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If they did it

Fred Hill is officially returning for a fifth season as men's basketball coach. Therefore, it's time to get this list of speculative future Rutgers coaches out there. It's far from given that any replacement would have been any good, so here's my take on the field. Remember to check parts one and two for a list of ground assumptions, and various dismissals of (more) unrealistic candidates.

III. Probably won't happen, but interesting nonetheless

Let's take a minute and step back to the year 2000. It was the dawn of the millenium; N'Sync was topping the Billboard charts, and there actually were still Billboard charts beubg as people didn't yet pirate all of their media at that point, Wall Street was in unending boom, and Rutgers athletic director Bob Mulcahy had a golden opportunity to hire a great, qualified candidate as the next head men's basketball coach at Rutgers University. Mulcahy appeared very close to using his Villanova connections to lure in Hofstra coach Jay Wright, before those damned Wildcats swooped in at the last minute. The resulting horrific carnage was a sight to behold, its disasterous effects still being felt well to this day. In turn, Mulcahy suffered the indignities of rejection from the likes of Tim Welsh (Providence), Phil Martelli (St. Joe's), and John Beilein, before finally settling on Gary Waters.

Well, is there any chance at all, no matter how remote, that Martelli would reconsider? While he remains a very good coach, it is awfully difficult to compete against Big East schools from in the Atlantic 10. With the Hawks falling off in recnet years, perhaps he is slowly coming to that realization. He would probably turn Rutgers down, if they were even interested, but Martelli could at least be an avenue worth pursuing. If only to give Ledger beatwriter Brendan Prunty (a St. Joe's alum) a brain aneurysm.

Next on the list is the combination of Bob and Danny Hurley (of New Jersey high school basketball powers St. Anthony's and St. Benedict's respectively), and as long as we're talking preps, you can throw Kevin Boyle from St. Pat's into the mix, maybe even Rutgers legend Geoff Billet from CBA too for good measure. The reasoning being that the Hurleys are so plugged into the New Jersey talent scene that all of the good local talent would want to stay home and play for Rutgers. Theoretically, Bob would take over at the start, and later give the reigns to his son once the program was on solid footing. Hrm, where to start with these scenarios.

A) This is nearly the exact same logic (i.e., recruiting first) used to justify hiring Fred Hill (and to be fair, Seton Hall wanted to get him too). Like Hill, none of these candidates have any experience as a college head coach, although Danny was an assistant under Bannon. Maybe one or more Hurleys could keep Mike Rosario at Rutgers to avoid a total freefall next year, but the Greg Echenqiue ship has long since sailed at this point.
B) How much of their success in high school comes from an overwhelming talent advantage that may not be there in college?
C) I'm that last person who knows anything about this, but when Woj wrote his bio on Bob Hurley a few years back, there was considerable grumbling from competing high school programs, even if that was just sour grapes. The point is though that there isn't necessarily a guarantee that the best NJ players would come to Rutgers no matter who you hire. There are bigger options out there, and who knows whether AAU teams will play ball.
D) Oh yeah; Bob has said that he's not going anywhere (but naturally suggests that Danny would make a great candidate), and Danny infamously burned out on the college grind. Now, Bob may have just been trying to lessen all the speculation about Hill's future, but it's only fair to take him at his word.
E) Boyle too has acknowledged interest in the college game, and that's probably stemming from some things that you may have read about recently.

Former Nets coach Lawrence Frank is an excellent technician, who had his legs cut out from under him by Bruce Ratner, the worst owner in the history of American professional sports. My feeling has been that he'd be biding his time for another NBA job, and that's pretty much what he told Adam Zagoria. Still, as a New Jersey native and resident, he'd at least not instantly hang up if his phone rang, unlike many of the other candidates on the list. If by chance he did want to talk, he would have to move higher up this list. No harm in gauging his interest though as long as the process doesn't drag on.

Former Kentucky/Texas A&M coach Billy Gillispie is interesting in that he's the only big name college coach out of the biz who's had any sort of recent success. While a phenomenal coach, he crashed and burned at Kentucky due to his alcoholism. Desperate times call for desperate measures, but there isn't a snowball's chance in hell that he'll even be considered or want the job. May be an option at DePaul however.

Brian Gregory (Dayton), Brad Stevens (Butler), Mike Davis (UAB), Scott Sutton (Oral Roberts), Tony Barbee (UTEP), Steve Alford (New Mexico), Mike Rice (Robert Morris), Ben Jacobson (Northern Iowa), and Brad Brownell (Wright State) are some of the hotter candidates in all of Division I right now, and likely to receive consideration for all sorts of openings in the coming offseason. They certainly should be considered as serious candidates, but I'm not altogether convinced that they would be interested. By all means make the calls, but be prepared for a quick conversation. Without significant ties to the New Jersey area, they'd probably be more inclined to head elsewhere.

