a concern. NC State has been a solid program over the past five years, totaling the second most ACC wins out of any program in the league. Miller has a lot of upside, as previously mentioned, but NC State fans will be expecting him to win now. The next head coach of the Wolfpack will probably have a short leash, so would it be best to hire a young coach who may not be ready to win in the ACC right away?
Some fans believe NC State should distance itself from Sendek as much as possible, so would hiring one of his former assistants be the right move by Lee Fowler? Although Miller doesn't run the same offense Sendek implemented late in his tenure, Sean has strong ties to the former staff and it could create an awkward situation should he end up in Raleigh.
Pack Pride's Take: At this point in the search, Miller would actually be an appealing option. He is young and has a ton of upside because most believe he has what it takes to excel as a head coach. He would likely be able to come in and keep the current players at NC State in the fold, along with the three signees. Miller might also try and bring back Larry Harris, Mark Phelps, or Archie Miller, one of the former NC State assistants, to smooth over the transition. At the beginning Miller looked like he would never be on the radar, but right now, why wouldn't he be a solid hire?
2. Frank Haith
Status: Current Miami Head Coach
What Makes Him a Viable Candidate: A North Carolina native (grew up in Burlington), Haith grew up a fan of NC State and Wolfpack fans would love that he's an "ABC" fan - Anybody But Carolina. Haith's coaching roots are in the state, as he served as an assistant at Wake Forest and UNC-Wilmington before heading to Texas while graduating from Elon.
Probably his best trait is that he's a relentless recruiter. He has recruited six McDonald's All-American's including Rodney Rodgers (Wake Forest, 1990), Jerald Brown (Texas A&M, 1995), Brad Buckman (Texas, 2002), LaMarcus Alridge (Texas, 2004), Daniel Gibson (Texas, 2004) and Michael Williams (Texas, 2004), and has coached six players that are in the NBA
In Haith's two seasons at Miami, he has led the Hurricanes to 14 ACC wins, an oustanding total given Miami had been in the basement of the Big East prior to his arrival. With players hardly recruited by anybody, Haith made the Hurricanes competitive in the nation's best league and developed Guillermo Diaz, Robert Hite, and Anthony King into all-conference caliber players. He has proven that he can develop guards, probably the position most important on the college level.
Just 40 years old, Haith is considered one of the up-and-coming coaches in the college ranks, and he has a ton of upside.
What Makes Him a Longshot: He's still inexperienced as a head coach, as he's only been the man at Miami for two years. Most are expecting Fowler to look for a coach with a lot of high-major experience and Haith simply doesn't have that. Is he ready to be a head coach on Tobacco Road?
Haith's lack of postseason success could be a concern. Haith has won just one game in the ACC Tournament, and he has never been to the NCAA Tournament. Just how successful can he be? That is a question NC State AD Lee Fowler must consider when choosing to pursue Frank Haith.
Thus far his offensive style has left a lot to be desired. Because his roster is full of talented guards, Haith has allowed his backcourt to hoist a ton of shots and his offense has yet to show much balance. Could that be because of the lack of frontcourt talent at Miami? Quality guards can definitely cover a coach's weaknesses in college basketball.
Pack Pride's Take: Haith would be a very good hire and probably the best "fit" of the remaining legit candidates. It is puzzling that he has not yet been contacted, but Haith has reportedly not signed a contract extension with Miami, leaving open the door for a possible move.
Some close to him say NC State is his "dream job," and if he's successful in Raleigh, you wouldn't expect him to look to jump to another job if given the opportunity. His upside is certainly what makes him attractive, along with his North Carolina roots, recruiting ability, and the early promise he has shown at Miami, a "football school."
However, he has yet to receive a phone call from NC State. Will he ever?
3. Gregg Marshall
Status: Current Winthrop Head Coach
What Makes Him a Viable Candidate: He's relatively young, he's a fiery competitor, and he has had a great deal of success at Winthrop. What sticks out the most about Marshall is his competitiveness. Cocky and arrogant, Marshall is confident in his abilities and has the track record to suggest he should feel that way.
A three-time Big South Coach of the Year, Marshall has guided tiny Winthrop to six NCAA Tournament appearances in eight seasons, and this year they were a basket away from upsetting No. 2 seed Tennessee in the first round for the school's first-ever NCAA Tournament win. His career record now stands at a very impressive 165-78. During the 2005-06 season, Marshall became the winningest coach in Winthrop men's basketball history, passing Nield Gordon's mark of 161. He had solid assistant coaching stints at the College of Charleston and Marshall, and has been a winner wherever he has gone.
