Coaching Sweepstakes: The Inside Track

It is Sunday, April 3, 2011, and thousands of Oklahoma State basketball fans have traveled to Houston, Texas, for the Final Four. OSU is on the verge of winning the school's first NCAA basketball title in 65 years behind the play of James Anderson, Xavier Henry and John Wall. OSU, coached by (insert name here), will play in Monday night's title game at Reliant Stadium. Is this a dream or reality?

The key component to this scenario – and whether it's just a dream of Cowboy fans or has a chance of actually becoming true three years from now – is based on who Oklahoma State athletic director Mike Holder hires as head coach to replace Sean Sutton. Will it be the favorite of most every Cowboy fan – OSU alum Bill Self? Or will Holder have to look outside the OSU family to find the person he wants to help put the Cowboy basketball program back in the national spotlight after three consecutive trips to the NIT.

What follows is a list of the coaches that I believe are Holder's top targets. (Important note: There are only a handful of people – Holder, Boone Pickens and OSU president Burns Hargis are three that come to mind – that really know with 100 percent certainty what has transpired in the last few days).

Bill Self, Kansas
It has become evident that the fifth-year KU head coach is Oklahoma State's top target. The former OSU player (from 1981-85) and ex-Cowboy assistant coach (under Leonard Hamilton and Eddie Sutton, 1986-93) will receive an enticing offer from Holder once the KU season ends following Monday night's national championship game. Who knows whether there is any substance to the dollar amounts that have been rumored (a $6 million signing bonus and/or $4 million a year)? One thing is sure, though. Self will be making more next year than the $1.3 million he's currently being paid – whether that's in Stillwater or Lawrence will be determined in the next several days.
Odds that Self becomes OSU's next head coach: 2-1

Jamie Dixon, Pittsburgh
The 42-year-old California native (he grew up in Burbank, Calif.) does have ties to Oklahoma State (in a roundabout way). Dixon played basketball at Texas Christian from 1983-87, earning All-Southwest Conference recognition as a senior playing for Jim Killingsworth, the former OSU head coach (1977-78 and 1978-79). He was an assistant coach at Cal-Santa Barbara, Hawaii, Northern Arizona, Hawaii (again), and Pittsburgh, before taking over as head coach at Pitt when Ben Howland took the UCLA head coaching job. Dixon's five-year coaching tenure at Pitt has seen the Panthers compiled a 132-40 record and earn five consecutive NCAA Tournament berths, including a Sweet 16 appearance in 2003-04. This past season's team – which defeated OSU 85-68 on Dec. 15 – finished 27-10 after suffering a second round NCAA Tournament loss to Michigan State.
Odds that Dixon becomes OSU's next head coach: 5-1

John Calipari, Memphis
Reports indicate that the Memphis head coach had his agent contact an Oklahoma State representative late last week to say Calipari may be interested in visiting once the season is completed. Is Calipari really serious or is he attempting to use it as leverage for a better contract at Memphis? That's the question that Holder is going to have to ask himself each and every time someone contacts him with a new name. If he's really interested, Calipari's record speaks for itself. The Tigers enter Monday night's national championship game with a 38-1 record, and they've won more than 74 of their games during Calipari's seven years as head coach. In his 15 years as a Division I head coach (at Memphis and UMass), his teams have played in two Final Fours, five Elite Eights and made six Sweet 16 appearances. He was also head coach of the NBA's New Jersey Nets for two-plus seasons.
Odds that Calipari becomes OSU's next head coach: 10-1

Sean Miller, Xavier
The 38-year-old Miller led the Musketeers to a school-record 30 victories this past season, including victories over Georgia (SEC), Purdue (Big 10) and West Virginia (Big East) in the NCAA Tournament before losing to UCLA in the Elite Eight. Miller was an assistant to Thad Matta before he left to take over Ohio State, and Miller was promoted to head coach. Xavier has been to three consecutive NCAA Tournaments and won 93 games (with just 39 losses) during Miller's tenure as head coach.
Odds that Miller becomes OSU's next head coach: 20-1

Anthony Grant, Virginia Commonwealth
The 41-year-old Grant's stock may have fallen just a bit after the Rams were upset by William & Mary, 56-54, in the semifinals of the Colonial Athletic Association tournament. VCU still finished with a 24-8 record after losing to Alabama-Birmingham in the first round of the NIT. He has just two years of head-coaching experience, taking over at VCU when Jeff Capel was hired at Oklahoma. Grant, however, spent 10 years as an assistant at Florida and was responsible for recruiting many of the players who helped the Gators win back-to-back national titles the past two years. He was prepared to leave VCU and head back to Florida after just one season when Billy Donovan was hired to coach the NBA's Orlando Magic, but Donovan eventually changed his mind and returned to Florida, and Grant stayed at VCU.
Odds that Grant becomes OSU's next head coach: 35-1

Bruce Pearl, Tennessee
The Tennessee head coach has no reason to be looking for a job after receiving a commitment from one of the nation's highest-rated shooting guards, Scottie Hopson of Hopkinsville, Ky.., last week. Tennessee is expected to rework his contract (he made $1.3 million this past year, and is scheduled to make $1.4 million during the 2008-09 season) after he led the Volunteers to a school record 31 victories and the first No. 1 ranking in the nation in school history.
Odds that Pearl becomes OSU's next head coach: 50-1

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