Replacing Kent: Searching for the Oregon Ducks' next basketball coach

So as the University begins its arduous journey towards finding a replacement for Ernie Kent I thought I would narrow the list for everyone and give some insight into a number of the guys who's name may come up over the next couple of weeks.

Here is my criteria for the next coach of the Oregon Men's Basketball team.

First, we have a new arena to fill, the guy needs to attract names and attention.  Some of the names you will see below at first may seem a little enigmatic, but if any of them have a decent tourney run this year, their notoriety can grow tremendously and could bring a whole host of good attention this program has lacked in the previous years.

Second, he needs to be able to coach.  Sure, you might be saying, "that's just dumb, of course he should be able to coach."  Well, what I mean is I want to see a track record of being able to take a team to the dance, not a flash in the pan.  As painful as this has been to go through of whether or not to fire Ernie, I have no desire to go through this again in 3 years.  I want a coach who can compete at the highest level, develop players, recruit, and do it consistently for the next 10 plus years.  Which leads me to...

Third, he needs to be young.  Yes, I'm discriminating here, I apologize to our resident grumpy old men,  Jack Lemon (benzduck) and Walter Matthau (Bill Musgrave), but the guy needs to not be on his last leg.  As painful as it is to have to fire a guy because he doesn't perform, it's ten times harder to have to wonder if age is an issue too.

Fourth, he needs to have a connection to either Oregon or the Northwest.  I don't want to worry about a young coach who starts to do well then all of a sudden is looking for a place to go closer to home (by the way this will rule out most of those guys from the ACC, and Big East who some of us may have an inkling that we would really like to see come here because of Nike's money).  I want the guy to want to come to Oregon and coach in the Pac 10, Oregon is NOT a stepping stone to a better job (as much as Husky fans think it is).

Lastly, I think there are a couple of other pieces that could play into the coaching situations. 

  1. I know we all like to think that because Uncle Phil has shelled out $100MM plus for a new arena that another $1-2MM per year won't be that big a deal.  Well, with Oregon operating in the red for the first time in a long time it definitely could be a situation.  Do you pay Tubby Smith $4MM per year or Mark Turgeon $2MM?  We'll look at the current coaches salaries and how they play into their chances at Oregon later.

  2. Recruiting.  Oregon has 10 sophomores on their roster right now.  If we bring in a new coach next year and lose a recruiting class this year, his first full year of recruiting will happen with 10 guys going into their senior year.  That's a big deal.  The new coach has to be able to rebuild the recruiting pipeline quickly and even with some attrition due to a coaching change, the coach is going to have to break up the classes and have a decent recruiting background.

  3. Coaching style.  Personally, I think this will have minimal impact on who Bellotti decides to chose, but it creates a fun conversation piece.  Do we want a coach who is going to have his guys run and gun and shoot quickly?  Do we want a Big 10 style coach who will focus on rebounding and defense and slow the game down?  Or finally, do you want a coach who's style of play is as boring as watching Gigli and drinking Shirley Temples with your sister... no offense Craig Robinson.

So, let's take a look at some of the candidates.

The Short List

Mark Few - Gonzaga

Pros: It's Mark Freakin Few.  What else needs to be said?  If I'm Bellotti, this is the first call I make to see if there is even interest.  If Mark says yes, the search is over.  I don't care if John Wooden makes a time machine and comes back to try and coach, you still hire Few.

Cons: Chances are slim and none that Few comes to Oregon.  He owns Spokane.  $1MM (if that is what he's really making) in Spokane goes a looooong way and he can recruit what he wants, do what he wants and stay as long as he wants and no one is going to say anything about it at Gonzaga.  I know the press in Oregon isn't like the press in New York, but does Few really want the hype and pressure of trying to make Oregon into Gonzaga?  I don't see it happening, but it would be great if it did.