Marshall, 43, has his best coaching days still ahead of him, and he has built a strong low-major program at Winthrop. He has shown that he has what it takes to lay the foundation for a successful program and sustain that success after reaching the pinnacle of his conference. There have been reports that he has had poor interviews in previous years for coaching jobs.
Marshall recently signed a ten-year contract with an annual package of $200,000 and has a $100,000 buyout if he elects to leave Winthrop before June 30, 2010. His list of accomplishments at Winthrop is impressive, and he will be a good catch for a high-major program some day.
What Makes Him a Longshot: Several reasons. First of all, his personality has been mentioned as a concern. He can clash with the media and his cocky persona doesn't go over well with athletic directors.
His lack of NCAA Tournament success is a problem. In six tournament appearances, Marshall and Winthrop have yet to win a single game. Granted, any victory for Winthrop would be a huge upset, but that's been the calling card for mid-major coaches looking to move up. Mid-major coaching candidates are judged by what they do in March. Look no further than Stan Heath (Kent State), Bobby Gonzalez (Manhattan), and Trent Johnson (Nevada) who used stellar showings in the Big Dance to land high-major jobs at Arkansas, Seton Hall, and Stanford respectively. Marshall nearly got his first win this year, but a 3-pointer at the buzzer by Tennessee's Chris Lofton spoiled any chance of a Winthrop upset.
Winthrop really isn't even considered a mid-major program by most. Playing in the Big South Conference, most consider the league to be one of the weakest in the country. Some analysts have even suggested Marshall should prove he could win at a "true" mid-major before being seriously considered for a high-major coaching position.
Marshall interviewed for open positions at Tennessee, Old Dominion and South Alabama early in his tenure at Winthrop, but the interviews have stopped. In fact, he hasn't had another interview in four years. With his background, track record, and youth, something has to be going on here.
Pack Pride's Take: It's a risk, but if you're going to go the mid-major or low-major route, Marshall's likely your best bet. If his coaching success can translate over, Fowler would definitely have landed a keeper, but his lack of postseason success and the fact that no other program is really pursuing him should raise some eyebrows.
4. Chris Lowery
Status: Current Southern Illinois Head Coach
What Makes Him a Viable Candidate: Just 33 years old, Chris Lowery is a future star in the coaching profession, and one lucky high-major program will snatch him up in the near future.
In two seasons as head coach at Southern Illinois, he has compiled a 49-19 record, won two Missouri Valley Conference championships and has taken his team to the NCAA Tournament both times. He was the youngest head coach in the NCAA Tournament in both 2005 and 2006.
SIU finished with a 27-8 record in 2005, won its first round NCAA Tournament game, and Lowery was named MVC Coach of the Year. He went 22-11 this past year, guiding the Salukis to another MVC title. He has certainly produced great results during his brief stint as a head coach.
Lowery spent three seasons as an assistant on Bruce Weber's staff, two at Southern Illinois and another at Illinois, before returning to his alma mater in 2004. As a player, Lowery started for four seasons at point guard, and led the Salukis to two NCAA Tournament berths and two NITs from 1990-94. He laid the foundation for the Salukis' success during his playing days, and now is building the program as the head coach.
Lowery is regarded as one of the top recruiters in college basketball. "(He) has the innate ability to light up a room with his smile and demeanor," ESPN analyst Doug Gottlieb said. "No wonder so many great kids want to play for him." He has shown the ability to evaluate talent at Southern Illinois, and that should translate over to the high-major level.
Like Weber, Lowery utilizes a fast-paced motion offense and an attacking man-to-man defense that stifled opponents in 2005-06. Most NC State fans are hoping the next head coach will bring an exciting brand of basketball to Raleigh, and Lowery would do just that. His teams play up-tempo and he is an outstanding teacher of defensive fundamentals.
What Makes Him a Longshot: Lowery is YOUNG. He might be too young. The same age that Herb Sendek was when he took over in Raleigh, Lowery has just two years of head coaching experience, and like Sendek it comes at a mid-major program. In situations like this (as with Sean Miller), the biggest question will always be, is he ready?
