Coaching Search Gets An Oliver Twist

By Dickens, longtime assistant coach Doug Oliver will interview for the Stanford head coaching position on Monday. Read on as Daniel Novinson takes a closer look at the man who last helped lead the Cardinal to the Sweet 16.

Longtime assistant coach Doug Oliver will interview for the Stanford head coaching position on Monday, has learned.

Casual fans may have first heard of Oliver when he took over acting head coach duties from an ejected Trent Johnson in Stanford's 82-81 overtime win over Marquette in the Round of 32 a month ago. But Oliver has been on the Stanford sidelines for over 300 wins, serving as an assistant from 1986 to 1998, before returning to the Farm as an assistant for the last two seasons.

In between, Oliver was the Idaho State head coach for eight years, racking up an ugly 88-134 (.396) mark, albeit at a school not exactly stepped in basketball tradition.

However, Oliver may appear attractive to Athletic Director Bob Bowlsby for three reasons. First, as a second source well-connected to Trent Johnson and the basketball program says, Bowlsby may not exactly have Red Auerbach and John Wooden lined up as alternatives.

"This program is in such a fragile state that when you add in the salary issues, recruiting challenges, et cetera, I think it is unrealistic to think we will find anyone who fits the profile better," he said.

Secondly, Oliver brings much-needed continuity after Trent Johnson's sudden departure. Not only do Oliver's 14 years factor into that equation, but so does the increased likelihood that he would retain current Stanford assistant coaches, especially Donny Guerinoni.

"Donny is one of the keys here, and I think Donny stays if Doug Oliver moves up," this source said.

Trent Johnson is hopeful that Guerinoni will be rehired at the Farm, largely because of the central role he played in bonding with and landing the 2008 recruits. (Retaining a familiar face becomes all the more valuable given how shaken up Jarrett Mann, Jeremy Green and Miles Plumee were by Johnson's departure.) But, if there is not a place for Guerinoni on the Farm, Johnson will try to make room for him at LSU, if there's still room on his staff.

Finally, and most importantly, Oliver has the players' support. A group of former players might lobby Stanford Athletics' top donor himself, John Arrillaga, in support of Oliver. (They don't have the trust or confidence in Bob Bowlsby to approach him directly right now.)

Current players might play a bigger role yet in Oliver's candidacy. Consider that rising senior captain Mitch Johnson is serving on the search committee. Or, consider how large a role the football players' discontent played in Bowlsby's dismissal of then-football coach Walt Harris in late 2006. Bowlsby's none too popular in many Stanford fans' minds right now, but the man does take current players' input seriously.

"Expectations for next year don't appear to be very high right now, and I would love to see what Doug could do," this second source said.

Many Stanford fans may be wondering about the plausibility of an Eric Reveno return. However, two factors appear to make an Oliver hire more likely. First, Reveno, the current head coach at the University of Portland, has only two years of Division I head coaching experience to Oliver's eight. Second, the younger players know and like Oliver, but don't have a relationship with Reveno. Pencil Reveno in as an early clubhouse leader to be the Stanford's head coach – just after whoever is hired this go-around.

It's important to keep in mind that Oliver's interview could well be a courtesy, as Bowlsby almost has to give him an interview given the length of his Stanford tenure. The truth is no one knows what the Athletic Director is thinking, and how tight-lipped he has been in newsworthy in itself.

Like during the football head coaching search, Bowlsby has given the media only the briefest of updates. He also has kept his thoughts extraordinarily private (much more on this to come in a future piece), with people pretty close to the situation hearing virtually nothing.

"I would be surprised if Bob Bowlsby doesn't swear the committee members to secrecy in terms of the people whose names are in the process, as well as try to keep the names of the search committee members a secret as long as possible," says the second source, who would be one of the first people to hear news if there were any leaks whatsoever, but reports he has heard little.

Even so, our sources are pretty confident that a few bandied-about names will not be the next Stanford basketball coach. First on that list is Gonzaga coach Mark Few.

"If he and Trent Johnson are as close as they appear to be, I would be stunned if Few would even consider taking this job," said our first source, who is close to Trent Johnson. "He has lots of reasons to stay at Gonzaga until the Oregon job is available, but, even if he didn't, I don't think he would want to work for Bob Bowlsby."

Tony Bennett also seems an unlikely hire.

"I don't know why Bennett would be interested in this job, quite frankly," our first source said. "He and Trent Johnson seemed pretty friendly, and let no one think these coaches don't have a pretty good idea of what happened here. If they don't, they would certainly do some due diligence before making such a significant career move."

No one could rule out Blaine Taylor of Old Dominion. Mike Montgomery is supposedly lobbying him and Bob Bowlsby did fly East this weekend to interview an unknown candidate, two factors that suggest Taylor's a serious contender. But today, it's Doug Oliver who grabs the headlines, and it's Doug Oliver who will interview for the Stanford head basketball position Monday. Stay tuned to for all the latest.

Note: Sorry about the anonymous sourcing, readers, but it's hard to avoid given the nature of the situation. In previous stories, I've solely reported information collected from a source close to Trent Johnson, from now on "our first source". Most of the information in this story comes from "our second source", who's very well connected to the Athletic Department , and thus also close to Johnson. Source No. 3 will make an appearance soon. [Insert Client No. 9 joke here.] My goal in making these distinctions is to be as transparent as possible and allow readers to keep straight our sources to better judge their validity and biases – while protecting everyone's anonymity.

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