Mike Holder got the message loud and clear that Oklahoma State fans were not pleased with the direction of the basketball program under Travis Ford. So on Friday the OSU athletic director announced that the school was parting ways with Ford, who compiled a 155-111 record in his eight years leading the Cowboys.
Now Holder is looking for someone to bring some renewed optimism to the program, making the Cowboys Big 12 contenders on an annual basis (and not the pretenders they have been the past several years, finishing below .500 in conference play five of the past six seasons), and once again filling up Gallagher-Iba Arena.
Who will that be? Here are some of the names to watch.
Brad Underwood, Stephen F. Austin (3 years)
A graduate of Kansas State, Underwood (pictured above) played basketball from 1984 to 1986 at KSU for Jack Hartman (who played at Oklahoma A&M under legendary Henry Iba in the 1940s).
The 52-year-old Underwood has compiled an impressive 87-13 record in his three years as head coach at Stephen F. Austin in Nacogdoches, Texas, including a 27-5 record this season as they prepare to play tonight in the NCAA Tournament.
Underwood arrived in Nacogdoches after an extensive coaching career that included 27 years in the coaching profession, spending his last two seasons as an associate head coach at both South Carolina and Kansas State with current Gamecock head coach Frank Martin.
Underwood put SFA on the national map with the upset of fifth-seeded Virginia Commonwealth in the second round of the 2014 NCAA Tournament, and under his guidance the ‘Jacks finished the 2013-14 season with a 32-3 record, a program and Southland Conference record for most wins in a single season.
His name is etched in the NCAA record books with the most wins through two seasons as a head coach (61-8). SFA has dominated the Southland Conference the past three seasons under Underwood, winning 53 of 54 regular season games and capturing three straight postseason conference tournaments. Also, the ’Jacks have a 44-1 home record the past three seasons.
Jamie Dixon, Pittsburgh (13 years)
Getting the 50-year-old Dixon to leave Pittsburgh for Oklahoma State would be a major coup for Holder. The Panthers rank among the nation’s top-10 programs in winning percentage over the last 14 years, and Pitt has claimed more conference titles (six) than any other school in the previous Big East and third-most among Atlantic Coast Conference programs.
He’s in his 13th year at Pitt, and has earned four National Coach of the Year honors (2011 Sporting News, 2010 Jim Phelan Award, 2010 USA Basketball, and 2009 Naismith). Dixon has a 328-122 record in his 13 years at Pitt, earning 11 NCAA Tournament berths and 13 postseason berths, including three Sweet Sixteen appearances (2004, 2007 and 2009) and one NCAA Regional Final (2009).
Jerod Haase, Alabama-Birmingham (4 years)
Haase is a member of the Roy Williams coaching tree. He played at Kansas for Williams for three seasons (1994-95 to 1996-97) after beginning his career at California. He then spent 13 years on the KU and North Carolina staffs under Williams, and was a member of the Tar Heels staff’s in 2005 and 2009 when they won national championships.
Haase was named the 2016 Gene Bartow Conference USA Coach of the Year earlier this month. In his fourth season at UAB, he led the Blazers to a 26-7 overall record and a 16-2 mark inside Conference USA to guide UAB to its first regular-season title since 2011. Along the way, UAB set school records for overall wins, conference wins, road wins (10) and consecutive wins (14).
UAB was the No. 1 seed in the Conference USA tournament last week but the Blazers were upset by No. 8 seed Western Kentucky in the first round. UAB season came to an end with a 97-79 loss to BYU on Wednesday in a first-round game of the NIT.
The Blazers were also a perfect 16-0 at Bartow Arena this season to extend the nation’s fifth-longest home winning streak to 25. UAB also enjoyed a successful road schedule that included a 72-71 overtime win at Old Dominion to snap the Monarchs’ 32-game home winning streak.
Doug Gottlieb (no coaching experience)
The former Oklahoma State point guard has let it be known that he would like to be considered for the job. Gottlieb has never coached but he is the son of a longtime coach, the late Bob Gottlieb, who was an assistant coach at Creighton under Eddie Sutton before becoming a head coach.
The 40-year-old Gottlieb is currently a college basketball analyst and national radio host for CBS Sports.
Gottlieb transferred to OSU from Notre Dame, playing two seasons (1998-99 and 1999-2000) for the Cowboys under head coach Eddie Sutton. He was an outstanding point guard during his two-year playing career, leading the nation in assists (8.8) as a junior. He still holds nearly all of OSU’s assist records.
Eddie Sutton recently endorsed Gottlieb for the job. “I would have no problem in supporting (Doug). Doug is smart. I think he would be a great recruiter. If he’s smart enough to get good assistant coaches – guys who are similar to the way he feels – I think he would be all right,” Sutton told the Tulsa World.
Chris Beard, Arkansas-Little Rock (1st year)
Beard, in his first season at Arkansas-Little Rock, has directed the Trojans to a 29-4 record, the first-ever Sun Belt Conference regular season title in school history, and an automatic berth in the NCAA Tournament by winning the league’s postseason tournament championship for the first time since 2011.
Beard spent 10 years as an assistant coach at Texas Tech working under Bobby Knight, and compiled a record of 141-45 (.758) in six seasons as a head coach, including a 47-15 mark over the last two seasons at Angelo State.
Beard was named the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) South Central Region and Lone Star Conference Coach of the Year after leading Angelo State to a program-record 28 wins in the 2014-15 season. The Rams boasted a perfect 17-0 home record and finished the season ranked No. 19 nationally.
Angelo State’s 47-15 record during the 2013-14 and 2014-15 seasons includes a 28-2 mark at home and the program’s first-ever NCAA Division II Sweet Sixteen appearance in 2015.
Beard spent 10 years as an assistant coach at Texas Tech, including seven under legendary head coach Bobby Knight. He was named associate head coach in 2008 following Pat Knight’s appointment as head coach. In 10 years in Lubbock, the Red Raiders won 188 games – the best 10-year stretch in program history – while earning four NCAA Tournament bids and three NIT appearances. Beard’s run at Texas Tech was highlighted by the Red Raiders’ 2005 Sweet Sixteen run.