One day later, and I still have difficulty comprehending Fred Hill's course of action last week. Under what scenario exactly does one lie to your direct superior, and then directly defy him? Dare I say that Hill got word of the impending defections, decided he had nothing to lose, and tried to force a conflict with his buyout intact? That is my wild speculation, but this event defies all logic. I can't put myself on Hill's shoes and comprehend any of his actions.
What has become clear as day is that Rutgers erred in not pushing Hill out the door last month, when it could have been attributed to his overwhelmingly poor performance. Iowa canned their coach after three similarly miserable years. While that would have elicited a fierce reaction from the local media in light of the budget woes, the response would have been positively muted compared to this catastrophe. All the drama could have been swept under the rug.
When there's absolutely no chance of something working out, it's time to pull the plug and not fall victim to risk aversion. You had to be in denial in March to think that Fred Hill was capable of coaching his team to the NCAA Tournament last year. In fact, he really should been let go after 2009 following three years of futility that reached the depths of the Craig Littlepage era back in the mid-80's. This is not to say that rebuilding doesn't take time, and the right circumstances don't demand patience. Demanding progress by year three is not very strict criteria at all. Greg Schiano showed progress by year three. Terry Shea did. There needed to be something, anything Hill could hang his hat on and point to as demonstrable progress. There were recruits, but no progress at all on the court.
If there is one saving grace in this disaster (beyond the fact that the national media hasn't yet quite caught on to the depths of how terrible everything looks), is that there is strong reason to be confident in the leadership on top of the athletic department - in a vacuum. If they were telling Keith Sargeant last month that there were no decent candidates to replace Hill with (again, an item that Jerry Carino directly contradicted), then the hardest part to take about the present crisis (MUCH worse than any personnel losses) is that it may not be possible to find a decent replacement. While I'm confident that even an Atlantic 10 level coach would be a sufficient upgrade on Hill, that's no guarantee that Rutgers basketball will be set on the right path. Not if the new coach doesn't have all the talent that Hill's squandered over the past four years.
By all means, the powers that be should contact the likes of Fran McCaffery and Seth Greenberg just to be certain that both have signed their new contracts (far from a given, as the recent cases of Bobby Gonzalez and Billy Gillispie show). If the Sixers fire Rutgers legend Eddie Jordan and he's interested, then he immediately goes to the top of any candidate list. However, in thinking this through today, and taking into account my sheer loathing of Bob Knight, the best course of action is probably to immediately offer the job to former Boston College coach Al Skinner.
Skinner is a proven winner; while he did fall off near the end at BC, he'll have an easier time recruiting at Rutgers if we keep some of the current assistants on staff (for the record, Carr is essential, and it'd be nice to keep Savino and Carter if at all possible). Frankly, some of the criticism coming out of Boston of Skinner seems like sour grapes designed to justify a decision that seems inexcusable on the surface. His resume blows any of the other candidates hired this year out of the water. In hiring a candidate perceived as a good gameday coach and talent developer who some shortcomings in recruiting, Rutgers would be making as complete a break from Hill (the recruiter who can't coach or develop players) as possible.
It's not that he'd necessarily be my favorite candidate, but he seems like a rather good one, that everyone could more than live with. He's a (much) better version of Gary Waters. Nothing at all like the Tim Welshes of the world who just make you want to jump into the Raritan at the mere mention of their name. Skinner seems like the path of least resistance at the moment. There may conceivably be better options, but it's almost like you can hire him right away and start to put this ugly mess in the past. He's shown at BC that he can win with sleeper recruits too, which is important considering all of the roster issues, and the likely need to scramble for replacements.
As to the any other remaining issues with Hill's buyout, I really can't say. It's hard not to think back to when Waters was stuck in Ohio. Bob Mulcahy still ended up having to pay that ridiculous buyout of a contract that should have never been extended in the first place. I think to similar situations - in the NBA, the Wizards didn't void Gilbert Arenas's contract after he had his gun incident several months back. My fear is that unless there's an ironclad out, any avenues to get out of a buyout are going to fail with the threat of prolonged and extended litigation. No inside information or legal knowledge at all here, but from inference I think they're going to have to pay Hill to make everything go away and stay off the radar for a while.