Category Rankings: 

Name Brand

Coaching

Age

Oregon Connection

10

10

6

10


Brad Stevens - Butler

Pros: Stevens has coached Butler for the last 3 years and has averaged 28 wins.  The guy knows how to coach.  Pulling a coach out of Indiana is never a bad start.  He'll be able to recruit from not only the Northwest, but also the Midwest and keep a number of the pipelines that Ernie has created for the program.  Plus, going from a mid major to a Pac 10 school is definitely a step up.

Cons: Oregon is not the only program that has Stevens on their short list.  Also, I'd be concerned from day one that if Stevens does well, he'll move on.  He's really young (33), and I'm sure at some point if Stevens is winning on a consistent basis a bigger name program can entice him away.

Category Rankings: 

Name Brand

Coaching

Age

Oregon Connection

9

10

10

2


Steve Alford - New Mexico

Pros: Alford will be available.  Because of his ties to Bobby Knight and his fall out at Iowa, he definitely has the name brand that could fill a new arena for a couple of years.  Alford also is a good coach.  He's taken two (and soon to be three) schools to the NCAA tourney.

Cons: Hasn't really proven the ability to be consistent on a big time stage.  Sure Iowa isn't Kentucky or Indiana or Duke, but it's a lot closer to Oregon than New Mexico.  I'm not 100% sold on Alford's ability to take a big school's program to the elite level and even though he might sell tickets, do we really want to settle for a name in a suit?

Category Rankings: 

Name Brand

Coaching

Age

Oregon Connection

 10

9

8

6


Eric Spoelstra - Miami Heat

Pros: Hear me out on this, I know what you are thinking, "no way in hell an NBA coach comes to Oregon."  Really?  Is it that farfetched that a guy who grew up in Oregon, who's parents still live here and who is now living on the East Coast would have a desire to return home and be a hero?  Spoelstra is the only guy I would take over Mark Few.  He's a hell of a coach, has a name brand that would sell out Matt Court for the next decade to come, he's young (just turned 39) and has the Northwest connection to stay and turn Oregon into a national powerhouse of a program.  Think Carroll going to USC.  Think about Spoelstra walking into recruit's living rooms talking about how he made Dwayne Wade's shot better.  Also, think about if Wade decides to jump ship this year and play elsewhere about the fact that Spoelstra will be leading a team with their best player being head case Michael Beasley.  Is it really that farfetched now?  Lastly, think about how Kenny Payne has a connection with Spoelstra's agent and supposedly Payne is the only guy staying from the Duck's coaching staff.

Cons: This will take money, and lots of it.

Category Rankings: 

Name Brand

Coaching

Age

Oregon Connection

10

10

9

9

 

Not Top Shelf

Mark Turgeon - Texas A&M

Pros: Heck of a coach who has taken Texas A&M to the NCAA in all three seasons that he has coached there.  Also, don't underestimate the attractiveness of coming back to coach at a school you have some history with.  Turgeon was an assistant for five years at Oregon.  Also, with his connections in Texas and Kansas, recruiting could take a nice up tick for Oregon if he decided to come.

Cons: He's already at a big name school.  He's originally from the Midwest so prying him away is not going to be easy and for the money you may have to spend, does it make sense to spend it on him?  He really is sort of a tweener in this situation.  Not good enough to be elite, but at the same time, not a young up and comer who you don't have to pay a whole hell of a lot to get.  For me, if you strike out on 1 through 4, you have to talk to Turgeon about coming.

Category Rankings: 

Name Brand

Coaching

Age

Oregon Connection

7

9

7

9


Jamie Dixon - Pitt

Pros: I saw this name rumored from someone in PA, who thought Nike would want Dixon (funny thing, Nike doesn't sponsor Pitt).  Anyway, I think it's an interesting idea.  Pitt is not a very nice school, and is located in the worst area of Pittsburg.  Also, Dixon's predecessor, Ben Howland, made a jump from the Big East to the Pac 10 (UCLA).  Now, Eugene is not Westwood, and Oregon is not UCLA, but it's definitely a step up from Pitt.  Dixon is a West Coast guy and if he wanted to make it back out west, Oregon would be a great spot to start, besides he's a Dixon, he'll fit in just fine.

