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Replacing Rick Barnes: Examining the Coaching Candidates

If Texas were to cut ties with Rick Barnes, who are the candidates to replace him? BON breaks down the field.

Stew Morrill won't be the next basketball coach of The University of Texas.
Stew Morrill won't be the next basketball coach of The University of Texas.
Christian Petersen

In the previous installment of this series, we took a look at how Rick Barnes' resume compares with some of his peers. Today, we turn our attention to the broader field of head coaches who might replace Rick Barnes if Texas were to decide to let him go.

The list below is pretty comprehensive, spanning a wide range of candidates while attempting to characterize them as candidates. How likely is the coach to be willing to leave his current position? How realistic is it that he would come to Texas? What makes him desirable, and what might give us pause? In what ways, if any, does the coach provide an upgrade over Rick Barnes?

Read through the candidates and let us know who you would be interested in interviewing.

The Favorite

Buzz Williams (Current position: Marquette, Previous positions: New Orleans)

Buzz Williams is a highly-paid major conference coach that is enjoying a great deal of success at his present institution. In other words, he has a profile that doesn't suggest he is likely to move to a different job.

Except that he is from Texas, and it is widely assumed that he would leave Marquette if offered the head spot in Austin. (This assumption may soon be tested.)

Williams is a "character," in the sense that he gives amusing interviews, wears awesome jackets, and trolls opposing fans by dancing to Country Roads. He would get booed like no one else in Morgantown.

But if he is crazy, then at least he is crazy like a fox. Williams' teams are tough as hell, raised on the gospel of paint touches. In the basketball-as-Thunderdome era that we currently find ourselves in, few coaches do a better job of getting their teams to win the wrestling match in front of the basket.

Williams spent a long time as an assistant, finally rising to prominence while on Billy Gillispie's staff at Texas A&M. Williams is credited during that time as being one of the staff's best recruiters, as well as playing a key role in keeping his erratic boss anchored to reality.

After a few years at A&M, Williams accepted the head coaching position at New Orleans. He only lasted there for one season.

"I am extremely disappointed that Buzz Williams has decided to resign," [UNO AD Jim] Miller said. "But it's his decision on what to do with his career, whatever the reasons. He has made giant strides at improving our program, for which we are grateful, and I pledge that those positive strides will continue with a new head coach."

Williams then accepted an assistant coaching position at Marquette, serving on Tom Crean's staff. After a season, Crean left for Indiana, and Williams was promoted to head coach.

Just in case Williams doesn't work out, here are some other options. But first, let's dispense with some general nonsense.

Keep dreaming

Mark Few, Shaka Smart, and Brad Stevens. Late at night, at the edge of sleep, you dream that Shaka Smart comes to Austin and makes things right. Then you drift off into a happy dream-world of candy canes and brisket.

And then you wake up. 6 AM. It's the alarm. You have to get up, get dressed, go to work, do conference calls with China, answer emails. It's reality.

In reality, Stevens, Smart, and Few aren't going anywhere. They just aren't.

Now, there is no reason to kill anyone's hopes and dreams. Feel free to fantasize about these guys all you want. But don't expect us to humor your fantasies here.

While we are at it, here is a listing of other coaches who aren't coming to Austin, unless it is to attend a niece's wedding:

John Beilein and any other successful coach at a major conference program that could and would match any offer.

Rick Pitino, John Calipari, Tom Izzo, Bill Self, and Coach K. Your delusion is of a special strain.

John Wooden, Rick Majerus, Skip Prosser and all other coaches who are dead.

Let's move on to reality, but first with a stop off in a place that probably isn't real, but might be.

Probably a pipe dream, but we're not completely sure

Gregg Marshall (Current position: Wichita State, Previous positions: Winthrop)

Maybe Marshall will leave Wichita State. Maybe, although the offer will have to be better than what North Carolina State brought a few years ago when Marshall turned them down. Marshall has a good gig, and he knows it.

The Wichita State program has been built by savvy junior college recruiting, and physical interior defense. This is how you build a successful high mid-major program in the middle of Kansas. (Much in the same way, Mark Few has built a successful program in eastern Washington by scouting and recruiting internationally, and focusing on offensive execution.)

Active major conference coaches

Tony Bennett (Current position: Virginia, Previous positions: Washington State).

There is a lot to like about Tony Bennett. Few coaches offer a more strategically sound philosophy to basketball. But this isn't surprising when you consider that Bennett is the son of and former assistant to Dick Bennett, one of the most influential coaches in the modern game. The young Bennett might be the best defensive basketball coach in the country, and his offenses aren't too bad either.

