LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Lists are fun. Recruiting lists. Hot Seat lists. Coaching prospect lists.
Let’s make a list. Lists are fun.
Let’s make this list about the Can’t Miss, Slam Dunk, Grand Slam, Hire This Guy TODAY!!! College coaching prospects of recent years.
Shaka Smart must be on that list. Close to the top. Maybe in the first spot.
Thoughtful. Driven, Charismatic.
Took VCU to the Final Four. Created his signature style of frenzied defensive basketball. Recruiting dynamo. Plug him into an ambitious place with unlimited resources, like maybe Texas, and watch him go, go, go.
If Shaka was not your No. 1 Slam Dunk guy, maybe I can talk you into Penny Hardaway. I believe his fan club called him the Mayor of Memphis.
Penny’s gift of gab was so sensational that he talked Memphis into firing Tubby Smith, a coach who actually won a national title and took three programs to the NCAA Sweet 16 to hire Penny.
That happened in 2018, even though Penny’s primary credentials were that he had coached AAU and high school basketball.
Of course, his other credentials were his recruiting ties and that he was Penny, a guy who sweet-talked everybody in the media into believing that he was The Next Great Thing.
The next name will stir indigestion in Bloomington but Archie Miller belongs on that list. Yes, yes, he does.
Miller got his Dayton teams to play dazzling defense and enough offense to make four consecutive NCAA Tournaments, including an Elite Eight. Give Miller the keys to Simon Skojdt Assembly Hall and get out of his way.
It’s time to interrupt my list with some breaking news:
In 13 combined seasons at Texas (Smart), Memphis (Hardaway) and Indiana (Miller), the Longhorns, Tigers and Hoosiers combined to earn miles of happy words from their media fan club members and win ZERO NCAA Tournament games.
Smart went 0 for 3, twice losing to teams with worse seeds. Don’t ask about Hardaway and Miller.
(Yes, all three were denied their shots to advance in the 2020 NCAA Tournament because of the novel coronavirus but the record suggests they were not denied much.)
No national titles. No Final Fours. No Elite Eights. No Sweet 16s. No Round of 32.
No Slam Dunks. No Grand Slams.
Miller has been fired. Smart just lost to Abilene Christian in the first round of the NCAA Tournament and could also be gone. Anybody heard from Penny?
Indiana athletic director Scott Dolson is 10 days into his search to replace Miller, who was justifiably dismissed for the mediocre basketball he brought to IU for four seasons.
People who argue that Miller deserved more time are people who couldn’t find their way to Bloomington without a navigation app and didn’t watch more than 2 or 3 dreary Indiana games all season. It wasn’t working.
Celtics coach Brad Stevens is out of consideration. There has been little buzz about another Slam Dunk/Grand Slam candidate.
The chatter has inevitably dissolved from predicting the name of Indiana’s next coach to wondering if Indiana is at risk of causing more damage to its brand and program if the search results in a low-wattage name — like one of the 5 or so former IU players who have been mentioned for the job.
No way that I can let this moment pass without using it as a teaching moment:
Hiring a prime time college basketball coach is a challenging, risky and difficult task.
There aren’t any grand slams. An athletic director is doing well if he manages to produce a double. Some candidates actually start in the on-deck circle and work their way into scoring position.
Some of the best coaches in the game generated shrugs before they became household names.
Nobody was scrambling to hire Mark Few before Gonzaga promoted him. Jay Wright had solid credentials at Hofstra but he didn’t kick up the hype of Smart, Hardaway or Miller.
Anybody could have hired Leonard Hamilton before he became one of the best coaches in the Atlantic Coast Conference at Florida State.
Porter Moser of Loyola (Chicago) is the Flavor of the Week as the Ramblers storm into their second Sweet 16 in 4 seasons.
In 2017, Moser finished his 13th with no NCAA Tournament appearance and a single 20-win season.
There are other names. But the point is that nobody knows who will hit and who will miss.
Maybe Scott Dolson will recruit a Slam Dunk/Grand Slam guy who will earn love songs from the national media and win the introductory press conference.
But Indiana won the press conference last time. It just didn’t win enough games.
This time it’s more important that they hire somebody who fits in the job, wins games and advances in the NCAA Tournament.
Unlike Shaka Smart, Penny Hardaway and Archie Miller.
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