Cons:  If Dixon is looking to move, Oregon is going to have to come hard at him to get him to think about Eugene over some other big name schools.  I'm not sure he'd be able to recruit the east coast kids out here, and he definitely doesn't have a connection to the NW.

Category Rankings: 

Name Brand

Coaching

Age

Oregon Connection

7

9

8

5


Scott Drew - Baylor

Pros: Drew obviously knows how to take over a program in turmoil and turn it around.  He's taken a program that was destroyed by scandal and a bottom feeder of the Big 12 to one that is actually competing for conference titles.

Cons: Not a lot of connection to Oregon or the Northwest.  I'm also not sold that the name Drew is going to re-energize the fan base and get people excited about the program.

Category Rankings: 

Name Brand

Coaching

Age

Oregon Connection

3

7

9

2


Tubby Smith - Minnesota

Pros: With Tubby you definitely have the name brand.  You know the guy can definitely coach.  He's been to 15 NCAA tourney's and won 1.  He's coached in the SEC and the Big 10 and is a big time coach.  After being run out at Kentucky he's been relegated to a lower class Minnesota team for the last three years, and putting his name back into the limelight could be attractrive.

Cons: What's it going to take to get Tubby to come?  $3MM?  $4MM?  $5MM?  Do we really want to spend that type of money on a 58 year old coach?  Plus, what obligation does he feel to Oregon or even the Pac 10?  If we were an SEC school, where he coached two different teams, then maybe, but a Pac 10 school... I'm not so sure.

Category Rankings: 

Name Brand

Coaching

Age

Oregon Connection

10

9

2

1


Steve Lavin - Unknown

Pros: He's coached in the Pac 10 and successfully at that (6 straight NCAA appearances and 1 conference crown).  His name might make an immediate splash, and stealing him away from the ESPN sidelines will gain some short term notoriety.

Cons: I'm not sold that he can really coach.  He took over a loaded UCLA team and was only able to win 1 conference title.  Plus, with how long he's been out of coaching (7 years) there is a risk that he may not be able to get the ball rolling again.  Lastly, I not sure there is enough hair gel in all of Eugene to keep him satisfied long term.

Category Rankings: 

Name Brand

Coaching

Age

Oregon Connection

8

5

8

3


PJ Carlesimo - Unknown

Pros: I guess he has a NBA name and was a decent coach at Seton Hall back before the internet existed (think about that, do we want a coach who was good before the internet even existed?).  He also has some ties to Oregon given that he worked for the Blazers before Clinton was getting busy with interns, but I would never even think he would actually get the job.

Cons: Well, his first strike against him is that Canzano is actually trying to break this story.  Let's be candid, if John Canzano breaks a story about Oregon, chances are a) everybody all ready knows about it, or b) it's completely wrong.  I'm going with "b" on this one.  Lastly, one of the only reasons Oregon "may" be talking to Carlesimo is due to the fact that the other coaches are still coaching.  That's the good thing about retirees, they've got a lot of free time for phone calls.  Canzano, you're an idiot.

Category Rankings: 

Name Brand

Coaching

Age

Oregon Connection

7

7

1

5

 

The Others

These last nine guys are not going to be household names for a lot of people.  What they lack in name brand though, they definitely make for in Oregon connection or coaching ability.  If Oregon is thinking long-term and finding the next "Chip Kelly" for the basketball program, one of these names will definitely fill that order.  Also, look for some of these guys to have a decent NCAA/NIT tourney run and increase their résumé.

Tad Boyle - Northern Colorado

Pros: Boyle has coached with some of the names on this list (Turgeon) as well as some you may know well (Larry Brown).  He has the pedigree and ability to make a program better.  He also has a connection to Oregon having been an assistant here for three years under Jerry Green.

Cons: Really only has 3 years of experience as head coach, and at Northern Colorado no less.  Not sure he'll be able to recruit and coach long term at Oregon and compete against names like Romar, Howland, Montgomery, etc.

