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Rutgers Basketball Coaching Search: Two More Candidates Interviewed

Mike Lonergan makes sense. Jay Williams? Not so much.

Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

We know that Danny Hurley has been in talks with Rutgers athletic director Pat Hobbs regarding the men's basketball coaching position.  Today it was also reported that two additional candidates interviewed with Hobbs yesterday, with them being on total opposite ends of the spectrum.  Mike Lonergan, head coach at George Washington, interviewed with Hobbs yesterday, according to Steve Politi.  In addition, after being rumored to be interested in the Rutgers job over the weekend, it was reported that ESPN analyst Jay Williams also interviewed with Hobbs yesterday.

Lonergan is an excellent candidate who has more college coaching experience than Hurley.  He is from the Washington DC area and was the head coach at Division III Catholic University for 12 seasons, posting a record of 251-88. After working as an assistant under Gary Williams at Maryland for one season, he became the head coach at Vermont for six seasons, going 126-68 and making 4 postseason appearances, including 1 NCAA tournament bid.  He has been at George Washington for the past five years and has led the Colonials to three consecutive 20+ win seasons.  They are 23-10 this season and are in the NIT, finishing in 5th place in the competitive Atlantic 10 conference.   He has had great success recruiting internationally and in the DC area. Lonergan is 50 years old and interviewed for the Seton Hall job with Hobbs when he was at Vermont.  It makes sense after his success at GW that Hobbs would put Lonergan on his list of potential candidates for the Rutgers job.

Another interesting angle on Lonergan is that he has the same agent as Danny Hurley, Jordan Bazant, who also represents Rutgers football coach Chris Ash. The Washington Post ran an article yesterday, citing Lonergan's happiness at GW but that he has some concerns over the school's commitment to investing into the program. Sound familiar? Is Lonergan's interest in the Rutgers job legitimate or is he using it as leverage with GW? We don't know, but believe that Hobbs has serious interest in Lonergan.

As for Jay Williams on the other hand, he has never coached a college game in his life. Not even as an assistant. Why is Hobbs even considering Williams for the job? This article by Keith Sargeant quoted the likes of TNT analyst Kenny Smith, who touted Williams as a great "in the box" hire for Hobbs to consider. The Jet had this to say:

"To me he's in the box (as a candidate). Being 'outside-the-box' would be someone who's never played at a high level, who hasn't been announcing. He can tell you what it takes to get to a National Championship team. He's been an integral part of it. He has 17 years of basketball experience that is unparalleled by anyone."

Smith cited everything Williams can market himself as with his candidacy except for the most important quality: coaching experience. As our own Dave White wrote this weekend, Hobbs should stick to the basics in this search. I can't possibly understand the logic in hiring a TV personality and former college star to take over a Big Ten program that needs a drastic overhaul.  A candidate with zero coaching experience isn't "thinking in the box", that is "thinking in the crazy house". Plus, Williams himself passed over Rutgers for national power Duke during his own recruitment process.  This same guy is going to walk into New Jersey high school players' homes and convince them to stay home, a "do as I say, not as I do" recruiting philosophy.

With all that being said, I am sticking by the "In Hobbs We Trust" mantra.  Let's hope that Hobbs is playing chess while everyone else is playing checkers.  Isn't it possible Hobbs is using the interest of Jay Williams in the Rutgers job as leverage during the search? Hurley very well may have expected to be the only candidate considered and interviewed until he made a decision in the early part of this search.  Williams came out stating strong interest and Hobbs did his due diligence interviewing him.

However, Hobbs has proven to be a smart, logical decision maker in his short time at Rutgers as athletic director.  He is a basketball guy at heart and knows how important this hire is. Would he really be willing to risk everything on a coach who has never coached? Or is he playing the game differently than he did during the football search, when candidates interviewing were barely leaked during the process.  The basketball circle is smaller and much has been reported.  Hobbs knows who his top option is and where he turns if that falls through. Have faith in him going through the coaching search process, with all he has done in such a short time at Rutgers, we all owe him that.