I don't know that Texas would be able to woo Bennett away from his current position in the ACC. On the other hand, I don't know that Texas wouldn't be able to do it, either.

Andy Kennedy (Current position: Mississippi, Previous positions: Cincinnati)

Kennedy has done well enough at a school that isn't known for basketball. Texas could probably woo him. But let's be honest, some really awful things would have to happen before Kennedy would become an appealing candidate to Texas.

Anthony Grant (Current position: Alabama, Previous positions: VCU)

So, if you can't hire Shaka Smart, why not go after his VCU predecessor, who did nearly as well as Smart did while in Richmond.

The story on Grant is that he is a terrific defensive coach, but his teams struggle to score. The numbers more or less support this story.

Frank Martin (Current position: South Carolina, Previous positions: Kansas State)

Angry Frank dropped too many F-bombs on the sidelines, and didn't get along with his athletic director in Manhattan. Now he coaches at South Carolina.

Texas fans know exactly what they would get from Martin. His teams are physical, they crash the glass, they defend, but the offense can be pretty ugly. Basically, this is the way that Texas fans see Rick Barnes' teams, so it would be more of the same with Martin. Of course, Martin is far, far, more terrifying than Barnes.

Dana Altman (Current position: Oregon, Previous positions: Creighton, Kansas State, Marshall)

Altman is an experienced coach with a long track record. He has won everywhere he has coached. Oregon has the financial means to retain him, should it come down to that.

Sean Miller (Current position: Arizona, Previous positions: Xavier)

I like Sean Miller. I could see him leveraging an opening at Texas into a nice pay raise, but that pay raise would come at Arizona. Arizona isn't the sort of job people leave for greener pastures, and Miller has had good opportunities to leave in the past, and has turned them down. He also has Arizona poised for a national title run.

Refurbished models

These coaches have previously held positions at high major programs, but for a variety of reasons don't hold them any longer.

Herb Sendek (Current position: Arizona State, Previous positions: North Carolina State, Miami-OH)

No one is going to get excited if their program hires Sendek, but really that is a shame. Sendek has done well, his problem was that he was unable to live up to the unreasonable expectations of NC State fans. His teams generally can score, although none have been phenomenal on defense.

Larry Eustachy (Current position: Colorado State, Previous positions: Southern Mississippi, Iowa State, Utah State, Idaho)

I think Eustachy can coach, but I worry that his best teams were recruited by someone else. I like the fact that he has earned a second chance, and I root for him. I just don't know that he is a good enough coach that I want to hand him the keys to my team.

Seth Greenberg (Current position: ESPN, Previous positions: Virginia Tech, South Florida, Long Beach State)

Seth Greenberg currently holds the Mark Gottfried America's Coach-in-Waiting endowed chair at ESPN.

Ben Howland (Current position: Free, Previous positions: UCLA, Pittsburg, Northern Arizona)

Howland could use a fresh start, and we know he can coach and recruit. His teams are not always very much fun to watch, but they win. He will end up somewhere, and will likely do well.

Tommy Amaker (Current position: Harvard, Previous positions: Michigan, Seton Hall)

I still for the life of me cannot figure out why Amaker didn't work out at Michigan. And I am not sure where his career is headed. I could see him sticking around at Harvard, building some sort of strange Ivy superpower. His recent recruiting suggests that he might just try to do that.

Mike Davis (Current position: Texas Southern, Previous positions: UAB, Indiana)

A strange chain of events that landed a one time Final Four coach in the SWAC. Davis had an NCAA tournament caliber team at Texas Southern this last year, but the shenanigans of the previous staff meant that there was no postseason for the Tigers. Coaching in the SWAC is no picnic, and you have to think Davis will move up the ladder in a year or two. But let's be real; his next move won't be to Austin; he just wouldn't be on the radar.

Tubby Smith (Current position: Texas Tech, Previous positions: Minnesota, Kentucky, Georgia, Tulsa)

Quick, let's make a list of active coaches with more than 500 wins and a national championship:

Rick Pitino

John Calipari

Mike Krzyzewski

Roy Williams

Bill Self

Jim Boeheim

Tubby Smith

Tubby Smith got a raw deal from the University of Minnesota, and as an alumnus I am still kind of pissed about it. In return for winning Minnesota's first NCAA tournament game since 1997, and its first non-vacated tournament game since 1990, Smith was fired and replaced by a guy with one year of head coaching experience who finished tied for fourth in the Sun Belt. But that guy's last name is Pitino... so Minnesota's new AD is hoping it will work out.