There's always the Tubby Smith option too. That being, putting out feelers to presently successful NCAA coaches that are varying degrees of troubled or disgruntled. Exhibit A would be Maryland coach Gary Williams, who's a MD alum, but grew up in South Jersey. Williams is an excellent coach who doesn't really care for recruiting, and has repeatedly clashed with athletic director Debbie Yow. He's also in his mid sixties and probably isn't up for the grind for that much longer.

Al Skinner has somehow faced criticism at BC as their version of Louis Orr; as an impersonable coach with little patience for the recruiting game, but still building a consistent winner. He's great at evaluating and developing under the radar talent. Paul Hewitt at Georgia Tech has NYC roots and has had some success, but has also disappointed at times, and has a ridiculous buyout that GT would probably love to dump if possible (it just rolled over again). Frank Haith at Miami is another local. He was a former top assistant for Rick Barnes. Haith brought Miami up to the middle of the ACC, but hasn't been able to post a winning in conference record, and the sharks are starting to circle in with the Hurricanes in last place this year.

IIII. Varying degrees of realistic

Former Providence HC Tim Welsh is the perpetual candidate, able to be unfrozen at a moment's notice to bring any squad up to at least mediocrity in the Big East. He's currently working for SNY, and seems to be interested in returning for the college game. If offered the job, he'd probably take it, even at a discount with Rutgers possibly paying $1.8 million on Fred Hill's buyout.

Think of him as a median delineating the total non-starters from completely mundane and uninspiring in all regards. That, my friends, is the Tim Welsh line. Suffices to say, any potential hire will at least have to be as good or better than Welsh. He is the worst possible candidate that Rutgers fans would probably accept (begrudgingly, in a nod towards a complete Penn State-style exclusive turn towards football). They wouldn't be happy, but he'd buy time and stave off (further) open revolt. Anyone worse and season ticket renewals would drop to the single digits. He probably isn't going to bring much of a winner, but sadly, would provide a significant upgrade over Hill on the court. We'd take his special brand of mediocrity at this point. Two NCAA appearances every decade is sounding pretty good right about now. Kill me.

Would he take the job: without a doubt.
Is he an upgrade over Fred Hill: marginally.
Would he be a good hire: not in any scenario.

Former St. John's/Manhattan coach Fran Fraschilla is also reported to be interested in coaching again, and he actually had one good year with Johnnies before getting reportedly fired following, well, let's just call it a well-publized locker room outburst. Was kind of middling at New Mexico, and has been out of the game for a while now. That's a black mark against his candidacy, although the thought of Fraschilla on the sidelines doesn't quite inspire the antipathy that Welsh would.

Would he take the job: yes.
Is he an upgrade over Fred Hill: yes.
Would he be a good hire: this is actually intriguing considering his tenure at St. John's.

Chris Mooney from Richmond is one of the youngest coaches in Division I. He's originally from Philadelphia, and played under Pete Carril at Princeton. Seems like an impressive guy, and certainly could be a darkhorse candidate, but he's probably still a little too green at this point.

Would he take the job: yes.
Is he an upgrade over Fred Hill: unknown.
Would he be a good hire: reply hazy, try again later.

With Cornell rolling through the Ivy League this year, Steve Donahue (a longtime assistant for Fran Dunphy at Penn) certainly has to start getting on the radar. Donahue's coaching peers couldn't speak more highly of him.

Kansas Coach Bill Self paid Donahue the highest compliment after his team beat Cornell, stressing that the Jayhawks played well and still barely won. Syracuse Coach Jim Boeheim said Cornell should be seeded between No. 4 and No. 6 in the N.C.A.A. tournament. (Somewhere between 10th to 12th appears more realistic.)

"They’re a great team," Boeheim said. "They could play in the Big East. They would win games in our league. They would win a bunch of games."

Would he take the job: unknown.
Is he an upgrade over Fred Hill: yes.
Would he be a good hire: probably.

The best of the tier two candidates, in my estimatation, is Jim Baron from Rhode Island. Baron's from Brooklyn, and has been fairly successful at URI. I'd recommend Pete Thamel's recent piece from the Times, which might as well be an open plea for the Rutgers or St. John's jobs.

"I’ve always loved taking over programs that no one gives a chance to," Baron said. "Not only do you turn around a program, not only do you turn around a school, but you build phenomenal relationships because no one ever thought you could do what you did."

Turnaround artist you say? That would seem to fit the bill. It's worth noting that his son Billy (who was pursued by Rutgers), recently decommitted from Rhode Island in favor of Virginia. With Baron and his agent publicly angling for a contract extension, it would seem that the time to strike is nigh.

Would he take the job: yes.
Is he an upgrade over Fred Hill: yes.
Would he be a good hire: probably.

V. The desirable favorites

If athletic director Tim Pernetti is only planning to consider a short list of names, these three candidates offer the right combination of an experienced track record, solid local ties, a potential willingness to accept the job, and the ability to revitalize and excite a completely demoralized fanbase.

