Mike Strange: Finding right coach tricky

Mike Strange

Mike Hamilton already knows this but I'll say it anyway:

There is no foolproof formula to hire Tennessee's next men's basketball coach.

You can take candidates from every possible background and find plenty of hits and plenty of misses.

And over the years, UT has tried them all - to mixed results, naturally.

In the search to replace the popular Bruce Pearl, Tennessee might:

n Seek a veteran head coach with a proven track record.

n Take a chance on the current hot mid-major flavor.

n Identify a career assistant who's ready to captain his own ship.

n Go outside the box for, say, an NBA guy or an interim alternative until the NCAA case is resolved.

You find a pro for any of the above and I'll find a con. You find a con, I'll find a pro.

The option generating the least buzz is hiring an assistant with no head-coaching experience.

The Vols went that route in 1989 with Wade Houston. Other than getting to watch his son Allan for four years, it didn't work out well for UT.

But consider Tom Izzo, Jim Boeheim, Roy Williams and Mark Few. A strong Final Four by anybody's standard.

What they have in common - besides being among college basketball's most successful coaches - is that all four assumed big-time jobs without any previous head-coaching experience.

Hiring a veteran has produced results at UT. Don DeVoe took the Vols to five consecutive NCAA tournaments. Jerry Green had public-relation issues, but was 4-for-4 and won 71.2 percent of his games here.

Ray Mears, UT's all-time wins leader, came from tiny Wittenberg University in 1962. The small-college route wasn't unusual then but it isn't as practical in the 21st Century.

A likely option for Tennessee is to comb the mid-major ranks for a guy with a hot hand. That one is especially tricky.

As a veteran coach told me Wednesday, "Be careful with somebody who's been hot for two weeks.''

That caveat would apply to Shaka Smart. He's got Virginia Commonwealth in the Sweet 16 but it's only his second year as head coach.

Wasn't Pearl a mid-major Sweet 16 hire by the Vols in 2005? Yes, but he'd been a head coach for 13 years.

Arkansas bit on Stan Heath in 2002 when he led Kent State to the Elite Eight - in his first year as head coach. Heath has since been fired at Arkansas and is on the hot seat at South Florida.

Minnesota jumped at Dan Monson after Gonzaga made the Elite Eight in ' 99, Monson's second season. The Gophers fired him after eight seasons and zero NCAA tournaments.

South Carolina picked Darrin Horn fresh off a Sweet 16 trip at Western Kentucky. Three years in, the Gamecocks are about where they were before.

Some of the best hires do not involve March Madness heroes.

Billy Donovan was 35-20 in two middling years at Marshall when Florida took a chance on him in 1996.

In 1980, Duke hired a guy who was 9-17 in his fifth year at Army.

When Mike Krzyzewski was introduced, I doubt anybody thought Duke won the press conference.

Mike Strange may be reached at strangem@knoxnews.com or 865-342-6276. Follow him at http://twitter.com/strangemike44 and http://blogs.knoxnews.com/strange.

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Comments » 27

bustervols writes:

Mike, I like Reggie Theus. His son will be graduating high school in 2013, here is a link to some former search fodder.

http://blogs.orlandosentinel.com/spor...

westknoxrepub writes:

When you've got Gregg Marshall on a finalists list and a bunch of people are dreaming of a Rick Byrd (SOS 261) hire, it's not a good sign.

BigVolinCarolina writes:

in response to westknoxrepub:

When you've got Gregg Marshall on a finalists list and a bunch of people are dreaming of a Rick Byrd (SOS 261) hire, it's not a good sign.

Though I hesitate to respond because I don't know very much about either, I don't believe Marshall or Byrd would be a good fit for UT.

I hope UT is able to find a coach with significant experience. For every Mark Few or Roy Williams, there's 6-10 that didn't pan out. I agree--let's not put too much stock into someone who's been "hot" for 2 weeks. Then, again, with the public relations fiasco the past 6 months, we might not have too much of a choice.

I think it's very realistic that we have to sift through 10-12 names before we find someone who will be willing to take the job. It's hard enough to win without NCAA sanctions, so it'll take a special coach who wants to take on that burden AND who can win.