Smith can coach. Smith can recruit. He has won everywhere he has been. He will probably get Texas Tech back to being competitive in the Big 12. And, unlike some of his Lubbock predecessors, he is extremely unlikely to ever do anything to embarrass his institution.

At Kentucky, he was replaced by Billy Gillispie, and now he replaces Gillispie at Tech. I don't know how many more years Smith will continue to coach, but while he is still in the profession I expect that he will succeed. Just because that is all he has ever done. He wins, and he does it with class.

Keno Davis (Current position: Central Michigan, Previous positions: Providence, Drake)

Another coach's son who is an X's and O's wizard, Davis flamed out a Providence in just three seasons. But he isn't that far removed from his year at Drake, where after taking over his father's team (longtime Iowa coach Tom Davis) he was named AP coach of the year.

Davis' teams always score. We don't know enough about him yet to know if they will defend, but the man can run an offense. In college football, where there are far fewer head coaching positions, someone like Davis would have spent years as an offensive coordinator before getting a head coaching gig. But college hoops doesn't work like that; with a few notable exceptions if you excel in some way as a coach you typically end up running your own team at an early age.

Bruce Pearl (Current position: ESPN, Previous positions: Tennessee, Milwaukee)

After Ben Howland, Bruce Pearl is the most successful coach that is currently not running a team. His NCAA "show-cause" penalty expires in August of 2014, and I expect some university will pick him up. His teams play a fun and exciting up-tempo style, and they win.

The specific violations that led to Pearl's punishment are this: Pearl invited Aaron Craft and his family to his house while Craft was on an unofficial visit to Tennessee. This was a violation of NCAA rules. Pearl knew better, and compounded his problems by initially lying to NCAA investigators.

Active mid-major coaches

Josh Pastner (Current position: Memphis, Previous positions: None)

With the exception of Ben Howland, no one on this list has a better track record as a recruiter, and of course Howland did all that recruiting at UCLA. Pastner would kill at Texas in the in-state recruiting game.

Pastner is Peter's favorite guy on this list; Peter has his hope chest ready.

Also, for what it is worth, Pastner has the "great recruiter, lousy coach" label. It may not be fair, but he has it.

Dave Rice (Current position: UNLV, Previous positions: None)

Rice has also done well as a recruiter, and has racked up a lot of wins in two seasons. But two years isn't much of a track record.

Chris Mack (Current position: Xavier, Previous positions: None)

In Mack's four seasons at Xavier, he has compiled an impressive record, winning 67 percent of his games and making two Sweet 16s. The last four Xavier coaches -- Pete Gillen, Skip Prosser, Thad Matta, and Sean Miller -- have all gone on to enjoy major conference success, making Xavier the best finishing school for future major conference coaches.

But Mack might break the streak and stay. Xavier will have a spot in the new Big East, and Mack is a Cincinnati native and Xavier alumnus.

Randy Bennett (Current position: St. Mary's, Previous positions: None)

Bennett has had a pretty good run at St. Mary's, and is linked to virtually every Pac-12 opening. He hasn't taken any of them yet.

Dave Rose (Current position: BYU, Previous positions: None)

Rose has some ties to the state of Texas, as a member of Phi Slama Jama, and has put together a really impressive record at BYU. Of course, he is also a member of the church of Latter-day Saints, which I suspect makes BYU a particularly appealing job. Also, Provo is beautiful.

Bryce Drew (Current position: Valparaiso, Previous positions: None)

Now I am just trolling you with the thought that Scott Drew's brother would be the next coach of The University of Texas.

Keith Dambrot (Current position: Akron, Previous positions: Central Michigan)

Dambrot has done well enough at Akron, but there is nothing that just screams out at me that Texas should drop everything and hire him.

Jim Christian (Current position: Ohio, Previous positions: TCU, Kent State)

Christian's record when coaching a team in based the state of Ohio is 161-69. Christian's record when coaching a team based in the state of Texas is 56-73. We are starting to hit the bottom of the barrel, but there are a few treasures left.

Dave Paulsen (Current position: Bucknell, Previous positions: None)

Paulsen is a rising star and is going to have a major conference job if he wants one. His teams at Bucknell have improved each season, and he has won a total of 60 percent of his games in his five years there. His teams don't turn the ball over, and they really squeeze the paint on defense. Having Mike Muscala has helped, but let's give Paulsen some credit, too.

