Mike Strange: Can't say UT is best open job

Mike Strange

You're a successful college basketball coach. You like your job but there's no harm in being curious about what else is out there.

Your agent calls with the following information:

Tennessee, North Carolina State, Georgia Tech, Missouri, Oklahoma, they all wonder if you'd be interested.

So who are you willing to listen to?

There are five major jobs on the market. Two in the ACC, two in the Big 12 and then there's Tennessee.

Which is the most attractive? How do they rank?

Those are questions a bunch of folks are asking this week, including athletic directors, candidates and, of course, fan bases.

Georgia Tech, N.C. State and Oklahoma fired coaches for losing. Tennessee fired a coach who won big but had ethical issues with the NCAA. Missouri's coach got poached by Arkansas.

While all five aren't necessarily going after the same candidates, you can bet there is plenty of overlapping.

Brad Stevens of Butler, for one, could have his choice of the five, but he's unlikely to make a move.

But several candidates will inevitably find themselves being courted by two or more schools hungry to win.

I asked a couple of experts to help me with the pros and cons of the Big Five. Their opinions varied.

Chris Dortch publishes Blue Ribbon Yearbook, the most thorough preseason guide on the market, offering a detailed breakdown on every Division I team from Vermont to Virginia to Valparaiso.

Tony Barnhart is best known for SEC and national college football analysis but he's also a past president of the U.S. Basketball Writers Association.

Both agree Oklahoma is a good job but that Missouri, the newest school on the market, is a really good job.

There is a recent history of success, passionate fans and a rich recruiting base in St. Louis, Kansas City and Illinois. Plus, the Tigers return a ready-made tournament team next year.

As to which job east of the Mississippi is best, there's no consensus.

Georgia Tech has pros (Atlanta, the ACC) but also cons (academic restrictions, budget limitations).

"If you put all the positives together, I think Tennessee is the best of these jobs,'' said Dortch. "I talk to coaches from all around the country and Tennessee is a coveted job.''

Dortch lives in Chattanooga and admits he might be a tad partial. But he points to the facilities, the budget and the success Bruce Pearl achieved the past six years.

"A young coach wants to go to a school that's in the top three in its league,'' Dortch said. "The SEC has Kentucky and Florida but Bruce showed you can deal with them.

"And they have the checkbook. There's nothing like putting your money where your mouth is.''

Barnhart gives the nod to N.C. State, even though the Wolfpack hasn't been to the NCAA tournament since 2006 and lives in the shadow of Duke and North Carolina.

"I know (athletic director) Debbie Yow is willing to pay whatever it takes,'' Barnhart said. "Money will not be the issue.

"They have a good building and the fan base is hungry.''

Tennessee has a problem, obviously, with unknown NCAA sanctions looming and AD Mike Hamilton's popularity at low ebb.

"In the place they're in right now,'' said Barnhart, "it's hard for me to see Tennessee hiring a really good coach away from somebody else.''

An AD search would complicate UT's dilemma at the moment. Damage control is the better option.

"The administration has to pledge its support for Mike Hamilton,'' Dortch said. "They have to convince people Mike is going to be there and that he knows what he's doing.''

So now we wait and see who listens to whom.

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

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Comments » 80

Flabbergasted writes:

You might can sell someone on the fact that Mikey will be here, but how do you get someone to believe he knows what he is doing?

cwbytruckers writes:

If the media see's that the A.D. is a problem. Why can't Tennessee.

imw8n4u writes:

We've shown not only will we pay a good coach really well, we'll also invest in facilities. Make no mistake, TN is a good job.

utvol2002 writes:

"The administration has to pledge its support for Mike Hamilton and convince people Mike is going to be there and that he knows what he's doing"

-we're screwed!

eduardo writes:

but kenlucky was 3 yrs ago, right Mike Weird???

Witch_Doctors writes:

Witch Doctor say anything can be done if thrown enough money. Witch Doctor pretty sure Haslam gouging us right now at the pumps to ensure we hire good(lol. kidding! Witch Doctor not want to see Pilot gas truck cruising in Witch Doctor neighborhood again).
Bones never lie.

mhsvol writes:

in response to Mama_Calls_Me_Precious:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

If you take away the coming sanctions, there is no way UT is not at the top of the list - even WITH Hamilton. From all inside reports, he has supported BP until it became impossible. Tennessee has the superior facilities; fan support (4th in the country in attendance); national TV coverage; deep pockets; quality recruiting base (in spite of what everybody says), and they play in a winnable conference. Add to that - Bruce Pearl has proven you can win big at Tennessee and be loved by everyone. Plus, the quality of life in East Tennessee and no state income tax. None of these other schools can even touch what UT can offer - maybe, even with the coming sanctions.