Category Rankings: 

Name Brand

Coaching

Age

Oregon Connection

3

6

9

9


Cameron Dollar - Seattle

Pros: He's young and energetic.  We also know that he knows how to beat the 1-3-1 defense.  He is definitely an up and coming coach having been an assistant at UW before becoming head coach at Seattle.  He also knows how to win having been a part of the 1995 UCLA national championship team.

Cons: Anytime you've been a Husky, that's a strike against you.  He also doesn't really have the track record as of yet to prove that he deserves a Pac 10 coaching job.

Category Rankings: 

Name Brand

Coaching

Age

Oregon Connection

4

5

10

3


Bill Grier - San Diego

Pros: Grier has the Oregon connection to make this an attractive situation for himself and the school.  He coached at Creswell and Gonzaga and even took his school to the second round last year with an upset over Connecticut.

Cons: His résumé is not that long.  A short high school coaching stint, an assistant at Gonzaga for 16 years and now a 2 year head coaching job at San Diego.  All of that and he is 47 already.  I like the idea of having a Southern California guy for recruiting, but like Boyle, he's not going to be a household name among recruits and will have to work hard at getting top notch athletes to come to Oregon.

Category Rankings: 

Name Brand

Coaching

Age

Oregon Connection

2

5

7

9


Brian Gregory - Dayton

Pros: Here is a guy you may not know, but can definitely coach.  He's been an assistant to Tom Izzo (MSU) and has actually taken Dayton to a top 20 ranking.  I also really like the idea of taking a guy from the Midwest to keep a number of the recruiting pipelines Payne and Kent have worked hard to open.

Cons: Unless Gregory has a decent tourney run, he's not going to sell out Matt Court on his own.  He also doesn't have any connection to Oregon or the Northwest and Oregon would definitely be a sideways move for him coaching wise.

Category Rankings: 

Name Brand

Coaching

Age

Oregon Connection

4

7

8

1


Chris Mooney - Richmond

Pros: Mooney is a young guy who if he isn't already, will soon be on the short list of a number of schools.  He's definitely building a résumé with a stop at Air Force and now taking Richmond to a tournament appearance. 

Cons: While I like the idea of going after a young up and coming guy you definitely run the risk of him jumping ship once he's too successful.  Especially with a guy like Mooney.  He's an East Coast guy and if the right program came calling later I could see him heading for the exit.

Category Rankings: 

Name Brand

Coaching

Age

Oregon Connection

4

7

9

1


Ben Jacobson - Northern Iowa

Pros: Mooney, Gregory and Jacobson are all relatively young guys that are not household names right now, but if given the right opportunity can become big time coaches.  Jacobson, like the others, has a track record of being a defensive minded coach.  Jacobson has really never been in the limelight (North Dakota and Northern Iowa) and if given that opportunity may find an allegiance to Oregon.

Cons: No real résumé to speak of.  He's going to need to a decent tourney run besides a one and done to garner much attention.  Not sure that pulling a coach from Iowa and North Dakota is the recruiting hot bed you want to be tapping.

Category Rankings: 

Name Brand

Coaching

Age

Oregon Connection

1

8

9

2


Greg Marshall - Wichita State

Pros: He took over Wichita State when Mark Turgeon moved on to Texas A&M, and like his predecessor may be looking to take his coaching to the next level.  He definitely has a good résumé having taken Winthrop to 7 tourney appearances and is on the verge of taking Wichita State there too.  Getting a good coach out of Kansas could be good for recruiting also.

Cons: We may end up competing with Big 12 schools for his services.  He doesn't have the connections in Oregon to make his coming here a no brainer.  He's also no spring chicken (age 47) and may be looking for a bigger fish in a bigger pond.

Category Rankings: 

Name Brand

Coaching

Age

Oregon Connection

4

8

7

1


Eric Reveno 
Portland

Pros: Let's be honest, he did beat Ernie Kent.  He'd be an easy sell on moving from Portland to Eugene.  I also don't think it would take a huge salary to pull him away.