Lowery has evaluated quality talent throughout his career, but recruiting ACC players is another level. He has only coached one season at a high-major school, Illinois, and thus he hasn't recruited the premier players like some of the other candidates have. Lowery is considered a great recruiter, but can he land the players needed to beat Duke, North Carolina, Boston College and the other programs in the nation's premier conference.
Lowery is considered a "midwest guy." His playing and coaching roots stem from that part of the country, and their has to be concerns of if he will be happy in North Carolina. Can he develop the connections needed to land the region's best players? Would he be willing to leave the state of Illinois?
Pack Pride's Take: Lowery would be the ultimate high-risk, high-reward hire by Fowler. He could end up being great, or he could end up being a total flop, and for some Wolfpack fans that is actually intriguing. He has all the traits you look for in a young coach, and Fowler might prefer him over a guy like Marshall.
5. Mike Brey
Status: Current Notre Dame Head Coach
What Makes Him a Viable Candidate: He has an outstanding pedigree and is as solid a candidate that you will find out there. Brey has won on every level, and has learned from two of the best coaches ever in Morgan Wootten and Mike Krzyzewski. He has experience coaching in big games and has thrived in high-pressure situations. When you can say that you've been in the huddle with the likes of Krzyzewski and Wootten, that speaks volumes.
Brey is a strong recruiter. With strict admission requirements in place at Notre Dame, he still has managed to land three McDonald's All-Americans and a stable of talented players. Once he has landed the talent, Brey has molded them into terrific players. Torin Francis, Chris Quinn, Chris Thomas, Ryan Humphrey, and Troy Murphy all had stellar careers at Notre Dame, probably exceeding the expectations placed on them when they enrolled at the university.
Brey is just as impressive off the court as he is on it. He has great character and is regarded as one of the bright young coaches in the game. At 47, he still has his best coaching days ahead of him, and he has already garnered a wealth of experience. Brey would be more than ready for the vigors of coaching in the Atlantic Coast Conference, as he has been one of the most successful coaches in the Big East.
Prior to Brey's arrival, Notre Dame teams had not received an NCAA tournament bid in more than a decade. Before the berth in 2001, Notre Dame's last back-to-back NCAA appearances were in 1989 and 1990. He quickly turned around a program with rich tradition, and has it on stable ground. NC State is in much better shape than Notre Dame was in 2000. With his recruiting ability and knowledge of the game, Brey would certain lead a smooth transition in Raleigh.
Rumors are circulating that Brey could be looking to move on, and NC State would be the perfect opportunity for him. He would be back on Tobacco Road, and he would certainly be up for the challenge of facing the likes of Duke and North Carolina. There is no doubt that Notre Dame is a "football school," and Brey, well let's just say he would probably prefer coaching at a program that cherishes basketball a little more.
What Makes Him a Longshot: Although feelers have apparently been sent to NC State, some question if Brey would truly leave if approached by the Wolfpack.
His hiring might not go over too well with Wolfpack fans for several reasons. First of all, he's considered a "Dookie" because of the time he spent in Durham, and NC State fans might not want a rival roaming the sidelines.
Brey's recent teams have failed to make the NCAA Tournament, and that is a major concern. The past three seasons have yielded NIT appearances, and it seems like his program could be going in the wrong direction after starting his tenure with three straight NCAA bids. Tournament success is a trait Lee Fowler is looking for in a candidate, and Brey's recent failures to even make the NCAA's isn't a good thing.
Like former NC State head coach Herb Sendek, Brey has struggled to win close games, particularly this past season. His Notre Dame team never seemed to make the big play down the stretch, and its record suffered because of it. Notre Dame's 14 losses this season were by a combined 59 points for an average of 4.2 points per game. If you want to frustrate a NC State fan, talk about close losses. Go ahead and do it.
Pack Pride's Take: Brey would be a solid hire for NC State, but is he a serious option at this point? For now we will keep him in the mix because we have heard through various sources that he is interested in the job, but would he come from Notre Dame to NC State after the Wolfpack missed on several other head coaching candidates?
He's not the "sexiest" of choices, but he's had success on the high-major level, much more than the majority of candidates being discussed, and the Wolfpack could certainly do worse.
If it was a certainty that Brey was in play, he would be at the top of this list.
Other possibilities: Dereck Whittenburg, Phil Ford, Jim Les, Bob McKillop