LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — Some coaches fast-break to Next Great Coach status, stumble in prime time and eventually get a second chance to do it better.
A starter list would include Jeff Capel, Travis Ford and Mark Fox. Actually you’d better throw in Mike Anderson, who landed at St. John’s less than 20 seconds after he was punted by Arkansas.
For others, the phone never rings.
John Thompson III (Georgetown) sits prominently on that list. As does Louisville assistant Dino Gaudio (Wake Forest). You’ve likely forgotten Todd Lickliter (Iowa). There are surely others but even I’ve forgotten them.
The second list has lost two members with strong local ties this month.
One is former Kentucky Unforgettable John Pelphrey, 50, who has been recruited to coach Tennessee Tech eight long seasons after he was fired by Arkansas. Pehlprey worked his way back while assisting at Florida and Alabama.
The other is former Western Kentucky unforgettable Darrin Horn, who is bound for Northern Kentucky seven seasons after he was dismissed by South Carolina. He’s 46 — and eager to help another program celebrate a March to remember.
If you were keeping score on social media, the winner was Horn, who received a congratulatory Tweet from Dwyane Wade, a guy that Horn helped develop at Marquette.
Yes sir. Let’s go Coach Horn! Congrts! https://t.co/lgLRTHi2Dh— DWade (@DwyaneWade) April 23, 2019
It was Horn’s solid work during four seasons as Tom Crean’s assistant in Milwaukee that deliver five solid seasons as the head coach at his alma mater, Western Kentucky.
Of the 11 guys who have followed Ed Diddle and John Oldham at WKU, Horn had the best winning percentage (.698) — and that list includes coaches who moved upward and onward like Ralph Willard, Gene Keady, Dennis Felton and Clem Haskins.
Horn never had a losing season in Bowling Green and his last four teams won at least 22 games. Here’s an excellent trivia question:
Name the guy who played and coached WKU’s last two NCAA Sweet Sixteen teams — Horn (1993, player), 2008 (coach).
In his farewell season, Horn developed the highest-ranked WKU team during the 18 seasons of Ken Pomeroy’s basketball analytics site. WKU climbed to No. 43 nationally, ahead of Villanova, Syracuse, UNLV, Illinois, Minnesota and others by winning 29 of 36 games.
That was the Courtney Lee/Tyrone Brazelton team that toppled Drake and San Diego in the NCAA Tournament before losing a Sweet Sixteen game to Russell Westbrook, Kevin Love and UCLA.
Horn had his choice of several DI jobs in March 2008. He picked South Carolina, a place that had not won an NCAA Tournament game since 1973.
It didn’t go well — at least not as well as it has gone for Frank Martin, who followed Horn in 2012.
There were things the school could have done better. There were things Horn could have done better — and he planned to do everything better, if he got a second chance.
Sometimes, like Pelphrey, Horn wondered when that chance would come.
He worked three seasons as a basketball analyst, mostly for ESPN, squeezed between several strategic appearances at WDRB on SportsPageLive.
For the last four seasons, Horn has been a top assistant for his friend, Shaka Smart, at Texas. This will be the third consecutive season the Longhorns will send a big man into the first round of the NBA Draft — and Horn has earned credit for his work with Jarrett Allen (Brooklyn), Mo Bamba (Orlando) and Jaxson Hayes.
Hayes, for the record, was a Darrin Horn special, a beguiling, 6-foot-11 defensive menace who will likely be an NBA Lottery pick in June, even though 247Sports.com ranked him no better than the No. 102 recruit in the Class of 2018.
Texas assistant Darrin Horn to become head coach of Northern KentuckyThe man who helped mold and develop Jarrett Allen and Mo Bamba and Jaxson Hayes is moving up in the world.https://t.co/2blOT3rNtJ https://t.co/7ymiWdTbiK— Social News (@Social__News_) April 24, 2019
Horn knew better, encouraging Smart to recruit Hayes as if he was one of the five best players in America.
It’s coincidental that Hayes played at Moeller High School in Cincinnati, the same Metro area that Horn will now work fervently as John Brannen’s replacement at NKU.
Sometimes things just work out. Horn is getting his shot thanks to the stiff buyouts Jamie Dixon had at TCU and Rick Barnes had at Tennessee.
If UCLA could have met the price of either guy, chances are Horn would be in Austin, welcoming two quality frontcourt prospects to Texas.
But UCLA worked its way down the hiring list to Mick Cronin of Cincinnati, which opened a spot for Brannen to leave NKU, which gave athletic director Ken Bothof the opening to bring Horn back to Kentucky for the second chance he has long deserved.
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