The main reason Eddie Jordan isn't at the top of this list is because he happens to be currently employed as the head coach of the Philadelphia 76ers. The amount of goodwill from a Jordan hiring would be immeasurable. He represents a link to the program's glory days, as a star point guard for Tom Young on the banks back in the mid-70's. Jordan was later an assistant at Rutgers under Young and Bob Wenzel, before leaving for the NBA. Jordan didn't have a lot of success with a bad Sacramento team in the late 90's, but was later seen as the real brains behind Byron Scott when the New Jersey Nets made it to the Eastern Conference finals. He would have almost certainly replaced Scott (instead of Lawrence Frank) as the next Nets coach if Washington didn't nab him first.

Jordan wasn't bad during his tenure with the Wizards. It was nothing to write home about, but looks good in comparison when you look at their struggles since his firing. Jordan's old boss with the Nets, Ed Stefanski, brought him in with the Sixers this year, although that doesn't seem to be going all that well. Jordan may not survive the season, although in his defense, he's not exactly working with a very good team. Our old friend Woj recently mentioned talk that the Sixers would can Eddie and bring back Larry Brown, for what that's worth. Those reports started to really intensify in March

While this would be a hire with a ton of positives, it's not without its own set of questions. Jordan's not a pure NBA retread ala Sidney Lowe at N.C. State, but he's been away from the college game for a while. More importantly, would he even want the job? There's growing speculation about his job security, but the Sixers haven't canned Eddie yet. It's hard to say whether he could find another HC job if that were to happen, but he'll certainly remain in demand as one of the league's top assistants. He was reportedly interested in the job opening in 2001, before Mulcahy settled on Waters. There could be appeal in returning to restore his alma mater to glory.

That can be a gift and a curse though. Right now, it's easy to see Jordan as a potential savior of the program, just waiting in the wings to turn everything around. He's a Rutgers alum, and would generate unprecedented excitement and optimism. He's also from the Washington, D.C. area, and his Princeton offense was a load of fun to watch with the Nets. It's such a complete slam dunk on paper, that you almost worry about setting expectations so high that Jordan could be doomed to underachieve.

Look at like this: Fred Hill was sold as the ultimate New Jersey guy, with endorsements from Randy Foye and anyone else you could ask. All the conditions were in place for him to succeed; everyone but a miniscule cadre of Waters apologists were behind him, and things didn't end up working out because Hill didn't end up having the chops in a head gig. Jordan's resume blows Hill's out of the water, but do we want to tear down another one of our own if things end up going badly? If he were to take the job, and subsequently fail, there'd be no remaining conclusion but to declare Rutgers basketball a permanent lost cause.

Would he take the job: maybe, lean towards no.
Is he an upgrade over Fred Hill: yes.
Would he be a good hire: yes, absolutely.

That leaves Fran McCaffery, who has to be the odds-on favorite to be the next coach if Rutgers does indeed make a move next year and he's still available. The Philadelphia native McCaffery is already in the college game, and has done a wonderful job at Siena. The Saints infamously destroyed Rutgers in a preseason scrimmage earlier in the year, back when Greg Echenique was still on the team. He's in the conversation for a lot of big name jobs, and that presents quite a conundrum. If RU doesn't act quickly, they may not get their man here if St. John's or Seton Hall pulls the trigger first. Even worse, there's a very real possibility that he'd just flat-out say no like John Beilein did, holding out for something better.

Would he take the job: lean towards yes.
Is he an upgrade over Fred Hill: yes.
Would he be a good hire: probably.

Virginia Tech coach Seth Greenberg is a native of Long Island and Farleigh Dickinson graduate. He's had unprecedented success at Virginia Tech, and good lord am I sickened at how Rutgers has been passed by schools like VT and even Greenberg's former team USF. USF! As the Hokies aren't a traditional power, he could very well have one more move left in him, although Greenberg isn't going to run to any metro team that comes calling. A complete pipe dream that would be an unimaginable slam dunk if it had any chance in hell of occurring. He's won at black hole programs in VT and USF, and has a proven track record as a winner. Where do we sign up?

Since I originally wrote that paragraph, there became reason to move up Greenberg from a tier three candidate to the very top of this list. Someone seems very keen on telling every basketball writer in New York that he has a eye on the Rutgers job, and by the way, has a great working relationship with Rutgers athletic director Tim Pernetti. That's going to naturally ignite the Rutgers community into a frenzy of speculation, although it remains to be seen whether or not that is just a ploy to pressure Virginia Tech into signing Greenberg to a lucrative contract extension. Still, if by chance he does hit the market, this is the best available realistic hire, and by all means should be the next Rutgers men's basketball coach.

Would he take the job: maybe, lean towards no.
Is he an upgrade over Fred Hill: unquestionably yes.
Would he be a good hire: Greenberg won at basketball black holes USF and Virginia Tech. Hire him in a second regardless of how much USF fans hate him (the Voodoo Five bloggers sent me some posts, still awaiting word on whether I can share them). In fact, USF hating anyone is a positive in my book. Just imagine what he could do with even second tier metro talent.