Go Big Orange!

SummittsCourt writes:

Before UT hires their next BB coach, they need to hire a good AD, the one pretending to be an AD sucks and needs to be fired.

Fire MIke Hamilton and take but cheek with you!

RashaadSalabeb writes:

My vote goes to Pitino. Let's try to get him!

Go Vols!

govols9875 writes:

I say we should go after Brad Stevens @ Butler. If he can get Butler to the Championship Game(and should've won it) with their facilities, then he can do GREAT THINGS with TBA & Pratt Pavilion.

speedkillz17 writes:

I say we go with a proven vet.

eaglehim2 writes:

Bob Knight - proven, instant credibility, knows talent, good BB mind, loves coaching, not afraid of AD.

OwensboroVol writes:

Tennessee cannot hire a head basketball coach until the AD situation is resolved. It doesn't take a genius to release that College Sports are big business. The one thing a business must do is keep their customers happy. Right now I would say that Tennessee's customers are about as happy as a one legged man in a butt kicking contest. I think the Tennessee Administration realizes that Mike Hamilton must go. Its just when and how. The Knoxville News Sentinel's John Adams has called for Hamilton's firing. I know a lot of people on this site are very anti-Adams but having him devote a column to this is very bad publicity. I think the Administration realizes that no decent coach will come to Tennessee with Hamilton still on the payroll. Jimmy Cheeks may say to hell with everyone and keep Hamilton, but doing that could also cost him a job. Politics gets mixed in with the Trustees Etc. The honest fact is that Mike Hamilton can't really expect to keep his job and is showing that he has no love for the institution by forcing them to fire him. That said, The situation at Tennessee remains in a total mess and will until he leaves.

RockyBears2009 writes:

lets find someone with character like we did with derek dooley- they may not win the tourney right out of the gate, but they will make the players and program better and make guys excited to play for them! hopefully the big-wigs at UT are judging character this time more than 'hot hands'

DrVolNY writes:

in response to OwensboroVol:

Tennessee cannot hire a head basketball coach until the AD situation is resolved. It doesn't take a genius to release that College Sports are big business. The one thing a business must do is keep their customers happy. Right now I would say that Tennessee's customers are about as happy as a one legged man in a butt kicking contest. I think the Tennessee Administration realizes that Mike Hamilton must go. Its just when and how. The Knoxville News Sentinel's John Adams has called for Hamilton's firing. I know a lot of people on this site are very anti-Adams but having him devote a column to this is very bad publicity. I think the Administration realizes that no decent coach will come to Tennessee with Hamilton still on the payroll. Jimmy Cheeks may say to hell with everyone and keep Hamilton, but doing that could also cost him a job. Politics gets mixed in with the Trustees Etc. The honest fact is that Mike Hamilton can't really expect to keep his job and is showing that he has no love for the institution by forcing them to fire him. That said, The situation at Tennessee remains in a total mess and will until he leaves.

The AD situation is resolved...he's staying.

give_him_6 writes:

The one problem is Mike, we have a DOOFUS and our own PF nightmare leading the seach. We are doomed as long as that little elf in charge.

budd#207344 writes:

I would have to say that MH will be the AD. There is nothing to tell me he will not. So can we quit with the "fire hamilton" phooey and get on with the search. If we could get a Bob Knight or Rick Pitino it would solve our issues thru the ncaa probation that is sure to come. And the fans would definitely come out to see the team. But if not we have to find somebody who has already been there done that. We cannot afford a new midmajor guy this time.

arkyvol writes:

so, some of the up and comers are doing the 22 skidoo after being given a shot. what else is new? i can remember some veteran coaches with remarkable resumes who went bust at new schools (bobby knight and eddie sutton for starters). there's a chance that the next h.c. could turn out to be a pearl or a krzyzewski, but the better bet would be that its a wade houston or buzz peterson.

CrankE writes:

in response to give_him_6:

The one problem is Mike, we have a DOOFUS and our own PF nightmare leading the seach. We are doomed as long as that little elf in charge.

Word.

