The nice thing about this NCAA tournament is that it keeps offering up possibilities for programs seeking a coach, which describes Georgia Tech. (And also Kennesaw State. But no longer Georgia State, which has hired Ron Hunter of IUPUI.) To our Tech short list of last week, we attach Shaka Smart of VCU and Buzz Williams of Marquette. But we affix asterisks to both.
If you’re a program seeking a coach, what you hope is that your targeted man wins an NCAA game to pique your interest — and also your fans’ interest — and then loses before the first weekend is done. The trouble with Smart and Williams, and also Chris Mooney of Richmond, is that their teams are still playing. And a school seeking a coach can’t really interview a guy if his team’s still playing.
Georgia Tech spent last week preparing itself for this week. (Athletic director Dan Radakovich went to Columbus with the women’s team.) Tech has its list and figures to start interviewing candidates very soon now, but logistics could become an issue. About all Radakovich has said about his coaching vacancy is that he’d like to fill it it before the Final Four, which convenes Friday, April 1. That gives him 10 days.
But Richmond, Marquette and VCU don’t play until Friday night. That doesn’t mean it would be impossible to hire one of those coaches before March is done. (This assumes the coach’s team doesn’t qualify for the Final Four, which probably isn’t a safe assumption.) It does mean Radakovich would have to move really fast.
What to know about Smart: He’s 33 and has been a head coach only two seasons. He was an assistant at Clemson under Oliver Purnell and at Florida under Billy Donovan. The past two Rams coaches — Jeff Capel and Anthony Grant — have jumped to bigger jobs. (Although Capel just got fired at Oklahoma.) On Jan. 3 his team lost at Georgia State by 10 points. In the NCAA his Rams have beaten Southern Cal, Georgetown and Purdue by an aggregate 49 points.
What to know about Williams: He’s 38 and has taken Marquette to the NCAA tournament the past three seasons. He spent one season as head coach at New Orleans but resigned — in July — to accept a job as Tom Crean’s assistant at Marquette. His first real job came when, while still a student at Oklahoma City, he badgered the Texas-Arlington coach into hiring him. His nickname came from his days as a student at Navarro College, where the head coach described him as “buzzing” around the program. His given name is Brent.
Possible complication: Williams is considered the front-runner for the Oklahoma job, one of three schools — North Carolina State and Arkansas are the others — that figure to have more money to spend than Tech. That said: Wouldn’t a guy nicknamed Buzz fit better here than anywhere else?
(Oh, and I should probably say this again: I haven’t included Brad Stevens on any Tech list for the simple reason that I don’t think he’ll leave Butler anytime soon, if ever. I see Stevens as the new Mark Few, who remains at Gonzaga despite repeated attempts by richer schools to pry him away. But I’ve been wrong before, most recently about Purdue making the Final Four.)
By Mark Bradley