dvols writes:

stupid.... if TN backs the truck up.....do you really think any of these coaches are going to be loyal....they are like us all.get paid...move on get paid more....

long gone are the days of Dean Smith... its why he retired!

born2ride writes:

UT is a great job and we should not settle for a cheap crappy coach like Hamilton did in football.

westknoxrepub writes:

We've got Gregg Marshall on our list and we're seriously considering Rick Byrd, we're not that willing to spend on coaches, as was evident with our football search. We're looking for a bargain at the bottom of the bargain bin.

BigVolinCarolina writes:

I live in Raleigh and the NC State job is "average-to-good". Competing among Duke and UNC is an enormous task for a school that really hasn't done anything since the 1983 Championship.

Tennessee has the facilities and the budget but, in addition to looming NCAA sanctions, we've also got a major public relations problem due to how the Pearl situation was handled.

Oklahoma, Missouri and Georgia Tech all have better overall basketball history than UT has--we don't have any Final Fours, consistency in competing for conference championships or have a crop of first-round NBA draft picks.

Getting a marquee coach is going to be a huge problem for UT. Hope I'm wrong.

rbwusa writes:

The Athletic Director of the University made the worst decision in college Sports this year. He LET GO one of the premier Coaches in College basketball. I'm an outsider looking in and I can tell you when TENN hired Burce Pearl all media in the country turned to Tennessee as a potential NCAA winner. Now that's all history. I can't name a college coach in the Nation that even wants to come to Tennessee unless he or she is in a lower league. Frankly I'm gonna tell it like it is Your A/D at the University made a very bad decision I don't care if Burce Pearl flew to another state and talked to a kid personally about playing for TN over a hambuger at Wendy's that's just rules by the NCAA yeah we would have had to and still will have to put up with couple years of stuff but in the END we'd come roaring back cause Kids know Burce Pearl knows what he's doing when it comes to basketball and so does the Media. Watch what happens to USC let's see if they fire their coach it isn't gonna happen because they believe in him and will ride it out and will benifit from it in a Very Big Way but NOT TENNESSEE it's back to the drawing boards there are no coaches available even close to Pearl and it's all because of a Business minded A/D and not a Sports minded Athletic Director. Hamiltion should GO because Tennessee Basketball already has for many years!

Voluvr writes:

in response to cwbytruckers:

If the media see's that the A.D. is a problem. Why can't Tennessee.

Media isn't always right. Neither are you.

Voluvr writes:

UT is a place that you can recruit to. Best facilities, fans, support. Why go to a conf. where you'll always be 4th fiddle. Midwest, not the best basketball either.

If Pearl wasn't a guy that thinks rules don't apply to him he'd be in the final 4 next year. Do that at one of those other schools.

bustervols writes:

It's simple boys, Reggie Theus.

rbwusa writes:

It doesn't take a smart person to see the problem at Tenn. That's Two for Hamilton and NONE for Tennnessee!He's not Doug Dickie that's for sure!

dvols writes:

mike strange.....TN is the only schoool that has ever challenged KY in bballl......think about it....

SummittsCourt writes:

Fire Mike Hamilton and it becomes the best job out there hands down. Who wants to work for an idiot.

al2476 writes:

As long as we have the lieing Mikey Hammy , then we are screwed. Having him is about like having a weight around your neck, trying to win the backstroke competion in swimming.

give_him_6 writes:

Mike Hamilton has to go. You don't want your boss acting like he does all the time. He has not handled himself well at all the last 3 months during all of this. Add in the mis handling of the football and baseball teams and it all adds up to Hamilton needing to be removed for the good of our athletic teams

RollTideJoe writes:

in response to dvols:

mike strange.....TN is the only schoool that has ever challenged KY in bballl......think about it....

Check the stats and see who has the second most SEC titles in basketball. It's not Tennessee.

VolunteerLifer writes:

"They have to convince people Mike is going to be there and that he knows what he's doing.''

There's your trouble.

jimr07 writes:

Did anyone actually think a KNS writer would say something positive about the Vols? I sure didn't.

jimr07 writes:

in response to cwbytruckers:

If the media see's that the A.D. is a problem. Why can't Tennessee.

