Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Tim Floyd Swept Up In The College Coaching Carousel

This off-season figured to be an active one for college athletic directors. Several good coaching jobs were set to be available, and with a few schools recently making new hires, the coaching carousel is currently spinning out of control.

John Calipari going to Kentucky was the big news Wednesday, but later that evening came the news that Tim Floyd was in Tucson interviewing for the Arizona job. A position that became available following the retirement of Lute Olson. Russ Pennell, who was supposed to be an assistant for Olson this season, served as Arizona’s interim coach but was told quite early that he would not be retained on a permanent basis—despite getting the Wildcats to the Sweet 16.

Floyd’s interest in Arizona was quite peculiar to some. It’s not that often you see a coach move from one job to the next within the same conference. Tubby Smith did it by going from Georgia to Kentucky. But certain programs, such as UK, UNC, KU and UCLA, are on a different level. Any coach would want to take that job. Arizona, however, is not exactly one of those schools.

One obvious reason Floyd would leave the beach for the desert would be money. Arizona will always pays its basketball coach more than USC. But even beyond that, Floyd is not exactly a big city guy. He grew up in the Hattiesburg, Mississippi and went to school at Southern Miss and Louisana Tech. Both of those campuses couldn’t fill up LA’s Memorial Coliseum. As much as money is a motivation for any coach, lifestyle is sometimes even more important.

So with Floyd reportedly going to Arizona, two prime jobs are now available—Memphis & USC. Calipari had tried to get Memphis Athletic Director RC Johnson to hire UTEP Head Coach Tony Barbee, who had served on Calipari’s staff with the Tigers. However, Johnson made it perfectly clear Wednesday that he has much higher aspirations.

Missouri’s Mike Anderson would have been a great choice for Memphis, but Anderson—the last coach to hand Memphis a Conference USA loss when he was at UAB—just re-upped with Missouri for another 7 years.

I think Johnson should make a serious pitch at Oklahoma’s Jeff Capel. He’s done a tremendous job in just three seasons leading the Sooners. Of course, having future number one draft pick Blake Griffin certainly helped. But Capel has also shown his recruiting skills are no joke. He currently has commitments from two McDonald’s All-Americans for next season.

Some might wonder why he would leave the Big 12 for Conference USA. Excuse me, but didn’t John Calipari just prove what you can do at Memphis even if you play in C-USA? Final Fours are Final Fours regardless of the conference in which you play.

Sean Miller is another hot commodity on the coaching circuit. Since moving from his assistant role at Xavier to replacing his boss, Thad Matta, Miller has turned Butler into a mid-major powerhouse. But the question is can he recruit the “best of the best” as Calipari said he did while at Memphis—something Tigers fans would certainly expect the new coach to do.

But even if he falls short of Calipari’s recruiting acumen—which he will—Memphis is a hotbed of athletic talent. A coach could recruit nothing but kids from the Mid-South and keep his program perennially in the Top 25.

With coaches and athletic directors all converging on Detroit this week for the Final Four, expect even more coaching news to start spilling out over the next few days.

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