The Jim Larranaga category

This category requires a bit of explanation. It consists of long time coaches, mostly at mid-major institutions, that late in their career could potentially be wooed to head up a major conference program, much like Jim Larranaga at Miami. It is mostly imaginary, but it did happen for Miami, so we list these options here just to be complete. First, let's start with the man himself.

Jim Larranaga (Current position: Miami, Previous positions: George Mason, Bowling Green State)

Larranaga isn't a realistic candidate for the Texas job, but let's consider his career to see how this sort of arrangement works. Larranaga had been a head coach for 25 seasons, split between Bowling Green and George Mason, and during that time he put together some very strong teams. The highpoint of his career was reaching the 2006 Final Four with the 11th seeded George Mason Patriots.

Then, at the age of 61, Larranaga accepted the head job in Miami. His personality and grinding style of play meshed well with an upperclassmen heavy team, and in his second season Hurricane basketball broke out behind the stellar play of sophomore point guard Shane Larkin.

Stew Morrill (Current position: Utah State, Previous positions: Colorado State, Montana)

If you are a casual fan of college hoops, chances are good that you have never heard of Stew Morrill. This is in spite of the fact that in 27 seasons he has won 584 games, which is about 69 percent of the games that he has coached in.

The reason that you have probably never heard of Morrill is that his NCAA tournament is 1-9. He has never made a big run in the NCAA tournament to grab national attention. Every year, if Utah State is in the tournament, I write them in for a first round victory. One of these years I am going to get it right.

Morrill's teams always look to put the ball inside, and they often pair that ability with great perimeter shooting. On defense, their rebounding is as reliable as any other program.

Morrill has always lived in the west. I imagine that he has had chances to move up to a more prominent position, but has just never wanted to.

Bob McKillop (Current position: Davidson, Previous positions: None)

McKillop has coached at Davidson for 24 years. Prior to that he was a successful high school coach in New York State. We should probably just take him off the list, but if you are trying to pursue the Jim Larranaga model, this is the sort of person you are after.

Mike Montgomery (Current position: Cal, Previous positions: Golden State Warriors, Stanford, Montana)

Montgomery has 655 career wins as a college head coach, and also spent two seasons coaching in the NBA. His teams are big and physical, and they win a lot.

After coaching eight seasons at Montana, Montgomery moved to the bay area in 1986 to become head coach at Stanford. He has stayed in and around the area ever since.

Rick Byrd (Current position: Belmont, Previous positions: Lincoln Memorial, Maryville College)

Rick Byrd came to Belmont in 1986, and within a year was well on his way to turning the school into an NAIA power. Then in 1996 the Bruins made the leap to the NCAA. Since 2006, Belmont has only missed one NCAA tournament, and is now considered a mid-major power.

Fran Dunphy (Current position: Temple, Previous positions: Penn)

Great coach, but unless you drug him and throw him in the trunk of your '86 Olds Cutlass, you aren't getting him out of Philly.

It's so crazy that it just might work

Jeff Van Gundy (Current position: ESPN, Previous positions: Houston Rockets, New York Knicks)

Everyone's favorite Huckleberry Hound look-a-like lives in Houston, and would probably make a decent college coach.

T.J. Ford

Because as Fred Hoiberg showed, when in doubt, a program should just hire its greatest past player, even if that player has no coaching experience.

Rob Lanier (Current position: assistant at The University of Texas, Head coaching experience: Siena)

What's to like? Well, Rob Lanier grew up in Buffalo, NY, so it is no surprise that he is charming and good-looking. He played at St. Bonaventure, where he was the second best basketball player named Robert Lanier in school history. Lanier has been an assistant for many coaches, most notably spending two stints with Rick Barnes, and one with Billy Donovan.

But the worry is this. Lanier didn't do particularly well as head coach at Siena, where he went 58-70 in four seasons. And Siena isn't exactly a place where you are set up for failure. Some other recent Saints head coaches include Paul Hewitt, Louis Orr, and Fran McCaffery, all of who enjoyed success in Upstate New York and were able to parlay it into other jobs.

That said, it has been almost ten years since Lanier finished 6-24 at Siena and was replaced. He isn't necessarily the same guy now that he was then. His stint with Donovan came after his time in Loudonville, so perhaps he has picked up a few new tricks.


If I were the athletic director of The University of Texas, and was faced with trying to replace Rick Barnes, I would probably pursue Buzz Williams, Tony Bennett, Josh Pastner, Ben Howland and Bruce Pearl. If I couldn't get any of those five, I would throw myself off a bridge.