Are you actually saying KNS is the media? Knoxville is the largest city in the country without a daily newspaper.

jimr07 writes:

in response to rbwusa:

It doesn't take a smart person to see the problem at Tenn. That's Two for Hamilton and NONE for Tennnessee!He's not Doug Dickie that's for sure!

Yeah, Dickey did so well hiring basketball coaches. remember all the great ones he brought in here. And, finally, thank God he is not Doug Dickey.

crutch1966 writes:

in response to born2ride:

UT is a great job and we should not settle for a cheap crappy coach like Hamilton did in football.

i really like dooley. why do you not?

westknoxrepub writes:

in response to DukeDeLuca:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

We'll win all our non confrence games agianst cupcakes, except for the ONE or TWO tough teams we play a year, then get murdered in the SEC with mediocre recruits and IF we make the tournament we'll lose in the first round.

timw10 writes:

hey voluvr, the media is not always right and you never are. Everyone knows Hamilton has to go. He is a babbling idiot. Its not okay for the coach to lie but it is okay for the A.D. to lie to recruits. Go Figure. If you think this is okay then you need to go too.

jarvol writes:

Alot you have the Big Orange glasses on and drinking the koolaid if you think UT is a great basketball job or even the best open job or that Knoxville is the greatest place in the world to live. UT football might be able to claim a its a top 10 job and UT still had to settle for its 6th or 7th candidate.

westknoxrepub writes:

in response to jarvol:

Alot you have the Big Orange glasses on and drinking the koolaid if you think UT is a great basketball job or even the best open job or that Knoxville is the greatest place in the world to live. UT football might be able to claim a its a top 10 job and UT still had to settle for its 6th or 7th candidate.

Football could have had a better hire had Hamilton been willing to spend. He wasn't, and he won't for basketball. . .he's looking for a bargain basement hire, while everyone else in the SEC is trying to upgrade (outside of the state of Mississippi). Going for the safe conservative hire makes no sense, because people didn't HATE Pearl, they loved his personality and if you bring in the anti-Pearl (Marshall or Byrd) that's one strike, then when he doesn't win people will be jumping ship like they were on the Titanic. It'll be four years of misery before we fire him and start this process over again.

acworthdave writes:

NC State has not been relevant in basketball since Valvano left campus. Sometimes I think he put a curse on that school. Good luck finding a quality HC with Duke and UNC in their back yard.

GT has some tradition but that program is light years from Cremins heyday. Their gym is a joke and Paul Hewitt has sucked the life out of that program. It is not a better job than UT.

Oklahoma is very similar ot UT. It does have some better results in the big dance but that was many years ago. If not for our NCAA issues, I would say UT was the superior job. Right now, it is a tie.

I have never thought that highly of the Missouri program but I seem to be in the minority there. Everyone gushes over that program but didn't their coach just leave for Arkansas. Not a ringing endorsement for the program in my opinion but I know Anderson has some Hog history.

I will continue to beat this drum but we need a coach to lead us through this mess for 3-5 years and then we can find our long-term guy. I believe that man is Bobby Cremins. I think the fan base would like the move. It would make a positive splash in the media. He can recruit NBA type talent and plays a fun style of basketball. I cannot think of any negatives.

Orangeblood13 writes:

Crappy admin

Crappy news writers

Crappy ad

Yeah they will be lining up to come here

tennezz writes:

in response to RollTideJoe:

Check the stats and see who has the second most SEC titles in basketball. It's not Tennessee.

Go back to sleep...We will send for you if we need you!

FWBVol writes:

in response to westknoxrepub:

Football could have had a better hire had Hamilton been willing to spend. He wasn't, and he won't for basketball. . .he's looking for a bargain basement hire, while everyone else in the SEC is trying to upgrade (outside of the state of Mississippi). Going for the safe conservative hire makes no sense, because people didn't HATE Pearl, they loved his personality and if you bring in the anti-Pearl (Marshall or Byrd) that's one strike, then when he doesn't win people will be jumping ship like they were on the Titanic. It'll be four years of misery before we fire him and start this process over again.

I don't know where you get the impression that Hamilton won't pony up the big bucks for a basketball coach. Pearl was the second or third highest paid coach in the conference behind Donavon and Calapari.

Hamilton paid big bucks for Kiffin and his staff, the money was just more assistant heavy at Kiffin's request. I know that we had the highest payroll for assistant coaches in 2009 and the second or third overall football salary structure behind Bama and Florida and both of those schools had superstar head coaches.

Hamilton has to be aware of the criticism he's receiving and I think he'll have no problems opening the checkbook for the right guy.

