First, the state of Cardinal recruiting. The last word that Chicago point guard Bobby Frasor and family gave Stanford earlier today was that they intend to get on the plane and make their flight tonight. This afternoon, Frasor's sister told The Bootleg that mother, father and son took off for the airport to make the trip. The Frasor household was pretty shaken last night when they were called by Stanford and given the news that Mike Montgomery was taking the Golden State Warriors job, which reflects how much they value the head coach as part of the college decision. Montgomery made a strong connection with the family in April when he made a solo on-campus visit with the family at Brother Rice High School.
The good news for Cardinal fans is that emotions have settled a little today. The pitch that the Stanford assistants are making to bring Frasor and his parents to campus is heartfelt, even though they recognize that they are recruiting at a disadvantage right now. The family will be looking for frank and fast answers, though, once they set foot on campus Friday morning, however. That is where Ted Leland must do his job.
On that note, unbeknownst to the rest of the world, a surprise visitor flew into town last night and today started his official visit. Arizona forward Lawrence Hill slipped under the public radar and kept under wraps a plan that had been laid a couple weeks ago to take his first official trip of the spring. The timing of the flight last night was such that the Hills were in the air when the Montgomery news broke. They were first informed when they were picked up by a Stanford assistant at the airport, and today they sat in Leland's office for an extended discussion.
The younger Hill also submitted his Stanford admissions application yesterday, and the coaching staff is working with the admissions office in the hopes of a miraculous turnaround for a decision. Best case scenario could yield an answer Friday before Hill concludes his visit. The Deer Valley High School junior has a perfect 4.0 GPA and has scored a 1230 on the SAT in the winter. Arizona State, UCLA and Utah are the other schools most earnestly pursuing his services at this time.
One question on the minds of many Cardinal fans is the role that Montgomery will play in these recruiting visits this weekend. The answer is almost assuredly "none." He is in his office at this moment, but he is in transition to an official role with the Warriors - not an employee of Stanford University.
The next question which both fans and recruits want to know is the timeframe for the head coaching search, as well as the probable top candidates. The timeframe is not as clear-cut as you might like it to be, and it depends on the political context of the search process. Beyond just Ted Leland (and powerhouse donor John Arrillaga), a formal search panel could include the President and Provost of the University. The good news is that provost John Etchemendy just returned to campus yesterday from a trip to Korea. The bad news is that president John Hennessy just departed for a 10-day trip of mainland China. It is unclear whether Hennessy would require that such an important and costly hire transpire with his on-hand involvement, or if he would give freedom to the decision makers on campus to proceed.
Time is of the essence, especially with the trio of blue chip recruits on campus these next several days. Hill started his visit today, and Frasor starts tomorrow. SoCal combo guard Anthony Goods flies up late Sunday. Those three recruits are the core of what Stanford wants and needs for this five-man recruiting class. In an ideal world, the gears would move swiftly enough to have a hire arranged, at least in principal, this weekend for the recruits to meet in-person.
The question then turns to candidates. Fans are running the gamut in fantastical musings from Gonzaga's Mark Few to Oregon's Ernie Kent. Kent was at one time an assistant under Montgomery, but there is some baggage there that I believe keeps him out of consideration. I do believe that this coaching search is a unique one that is looking to maintain a program that achieved near-perfection this past season. If it ain't broke, don't fix it. To that end, top candidates would be found on the Montgomery coaching tree, which includes current Old Dominion head coach Blaine Taylor, Rice's Willis Wilson, Utah State's Stew Morrill, Nebraska's Barry Collier and Idaho State's Doug Oliver.
But I believe the two top early candidates are one former and one current assistant. First looking inward, Eric Reveno is a seven-year assistant under Montgomery who also played for the man at Stanford (1984-89). Reveno has a national reputation for coaching and developing big men, and it is the legacy of post players that has been Stanford's calling card during the Montgomery era. Reveno also has a very keen mind about guard and wing play, as well as overall offensive and defensive strategies. He's a good Xs and Os guy who also brings to the table the strategy and management capabilities from his Stanford MBA. He relates well to players and recruits, and can sell Stanford better than most, as a Cardinal alumnus. Reveno's one potentially significant liability is his lack of college head coaching experience.
Reveno was in his second year as a Stanford assistant when he sat next to Trent Johnson on the bench for the fabled 1998 Final Four run. Johnson moved on a year later to take the head coaching job at Nevada (Reno), where he pushed the Wolfpack to new heights this year with 25 wins and a storied Sweet 16 finish. He was a fantastic bench coach during his three years on The Farm, and it is no coincidence that the Cardinal accelerated their program while he was on the staff. Johnson understands Stanford, was truly loved and respected by his players and is fantastic recruiter. On March 30, Nevada announced a five-year contract for more than $450k per year, which some might think to be an impedement to a Stanford hire. I have good reason to believe it would be no obstacle at all. If Johnson were hired, I also believe he would retain all of the current Stanford assistants - provided Montgomery does not take one of them to Golden State.
Reveno is obviously on-hand and easily accessible to interview at any time. Johnson could fly in as soon as Friday.
The big question still surrounds how quickly Leland can move, and what phone discussions he had last night or this morning with Hennessy in Hong Kong. The wheels need to turn quickly. We will keep you updated with the latest on the hire as well as the recruiting landscape.
Are you fully subscribed to The Bootleg? If not, then you are missing out on all the top Cardinal coverage we provide daily on our website, as well as our full-length feature articles in our glossy magazine. Sign up today for the biggest and best in Stanford sports coverage with TheBootleg.com (sign-up) and The Bootleg Magazine (sign-up)!