I have to admit, I feel a little guilty about Jim Crews being canned. He was a good person who happened to be terrible at assembling his own competitive basketball program. Not that I think that I/we had anything to do with his dismissal, but we said some pretty horrendous things about him on this blog that made me question my moral character.
Don’t misinterpret that statement though, I’m also not going to stop saying horrible things about him on this blog but at least we can finally turn the page. We can all take some comfort knowing Captain Crews is laying on a couch some where watching NCAA women’s basketball drinking Arby’s au jus sauce out of a crazy straw.
But while Jim debates whether or not spray cheese is considered a dairy product, Saint Louis University has officially begun its head coaching search. It’s time to throw around some names that could rebuild the program after the mistake we have made. After all, I can only assume billibuckets.com and Doc Chaifetz are the two most influential outsiders for the Billiken Basketball program.
Let’s start by looking at the open market, meaning what other ‘big’ school programs have vacancies at the head coaching position. While this list will certainly change over the course of the next two weeks (Louisville? Memphis? Are the nets stupid enough to give Calipari $120 million?) As of today, the most notable programs who have recent openings are:
- Saint Louis University
- University of Nevada – Las Vegas
- University of Central Florida
- Oklahoma State University
- Rutgers University
- Denver University
That’s a decently favorable open market. You have to assume that UNLV and and OSU are the best jobs available, but after that you could argue the rankings either way. But even then, SLU appears to be one of the better positions available on the men’s basketball scene. This is good news that means they should be able to pursue higher profile candidates with some actual seriousness.
We’re going to take a look at some candidates in a second, but I wanted to explain myself a little before you get annoyed that I didn’t include some of your irrelevant favorites. The candidates below are basketball coaches that I feel would be a good fit for the program because they already have head coaching experience. I don’t want SLU to take the risk of hiring a first time head coach, the pool of candidates is saturated enough where I don’t feel that risk is necessary. It’s also been report that Chris May wants to hit a home-run with this hire (Uh…duh? I’d hope…?), so money will play a role but it may not restrict them on offering contracts to some of the best available. However, because it is an important factor, I’ll attempt to estimate the cost associated with the head coach in my review and use that in my ‘ranking’:
- $ = Under $1M/year
- $$ = $1M – $1.5M/year
- $$$ = $1.5 – $2M/year
- $$$$ = Over $2M/year (would put the coach in the ‘top 20’ of highest paid NCAA men’s bball coaches)
So let’s go ahead and get into it. I’m not totally sold on the list below, but I feel pretty confident that I would be okay with any one of these coaches taking the reigns at the crown jewel of midtown. The order is ascending based on my preference.
Name: Andrew Toole
School: Robert Morris University
NCAA Appearances: 1
What I like: Maybe it’s just his boyish good looks, but I really like Andrew Toole. I like that he’s young (sixth youngest in NCAA D1) and he’s had notable success in hist first coaching gig. In his 5 years with the Colonials, Toole has taken RMU to two NIT tournaments and it’s first NCAA tournament win since 1983. Also, Toole only makes a little over $210,000 this year so he could be a relatively cheap option for the Billikens. Even during the garbage 2015-2016 season, his team has historically been incredibly efficient at forcing turnovers and generating transition points, something that has plagued our Billikens for the last couple of years.
What I don’t like: His team effing SUCKS this year and his success comes from a small sample size. He’s done well, but his conference has one of the weakest strengths of schedule in college basketball (ranked 30 out of the 32 conferences). He’s also only been able to recruit one three star recruit during his time at RMU, and that dude bolted for UMBC…
Name: Rick Stansbury
School: Texas A&M (asst.)
NCAA Appearances: 6
What I like: I think this would be a solid hire. In his 14 years at Mississippi State, he went 293-166 (.638), won the SEC 5 times, and took them to the tourny 6 times. It’s maybe not the most impressive resume on the list, but it also should be noted that he has played a huge role in Texas A&M’s success this year, as he is credit with some of their top recruits as that appears to be one of his biggest draws to programs.
What I don’t like: He has fantastic recruiting classes but is not able to capitalize on the talent that’s available to him. He was always successful at MSU but never in an impressive way. Similar to Memphis, Illinois, and Oklahoma: Sure, they’re around, but what have they actually accomplished? He retired from Mississippi State only to accept an assistant head coaching position at Texas A&M, and while they pulled in a top-10 recruiting class….that’s all he can put his name to.
Name: Anthony Grant
School: None – Oklahoma City Thunder Asst.
NCAA Appearances: 3
What I like: He has already had success in the A10. At his first head coaching gig at VCU, he took them to 2 NCAA tournaments and, the lone season they didn’t make it to the tourney, they were 24-8. He’s always had great recruiting classes as well. When VCU went to the final four two years after he left for Alabama, you could argue he had built that team since all the starters were upper classmen. He also did very well at Alabama in his first four years, compiling high win seasons (worst was 17-15 in his first year) and obtaining a AP poll ranking as high as 12. After making a jump to a much tougher schedule, there is comfort knowing his coaching strategy was persistently successful.
What I don’t like: The reason he isn’t a head coach anymore is because he got canned by Bama and took the assistant coaching gig with his pal Billy Donovan. There are a lot of concerns around his ability to actually develop the talent that he’s able to recruit. If he came back to a mid-major conference do we think that he could have abundance success like before? It might be worth a look.
