If for some reason, any readers are currently using psychotropic drugs, and for some inconceivable reason think Hill should keep his job; and are not relatives of Mr. Hill and/or actively rooting against Rutgers basketball, then you probably should stop reading at this very moment. Of course Hill must go. Never has any fact ever been more self-evident, and whether it's this year or next, his fate is a foregone conclusion at this point. The Fred Hill era has crossed a rubicon, and has absolutely no chance of seeing light at the end of the tunnel now. The very future of the basketball program is at stake, and waiting too long or failure to act could very well cause irreperable harm, and permanently doom Rutgers basketball to futility. We have to rebuild. There simply is no other choice.
That's why I'm comfortable in looking at the field of candidates to be Hill's successor. That's pretty much all anyone's clinging to at this point; the chance of a better tomorrow. After weeks of consideration, here's the first part of my tiered ranking of possible candidates to succeed Fred Hill. Criteria and base assumptions considered include:
1. Experience. Jamie Dixon may be wildly successful at Pittsburgh, but the Fred Hill tenure has likely soured Rutgers on hiring any assistant coaches for the time being.
2. Geography and recruiting. Doug Graber as the football coach in the early 90's showed than an out of stater can place an emphasis on local recruiting and be fairly successful at that, but the odds are somewhat against that. There certainly are the Louis Orrs of the world who can effectively coach up their projects and make the NCAA tournament. However, the Rutgers community is still soured enough by Terry Shea and Gary Waters that it's very unlikely that they'll be interested in a candidate without ties to the school, and/or the Bos-Wash corridor. In all likelihood, the next coach will have some semblance of ties to New York City, New Jersey, or Philadelphia.
3. Retreads are very much an option, but please don't bother with catastrophic failures like Matt Doherty, or walking NCAA violations like Kelvin Sampson, Todd Bozeman, Jim Harrick, or Mike Jarvis. Not happening. Especially when they can't even win as a big fish in a small pond now. I'll further limit the criteria as to keep this post from approaching 4,000 words.
4. Rutgers is not going to land a marquee coach. The athletic department is in poor fiscal shape at the moment. While the job has several tantalizing aspects, it's also been a coaching graveyard for two decades following a long history of athletic department mismanagement. The glory days of the 1976 Final 4, Tom Young, Phil the Thrill, and Jimmy and Dickie V are a long way away. The facilities are terrible, even though athletic director Tim Pernetti is trying to improve them. Not only is Rutgers in no position to lure away a top level coach, it's a virtual certainty that several promising candidates may not be interested and hold out for better opportunities.
5. This list is, as much as anything, a mental exercise intended to stimulate discussion. Maybe there are some NBA assistants who could do well here. Of course all of these people won't be candidates for the job, and it would be irresponsible to drag things on past a key shortlist. Per 3., many of them probably won't even be interested. It's best to cover all bases here though, and maybe see if I'm overlooking something, or any names stand out or disappoint more than expected.
6. Fred Hill may very well finish out the 2010 season. Unfortunately, there even remains a possibility that he could return for another season, although everyone can only hope that Hill's buyout isn't as much of a concern as it may appear. It's even worth conceding that there are very good reasons to stand pat - not, well, "good", but more along the lines of Rutgers is in a very bad position either way, and very well can't win with either choice. Still, the reasons for firing by far outweigh those very real concerns.
7. A.D. Tim Pernetti, A.A.D. Kevin MacConnell, etc... are capable and credible athletic department administrators who will do everything in their power to find the best possible candidate and build a winner. Any hiring will surely be tied to the already-announced facilities upgrades and presumably a set of further, unknown developments.
Anyway, let's get this started by dismissing anyone who definitively won't be considered.
I. The not in our lifetimes
These candidates will almost assuredly not be in any way in the mix for the Rutgers basketball job, although they may well be mentioned in some form or another.
Bobby Knight will be mentioned for every high major opening from Piscataway to Tuscaloosa as long as he can still move around on two legs. It's hard to quibble with his phenomenal track record of success at Indiana. Still, he's 59 years old, and a venerable psychopath. Why again is an 18 year old prep star going to be itching to sign up to play under Knight? What athletic department is going to risk hiring him after all college coaches are increasingly under the microscope for confronting players:? Let's face it, the only audience for this hire are middle aged men with an uncontrolled fetish for discipline, bloodlust, and the macabre. Sportswriters may be happy, and a few more fans would buy tickets, but Knight is not a realistic option in any sort of circumstances. At least be serious and suggest his former player Steve Alford or something.
Jeff Van Gundy was an assistant under Bob Wenzel at Rutgers two decades ago, before he went on to the Knicks and Rockets. That's why some fans have (very briefly) floated his name. Van Gundy has a lucrative career as a broadcaster, and remains in the mix for future NBA jobs. There is no possibility that he will ever be the head coach at Rutgers.
Geno Auriemma is arguably the greatest women's college basketball coach of all time, which naturally invites the question of how he'd do coaching men. That'll remain fodder for columnists, even though Rutgers could very well be one of the few programs desperate enough to give Geno a call if he was somehow interested in jumping. Maybe Calhoun crosses the line one too many times. Would be a total The Damned United situation, but isn't going to happen.
Steve Wojciechowski/Kevin Willard/Mike Hopkins/Joe Dooley/Steve Masiello/et al - see rule #1. Doesn't matter if some of these guys may eventually turn out to be good coaches. Can't see a Hopkins or Woj leaving anyway.
Seattle U coach Cameron Dollar may very well be the next big thing in coaching, but he's only 34, in his very first season, and hasn't accomplished bupkis to this point. Oh, and he has absolutely no ties to the NYC region. What's he done besides beat Craig Robinson by 50 points? Same goes for all of the other hyped young stars who are far too green to even get a decent mid-major job at this point.
Harvard coach Tommy Amaker? Sure...if you're up for convincing Fred Hill to be his top assistant. Is P.J. Carlesimo doing anything these days?
Brian Ellerbe played at Rutgers under Young and Craig Littlepage, and also has the distinction of trying to rebuild Michigan after Steve Fisher and booster Ed Martin put them on probation. That's about it. The name holds Ray Handley/Rich Kotite-level connotations in Ann Arbor, so don't ever dare mention Ellerbe in a positive context near a UM fan if you don't want to get a few teeth knocked out.
Bob Wenzel holds the interesting distinction of being the last Rutgers men's basketball coach who experienced some modicum of success in his tenure. Subsequently, he's not completely reviled as his successors Kevin Bannon and Gary Waters are for varying reasons. Most RU fans look back fondly on Wenzel, but the bottom fell out from under him the first go around, and he's too old at this point. Maybe Rutgers could have gotten into the Big East earlier, or he could have brought in a top recruiting assistant like Fred Hill when he was here, but this bridge is burned to a crisp by now. You might as well suggest that former coach Dick Lloyd comes out of the radio booth, or his successor Tom Young out of retirement. Well, there's always trying to reanimate the corpse of Rutgers alum Jim Valvano, right? That's better than some of the other suggestions floating around. Like, ahem, former Lloyd assistant Dick Vitale.
Stay tuned for a smattering of more plausible candidates in the coming days.