Cons: In my opinion we would be getting Ernie Kent 2.0.  Runs a very similar offense of run and gun and three point shooting.  While hiring him might make a splash locally, I'm not sure it will garner the attention nationally that Oregon is looking for.

Category Rankings: 

Name Brand

Coaching

Age

Oregon Connection

2

5

8

8


Randy Bennett  
Saint Mary's

Pros: Mostly a west coast guy.  He's also a loyal coach, having been at Saint Mary's for 9 years now.  His biggest splash came in being able to recruit internationally and that may not be a bad thing considering where college basketball and the NBA are headed.

Cons: Do we really want to follow up Ernie Kent with another Saint Mary's guy?  He's struggled in taking Saint Mary's to the next level and I'm hesitant to think that he'll be able to do it for Oregon.  While I like his connection to the West Coast, I'm not sure he expands our recruiting ability much more than Kent was able to do.

Category Rankings: 

Name Brand

Coaching

Age

Oregon Connection

2

7

7

3

 

Other Names

Other names you could see show up that may be fun to debate are:

Tony Barbee, UTEP

Rod Stickland, Memphis Assistant

Mike Dunleavy, Unemployment Line

Monty Williams, Blazer's Assistant

Other Info

 

Salary

Age

Name Brand

Coaching

Age

Oregon Connection

Total

Mark Few - Gonzaga

$1+MM

48

10

10

6

10

36

Brad Stevens - Butler

$900k

33

9

10

10

2

31

Steve Alford - New Mexico

$975k

45

10

10

8

4

32

Erik Spoelstra - Miami

$3-6MM

40

10

10

9

9

38

Mark Turgeon - Texas A&M

$1.2MM

45

7

9

7

9

32

Scott Drew - Baylor

$412k

39

3

7

9

2

21

Jamie Dixon - Pitt

$1.3MM

44

7

9

8

5

29

Tubby Smith -Minnesota

$3.3MM

58

10

9

2

1

22

Steve Lavin - Unknown

Unlisted

45

8

5

8

3

24

PJ Carlesimo - Unknown

Unlisted

60

7

7

1

5

20

Tad Boyle - Northern Colorado

$110k

37

3

6

9

9

27

Cameron Dollar - Seattle

$108k

34

4

5

10

3

22

Bill Grier - San Diego

$600k

46

2

5

7

9

23

Brian Gregory - Dayton

$485k

42

4

7

8

1

20

Chris Mooney - Richmond

Unlisted

37

4

7

9

1

21

Ben Jacobson - Northern Iowa

$150k

40

1

8

9

2

20

Greg Marshall - Wichita State

$400k

47

4

8

7

1

20

Eric Reveno -  Portland

Unlisted

44

2

5

8

8

23

Randy Bennett  - Saint Mary's

Unlisted

47

2

7

7

5

21


Salaries

As you can see I have compiled the data for each coach and included their salaries and ages.  Unfortunately, private schools are not required to release data about what they pay their coaches (Few reportedly makes around $1MM, but Richmond, Portland and Saint Mary's data is difficult to find or non-existent).

By comparison, Chip Kelly will make around $1.8MM this year as a first year head coach.  I think Oregon will target something comparable to Kelly's.  Ernie Kent made roughly $975k in his last year and his buyout will be about another $1.5MM.  That means next year if they pay a coach $2MM, Oregon will be on the hook for close to $3.5MM for its head coach plus whatever they may have to pay for the buyout of the coach they bring in.  That means we're looking at anywhere from $3-5MM in the first year for a new coach.  That's almost double what they will pay the entire college football program combined.

Personally, I think it is going to take something in the $2MM range to get one of the top tier coaches (outside of Spoelstra, he'll require closer to $4MM).  I think this also rules out Tubby Smith who is making over $3MM right now and for him to make a sideways move to take less is probably not going to happen.  The real question is whether or not Oregon is willing to push the upper tier of the salary range in order to fill the arena and bring a winning program.

