MEMPHIS - On the day after John Calipari's departure from the University of Memphis, the mood among a small group of people who will be instrumental in hiring the next men's basketball coach would best be characterized as angry, bitter and ready to spend some cash.
According to several people involved in the process, Memphis will be able to wave a significant amount of money in front of candidates over the next several days, though it obviously doesn't guarantee that a big name will be willing to come.
FedEx vice president Alan Graf, who will run the search from the boosters' side, said Wednesday that Memphis would be looking to make a splash as it attempts to keep the program nationally relevant.
"We've asked for a lot of permissions (to speak with coaches) and we've gotten them," Graf said. "I think we certainly have a capability of making a 'Wow' hire.
"Some of the names (being considered), if people heard them, they'd say, 'Wow.' "
Firmly in the "wow" category would be Louisville's Rick Pitino and Tennessee's Bruce Pearl, and it is believed that representatives of the search have had some form of contact with those two.
The News Sentinel reported that as of Wednesday afternoon, Memphis had not contacted Tennessee for permission to speak to Pearl.
Pearl did not return phone messages or text messages Wednesday.
Pearl, 49, seems to be a much more realistic possibility. According to a source close to Tennessee's program, Pearl has expressed interest in the position through intermediaries. The reasons given would be access to the Memphis talent base, which he has not been able to lure to East Tennessee, but would fit well with his up-tempo style of play.
Pearl would also be one of the few candidates who could dominate the city in much the same way Calipari did through the sheer force of his personality.
Though a move to Memphis may not make sense on the surface, it's also worth noting that Pearl, who took Tennessee to the Sweet 16 in 2007 and 2008, might also want to escape the SEC East - which just got a whole lot tougher with Calipari at Kentucky. One potential roadblock to Pearl would be his buyout, which costs $2.5 million if he leaves in the next year. Pearl's current contract averages $2.3 million per season.
The pitch to Pitino, 56, could involve a succession plan for his son, Richard, to take the position when the elder Pitino is ready to retire. Richard Pitino, 26, has been an assistant at College of Charleston, Northeastern, Duquesne and Louisville.
Rick Pitino would likely want such a plan in place to consider any opening. Pitino took Louisville to the Elite Eight this season, his eighth year at the school. Pitino also coached eight years at Kentucky.
While it was unclear whether Pitino returned the interest, CBSSports.com quoted a source saying Pitino would not be open to overtures from Memphis.
Louisville's sports information director, Kenny Klein, said Memphis had not contacted Louisville about speaking with Pitino.
Not only would a Pearl hire immediately grab national headlines and keep enthusiasm high during a rebuilding project, but it would also perhaps send a message to Calipari, who did not get along with Pearl during their four years sharing the same state. And don't underestimate the role that anger might play in hiring a new coach.
"A lot of sour feelings right now," said Harold Byrd, a Memphis booster and Rebounders Club president. "I thought maybe it was just me. But apparently everybody feels the same way I do. I see (Calipari) on TV, and it's almost like we never existed. I think a lot of people are energized to try to replace our former coach with somebody as good or better."
Mike Rose, a major donor to the program, hinted at a possible break from Calipari's methods:
"It might not be a bunch of (NBA-bound) one-and-done guys. It might be some four-year players.''
Calipari made $2.35 million annually with an annuity on top of it - most of which will not be collected, since it was spread out from 2008 to 2013. Calipari was offered a more lucrative deal to stay at Memphis than the 8-year, $31.65 million contract he accepted at Kentucky, so the resources are in place to at least get the interest of high-level coaches.
''I think we are in a better position than most as far as what we can afford," Graf said. "Everyone who helped pay Cal's salary is ready to step up and do the same thing again. So we are going to be extremely competitive. I don't think that's going to be an issue for us.''
Southern California coach Tim Floyd remains strongly in the mix and had some form of contact with Memphis on Wednesday, according to a source. A close friend of Floyd's told The Commercial Appeal on Tuesday he would likely be interested in the position even though he is comfortable in Los Angeles.
Two other successful recruiters believed to be on Memphis' radar are Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy and Baylor's Scott Drew.