So long as Lord Hamilton, The Indecisive remains, the quality of the new coach may be irrelevant. Good hire, bad hire, doesn't matter. In a few years, they will be mediocre because Hamilton will gladly tolerate it so long as the money is coming in.

Hamilton represents a Neville Chamberlain type of figure for UT. An appeaser. Peace in our time, all that. He does not seem to recognize that there are wolves out there who would love to see UT diminished. His lack of spine earns him disdain within UT and disrespect without. He is impotent outside of UT. He is incompetent inside of UT. This de-energizes the UT faithful and further encourages the wolves. We need a Churchill type of figure at AD who will go on the offensive for UT and expect his coaches to do likewise.

HHUUMMBBLLEE writes:

get rid of hamilton = great bb hire

HHUUMMBBLLEE writes:

in response to budd#207344:

I would have to say that MH will be the AD. There is nothing to tell me he will not. So can we quit with the "fire hamilton" phooey and get on with the search. If we could get a Bob Knight or Rick Pitino it would solve our issues thru the ncaa probation that is sure to come. And the fans would definitely come out to see the team. But if not we have to find somebody who has already been there done that. We cannot afford a new midmajor guy this time.

" FIRE HAMILTON "

murrayvol writes:

in response to eaglehim2:

Bob Knight - proven, instant credibility, knows talent, good BB mind, loves coaching, not afraid of AD.

He's not afraid of the Devil either but that doesn't make him a good choice for Tennessee.

Bobby lost me when he defended Tressel's actions without reservation. And I know he's an alum but still.

murrayvol writes:

We got it right with Bruce Pearl. He just lost his way.

utk1996 writes:

Good article. Makes a lot of good points that people should consider. It is VERY hard to predict how successful one might be. I hope Tennessee makes the right choice. What else can we do?

murrayvol writes:

in response to utk1996:

Good article. Makes a lot of good points that people should consider. It is VERY hard to predict how successful one might be. I hope Tennessee makes the right choice. What else can we do?

Watch for the white plume of smoke to exit the chimney over the AD's office.

tennrich1 writes:

I guess the truth is no one really knows how things will work out...really...its just a shot in the dark usually...what worked at one job just may not work here....happens every day...people scratching their heads wondering what went wrong with the "perfect" hire four years later....Arkansas is setting themselves up for a huge fall if they arent careful....They wanted Mike Anderson(rightfully so) so bad that I'm afraid he can NEVER meet up to the hype....may be wrong but I've seen it before....So I'm not going to get too high or too low over any hire...let's just wait three, four years down the road and assess the situation then...

Rockytop38 writes:

I know there are some folks out there that are not PF fans, but this whole mess with both the football (kiffin) and BB slide started when they let the most loyal representative of the University go. Nobody's perfect but I thought PF brought honesty, integrity and stability to the University. We just didn't give him enough support.

NYvolFan writes:

After all the snowjobs and bs, who is going to trust Hamilton? I'll let you know...nobody!

mhsvol writes:

The thing that gets overlooked in the hiring of a head coach is his style of play. Tubby Smith has won pretty much everywhere he's been, but the top recruits don't want to play for him because of his tight, disciplined style. Pearl was able to attract a much better quality of player because of his wide open style. While Rick Byrd has won, and won big at Belmont, his disciplined style may not be what recruits at the BCS Conference level want to play under. IMO, it's all about style of play, because in the end your players need to believe in what they're doing, and most great coaches got there because they got great players.

TNVol71 writes:

Hiring a coach is definitely a shot in the dark. I just hope we can find someone that is more in the Bruce Pearl mode (sans the violations) than a Kevin O'Neill type. The most exciting UT basketball in recent years were during the Chris Lofton/Dane Bradshaw era. We may have better athletes now, but those guys had heart and knew how to bring it almost every game. It would be great to return to that type of team. JMHO. GBO!!

NYvolFan writes:

Let's just offer Bobby Knight $5/mil for 2 years until we rehire Bruce after his pentence. In the meantime, Bobby will encourage Mikey Hammy-loser to resign. Then Cheek will follow.

I know Bobby...Hammy will RUN!

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