Recruiting

Most of this post came from a conversation that started between cougfan and myself.  cougfan brought up the point that recruiting can be an issue when selecting a new coach.  So I put him to work and had him evaluate some of the top two tiers of coaches that Oregon may be looking at. Here are his thoughts:

Few: I wouldn't call him a home-run recruiter, but I would say he can evaluate talent.  He pulls under the radar kids from all over the country (and other countries).  His best recruits have been: Austin Daye, Matt Bouldin, and Josh Heytfelt.  Even Morrison wasn't highly touted out of high school, but was from Mead, WA which is a stone's throw from GU.  The thing he can't, and hasn't, done is recruit Seattle/Tacoma.  Romar is even on record saying that Oregon and now WSU and Seattle are where his recruiting battles come from and that GU isn't even in the picture.  If he wants to play at Oregon, he's going to have to be able to get at Seattle.

Alford: Recruits all over the map.  He's got guys from the area (NM, TX, AZ), and across the country (a package deal from NC, a kid from TN).  He seems to do a good job of being in the picture with area talent.  He's got a top ranked center from NM staying home this year and seems to have picked off some 4 stars out of Texas.  Ranking wise, he's one of the best recruiters.

Turgeon: Stays local, and why shouldn't he?  He pulls 3/4 star guys from Texas which is like shooting fish in a barrel.  Transplanting him to the NW hotbed wouldn't hurt his recruiting at all.

Stevens: Also stays within that Indiana area for recruiting mostly.  What surprised me is that he is pulling some highly ranked recruits in to Butler lately.  It's not exactly the easiest school in the world to recruit to.  If you want to keep that Midwest connection, he could probably do that in addition to getting the local kids.

Dixon: Made Pitt into a recruiting powerhouse.  4/5 star kids out of high school are the norm there.  Recruits all over the Northeast with some Texas and Midwest sprinkled in.  His record speaks for itself.

Drew: I'm an unabashed Drew fan, as well.  I have a friend who worked in their athletic department and she loved him.  For what it's worth, she also doesn't think he's going anywhere.  He recruits to his system and also can hit the home-run with big names.  Again, recruits Texas with other areas sprinkled in a bit.

Boyle: Seems to work the Southwest and Midwest for his recruiting.  He actually pulls decent recruits for being in the Big Sky and with a BCS conference budget may be able to do wonders.

Dollar: Recruits like a mad man.  The big names UW has had, you can mostly attribute to him.  Also swooped up Garcia for SU after he was a non-qualifier.  As far as someone who can recruit locally, Dollar would give you some fun head to heads with Romar for Seattle's finest.

I'm leaving Lavin, Tubby, and Spoelstra off because I really don't know with them.  Spoelstra could be a Tim Floyd like coach, which would be my best guess.  Lavin is mentioned for every job under the sun, but nobody ever pulls the trigger and there's gotta be a reason.

If you want Oregon to be competitive now and in the future, the coach has to be able to walk in to the Seattle/Tacoma area and pull guys out as well as keeping Oregon's talent in.  We've consistently got some of the top players nationally (including Wroten and Bell in 2011) coming out of high school.  The Midwest pipeline is nice, but the new coach better be able to recruit the NW and Cali.  Finally, the new coach has to be able to correctly evaluate and develop talent, like any good coach.  Again, that plays in to the system that the coach runs and how disciplined he is.  Overall, Few is going to win that battle, but Turgeon might actually be up there pretty close with him.

Summary

Coaching style is something I will leave for the posters to debate.  If you've made it this far in the post, congratulations, you now have a BS in "Hiring Basketball Coaches to Oregon 101."

I think Oregon has an opportunity by letting Kent go early to be one of the first in line for the services of some of these coaches, especially some of the younger guys who may have a decent tourney run.  In my opinion I would be happy with just about any of the names on this list, but it will really depend on how much money Oregon is looking to spend and how much convincing they can do that Oregon is a destination school.

Let me know your thoughts in the comments and if there is someone you think I missed.

Go Ducks!

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