FWBVol writes:

in response to rbwusa:

The Athletic Director of the University made the worst decision in college Sports this year. He LET GO one of the premier Coaches in College basketball. I'm an outsider looking in and I can tell you when TENN hired Burce Pearl all media in the country turned to Tennessee as a potential NCAA winner. Now that's all history. I can't name a college coach in the Nation that even wants to come to Tennessee unless he or she is in a lower league. Frankly I'm gonna tell it like it is Your A/D at the University made a very bad decision I don't care if Burce Pearl flew to another state and talked to a kid personally about playing for TN over a hambuger at Wendy's that's just rules by the NCAA yeah we would have had to and still will have to put up with couple years of stuff but in the END we'd come roaring back cause Kids know Burce Pearl knows what he's doing when it comes to basketball and so does the Media. Watch what happens to USC let's see if they fire their coach it isn't gonna happen because they believe in him and will ride it out and will benifit from it in a Very Big Way but NOT TENNESSEE it's back to the drawing boards there are no coaches available even close to Pearl and it's all because of a Business minded A/D and not a Sports minded Athletic Director. Hamiltion should GO because Tennessee Basketball already has for many years!

Tennessee didn't have a choice about firing Pearl. Bruce (not Burce) Pearl dug his own grave when he continued to work outside the rules after lying to the NCAA.

Yes, he is a great basketball coach, and was a great ambassador for UT basketball, but, in the eyes of many people, he lost all credibility with the lies to the NCAA and his inability to follow the rules even when he knew he had two strikes against him.

This year we were very average at best closing out 12-15 in the last 27 games after a 7-0 start.

Tennessee can be a great basketball school, but Pearl had too much baggage, and there's a good chance if UT had waited until the NCAA gave its final ruling in June, Pearl would have been history any way.

HOSSFLY writes:

in response to Witch_Doctors:

Witch Doctor say anything can be done if thrown enough money. Witch Doctor pretty sure Haslam gouging us right now at the pumps to ensure we hire good(lol. kidding! Witch Doctor not want to see Pilot gas truck cruising in Witch Doctor neighborhood again).
Bones never lie.

you're too much, man. always good stuff !

but what are you talking about......don't ya'll live in the same neighborhood ?

with that said, i hope the University goes big with it's hire. we need an infusion of good news.

HHUUMMBBLLEE writes:

HAMILTON FIRED TOMMORROW ACCORDING TO SOURCES

knoxchatter writes:

in response to cwbytruckers:

If the media see's that the A.D. is a problem. Why can't Tennessee.

When in doubt cwbytruckers, always choose answer 'C' .

A. choose answer c.
B. choose answer c.
C. because of the university's unwavering
tradition of reacting to/resolving
problems when they've gotten way out of
hand or nearly impossible to solve timely
and feasibly.
D. all of the above.

As for 'VOLUVR's' response to this comment....has not all of the turmoil in the past few years occurred on Hamilton's watch? A rockslide always begins at the top!

miketn6 writes:

Anyone who can convince a coach that Hamilton knows what he is doing is overqualified to be part of the UT Administration. Hamilton isn't a liar, but he is a bumbling, media whor_, laughingstock of an AD.

budd#207344 writes:

Mike Strange, a piece of advice. don't ask tony barnfart anything about any school except gawga. And that will always be positive. He is one of the biggest homers in the media and it amazes me why people think he knows anything much less that he is impartial

illinoisvolfan writes:

in response to HHUUMMBBLLEE:

HAMILTON FIRED TOMMORROW ACCORDING TO SOURCES

Is this wishful thinking, or are you one of the sources in question?

As much as I'd like to believe this, I won't believe it until see the press conference announcing it. Even then, someone may have to pinch me to make sure I'm not dreaming.

hikerdude writes:

I'm afraid Tony Barnhart has it right. We're going to have a hard time getting a good caoch to take this job. I miss Bruce already.

watchdog writes:

in response to illinoisvolfan:

Is this wishful thinking, or are you one of the sources in question?

As much as I'd like to believe this, I won't believe it until see the press conference announcing it. Even then, someone may have to pinch me to make sure I'm not dreaming.