Name: Brad Underwood
School: Stephen F. Austin
NCAA Appearances: 2
What I like: His record, Holy Lord. At SFA this cat is 87-13 (.870). I have to admit I didn’t even know who this clown was up until Tuesday when one of our random million viewers mentioned him to me. His team also effing CRUSHES their opponents, with an average margin of victory of 12.6 pts, 13.2 pts, and 16.4 pts in since 2012-2013. He’s a Frank Martin product, having serving under him at Kansas State and South Carolina. And while normally I would say the recruitment of two-star recruits is a negative, Underwood turns these kids into some remarkable great offenses AND defenses, and recruiting to a school like SFA must be tough. This year SFA is the 11th best Offense and the 4th ranked defense based on ORtg and DRtg. His conference is a joke but it’s hard to argue that he hasn’t been wildly successful.
What I don’t like: His conference suuuuuuuucks. It’s not as bad as the NEC which Robert Morris plays, but it’s still not very competitive. In addition, the last guy who had success as SFA and took a better coaching job is crapping himself in the mid-majors. Danny Kaspar, who had a winning percentage of ~.700 in his final four years at SFA, has a .398 winning percentage in the damn Sun Belt conference. Is that fair to hold against him?
Name: P.J. Carlesimo
NCAA Appearances: 6
What I like: I’m only including PJ in this listing because it was rumored that Doc Chaifetz flew to New York in December to have dinner with him. I wouldn’t hate it though? He’s old for sure, but it’s he’s had a great college basketball coaching career (NBA not so much). He took Seton Hall to 6 NCAA tourny appearances and 1 Final Four appearance. It was a SUPER long time ago that he last did those things (1994), but it’s not like he hasn’t been around the game. Hell, Majerus was an analyst before SLU hired him and he was an enormous success. He’s also a gold medalist who’s coached alongside the best. My favorite thing about Carlesimo is what he could bring with him to the sidelines. He’s been around the game so long that almost every weakness he has (say, recruiting) can be mitigating by a stud assistant coach.
What I don’t like: I really doubt he has the ability to recruit. I think that his understanding of the game is undeniable, but he also strikes me as the type of guy that would drink the milk rather than smell it to check if it’s expired. He seems so harmless that I don’t think he can handle the big egos associated with college basketball these days.
Name: Travis Ford
School: None – bitch just got canned
NCAA Appearances: 6
What I like: In one of the toughest conferences in men’s NCCAA D1 basketball, he took a non-powerhouse school to 6 tournaments in 8 years which is a percentage I would be very pleased with. He recruited the likes of Marcus Smart, Phil Forte, Juwan Evans, and Markel Brown (who is chilling with Wille Reed on the Nets) and dealt with Smart’s annoying ass ego. The administration obviously wasn’t happy with the performance of the team this year, but this is the Big-12, they have different expectations. There is no way that Travis Ford won’t be coaching basketball next season, the only question is “Where?”
What I don’t like: Sometimes coaches just seem like they’ve peaked, ya know? Ford pulled in reputable recruits and got to the NCAA tournament 6 out of 8 seaons, but they lost in the “second” (can we all just agree this is really the first round?) 5 of the 6 times. I get the sense that this guy might have have plateaued, and while it’s certainly something I’d accept; I don’t think there is any untapped potential we’d be getting here.
Name: Steve Lavin
School: None – He’s chilling on the airwaves
NCAA Appearances: 10
What I like: This will be easy…In eleven full seasons as a head coach, Lavin had led teams to ten postseason appearances, highlighted by eight NCAA Tournament berths, an Elite Eight (’97), five NCAA Regional Semifinals (’97, ’98, ’00, ’01, ’02) and nine campaigns of twenty or more wins. Additionally, Lavin has coached 16 players who went on to play in the NBA. During one stretch, from 1997 through 2006, Lavin had a player chose in ten consecutive NBA Drafts. We’re done here.
What I don’t like: He’s so perfect for TV, and a mean that in a bad way. There’s something so coastal about him that I doubt he would consider coming to St. Louis of all places. As far as a basketball coach, I don’t know what is not to like. You could argue that he isn’t doesn’t have a remarkable basketball mind and maybe that’s true…but I would argue the accomplishments listed above and tell you your being an idiot. As bad as it is to say, I wouldn’t really give a damn about player development if we’re pushing our sweet sixteens every year, and his past says he can do that. He would command a justifiably large salary, he’d be #1 on my list if I felt like this was actually a possibility.
Name: Bryce Drew
NCAA Appearances: 2
What I like: If we want him – and we do want him, we’re going to have to pay a premium for him to make the small jump to a mid-major conference. There is no reason to think this guy isn’t as good as people hope him to be and I pray to God that he’s sick and tired of the damn Horizon league. For someone who starred at Valparaiso on a player, he’s certainly reached his coaching limits at one of the smaller schools in a basketball saturated state. He’s got a .714 winning percentage in 5 years at his alma mater. This year the team went 26-6 and they will probably not make it to the NCAA tournament. Why is that a positive? Cause it’s damn infuriating to do that well and have one loss in your shitty conference tournament decide your post-season relevancy. You post a 26-6 season in the A10 and you’re getting to the tournament, that’s a plus. What I also like is how he didn’t get the Iowa State job last year. Not only does it show he is interested in exploring options outside Valparaiso, Iowa State said NO. Maybe it was too big of a move too quick. I would more than happy for him to use Saint Louis / A10 as his stepping stone to greatness.
What I don’t like: It’s not that I don’t get it, but I like the idea that a coach would stick around at SLU once they bring the program back to relevancy, and I don’t think that’s in his career trajectory. Also, apart from commanding a high salary, his buyout from Valparaiso is going to cost some coin, he still has 7 years left on his deal. Good news is that he only makes $285,000.
There’s cetainly a number of directions the Billikens can go here, but I would consider the top 4 the ‘home run’ hires that May is supposedly trying to hit. If there is any interest, maybe we can do an article every couple days on some of the rumors that are out there.