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Living with Fran

A quick recap of stuff you probably read already during the day:

Fred Hill Jr. is gone (edit: he actually denied it?!?!?!), negotiating a settlement (edit2: turned down 600k offer), and there's a list of potential replacements.

Going forward, the top candidates include former Boston College/Ohio State coach Jim O’Brien, former St. John’s coach and current ESPN analyst Fran Fraschilla, recently deposed Wake Forest coach Dino Gaudio, Rhode Island coach Jim Baron and Temple coach Fran Dunphy.

Thankfully, the Rice report from last night has not been corroborated. That gives me a lot more faith in landing a good choice.

  • Gaudio's rep from Wake Forest is exactly the same as Hill's: good recruiter, bad coach. Next.
  • Jim O'Brien has a top track record, but how is he a plausible candidate after how his tenure at Ohio State ended? Even the appearance of anything below the board has to be avoided.
  • Fraschilla has a lot of things going for him in terms of coaching skill and recruiting, but has been away from basketball for a while. There's also the matter of several well-publicized emotional outbursts, which seems like a red flag considering the events of the past week. Is he going to be wheeled to games on a gurney wearing a Hannibal Lecter mask? He's a name that Rutgers fans could definitely talk themselves into in any case.
  • I like Jim Baron's resume quite a bit, actually. Why wasn't he more involved in the St. John's and Seton Hall searches?
  • Dunphy is an excellent coach, but he's already 61 (which is also a concern with O'Brien), and is in a good situation at Temple.

Of this group I'd go with Fraschilla or Baron and be happy enough with the choice. Tom Luicci says that Fraschilla and O'Brien lead, and Adam Zagoria says Fraschilla leads. Fair enough. He also includes another jab at Hill.

A source who spent the last four years inside the Rutgers locker room said Hill had completely lost the team by the end and that assistant coach Darren Savino was calling subs and plays in the final weeks of the season.

"There’s not a single guy in that locker room that likes [Hill] or respects him.There’s no respect for that guy," the locker room source said.

As for the bit about Rosario being dead set on leaving, maybe so, but I can't fathom Mike getting his release tomorrow before the new coach is in place. How ironic is it a year after Rutgers couldn't get a release from Fordham for Jio Fontan, USC (where Fontan landed) and other schools are probably tampering out of their minds at the moment.

As for Fraschilla, he had a good run in the mid-90's at Manhattan. Seemed to be breaking through at St. John's before, uh, something that you can probably find on Google reportedly happened. Wasn't so hot at New Mexico, but it's presumably harder to convince New York City's best to follow him all the way out there. He's a proven commodity, and his resume blows away any previous Rutgers basketball hire - even Tom Young and Bill Foster. Fraschilla would be without a doubt the most qualified men's basketball coach ever stepping into the job. Rutgers hasn't hired a head coach with major conference experience since right after World War 2.

Not only can I live with Fran, I'm already talking myself into him. This isn't the Big East of fifteen years ago, but even if more rebuilding is on tap for the next year or two, he's an upgrade over Hill. Sure, anyone would be, but there should be enough decent candidates out there to stumble into an acceptable choice. That wasn't the case a decade ago, when Rutgers was still tainted by the Kevin Bannon scandal and getting turned down left and right. Fred Hill was essentially anointed without a search four years ago as the perceived elixir to all of Gary Waters's flaws.

Extenuating circumstances resulted in both searches being bungled, and Rutgers basketball wasn't even competing on a level playing field pre-Bob Mulcahy and joining the Big East in 1996. Freed of those burdens, with solid leadership in place at the top of the athletic department and ambitious facilities upgrades on tap, the Rutgers basketball program offers a job where any number of suitable candidates could conceivably succeed. Fran Fraschilla fits the bill of having a pulse, and lacking the chief flaws of his would-be immediate predecessors. Who knows where he stands in the overall scheme of things, but Fraschilla offers enough intrigue and faint glimmers of optimism to be at minimum, a more-than-acceptable hire.

Hiring Fran Fraschilla would give the basketball program a semblance of hope that hasn't existed since it became apparent back during Hill's first season that he wasn't remotely up to the task. Given how low enthusiasm and expectations are at the moment, right now that should be good enough for Tim Pernetti's stamp of approval.