Seconded. First of all, I don't see us conducting business like that on a Saturday. Second, if our university wants to present itself as being at least minimally rational, consider this. Would we seriously follow Hamilton's gaffe of pulling the rug out from under Pearl right before we played Michigan, by firing Hamilton the same day the Lady Vols play in the regional semis?

winVol writes:

in response to Voluvr:

Media isn't always right. Neither are you.

but in this case he or she is right

watchdog writes:

Say what you want about Hamilton's rationale in dealing with Pearl, but this:

“'I think that we’ve done a lot of soul-searching about the direction of our program and we’ll continue to do that, and we’ll decide after we’re out of the NCAA tournament what the direction is we’ll go next,' Hamilton added."

This is dogging University of Tennessee student athletes who didn't have anything at all to do with whatever was coming down for Pearl, practically right before tip-off. Say "we'll deal with Pearl after we win this thing" and everyone is looking at that interview in a whole different light.

miketn6 writes:

Pearl should have been let go earlier than he was. If it were up to Hamilton, he'd probably still be our coach.

Hamilton's issues include:
1) Messy handling of the Fulmer termination, which was never going to be pretty, but it could have been handled much better than it was
2) Not being able to control Kiffin or Pearl. Obviously, they did not respect or fear Hamilton.
3) Cancelling the UT vs NC football game
4) Way too much interaction with the media for an AD and bad choices of when to interact. He comnes across as a clueless clown.
5) He has overseen the steady decline of the football program and the basketball program is blowing up in his face. Neyland hasn't been full for a game in years. Thompson Boling is about to have the same problem, at least for a year or two.

Hamilton, who from everything I know is a fine man, is in the wrong job for his skill set. His acclaimed fundraising abilities are about to take a hit. He is not liked or respected by a large part of the UT fan base. He just needs to move on.

gwills228#231210 writes:

in response to cwbytruckers:

If the media see's that the A.D. is a problem. Why can't Tennessee.

it's called$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$! hamilton may not be the best judge of hiring coaches,but he knows how to bring money to u.t. and THAT is the bottom line for cheek and the trustees!

johnlg00 writes:

in response to RollTideJoe:

Check the stats and see who has the second most SEC titles in basketball. It's not Tennessee.

I think he was talking about head-to-head competition. Bama hasn't played UK nearly as many times as UT has. UT has WAY more wins over UK than any other SEC school. If you asked any UK fan if their biggest rival was UT or Bama, you know what the answer would be.

BTW, I think Bama was SKAROOED in not making the NCAA this year. It has a proud basketball tradition and Grant seems to be doing a really good job there. I'm sure he learned this year that he needs to upgrade their non-conference schedule and beat somebody good out of the conference. The Tide should win the NIT and should have a good team next year, especially if Green stays. That said, Bama-UK is nowhere near the direct rivalry that UT-UK is.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to acworthdave:

NC State has not been relevant in basketball since Valvano left campus. Sometimes I think he put a curse on that school. Good luck finding a quality HC with Duke and UNC in their back yard.

GT has some tradition but that program is light years from Cremins heyday. Their gym is a joke and Paul Hewitt has sucked the life out of that program. It is not a better job than UT.

Oklahoma is very similar ot UT. It does have some better results in the big dance but that was many years ago. If not for our NCAA issues, I would say UT was the superior job. Right now, it is a tie.

I have never thought that highly of the Missouri program but I seem to be in the minority there. Everyone gushes over that program but didn't their coach just leave for Arkansas. Not a ringing endorsement for the program in my opinion but I know Anderson has some Hog history.

I will continue to beat this drum but we need a coach to lead us through this mess for 3-5 years and then we can find our long-term guy. I believe that man is Bobby Cremins. I think the fan base would like the move. It would make a positive splash in the media. He can recruit NBA type talent and plays a fun style of basketball. I cannot think of any negatives.

Good post. Agree completely about GT and NCSU. IMHO, UT also stacks up very well against OK and Mizzou. If we can't get a younger "big-name" who would hopefully stay for awhile, I could get behind Cremins for the reasons you mentioned. I could also back Rick Byrd if we had to "settle".

VOL1972 writes:

Living in Nashville and being UT fan for almost 50 years, my perspective may be tinted, but I think Byrd would be an excellent choice (although it will never happen).

Bruce Pearl was one of a kind. We are not going to get that lucky again. We are going to have to put some time between Pearl and the next really good hire. Byrd could be that guy. He knows exactly what goes on at UT. He can coach. The jury is out on his recruiting skills, but he has done a pretty decent job at Belmont without the facilities and prestige that UT has.

If he isn't winning after 3 or 4 years, then we are in a much better position to bring in a name coach -- and it might not be a bad idea to get the blessing of the NCAA when we hire that guy.

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