The NCAA Tournament is underway and for over two thirds of Division I college basketball teams, their season is long over and done with. For a few teams, that has meant parting ways with their head coach. As Rutgers searches for its next coach, we know Danny Hurley reportedly removed himself from consideration for the job. Mike Lonergan, and Jay Williams interviewed with athletic director Pat Hobbs on Monday. Perhaps he will hire one of them, although Lonergan's desire to leave GW has been questioned. Now that Hurley fell through and if Lonergan doesn't bite, while also assuming/hoping Williams is not a serious candidate, where will Hobbs turn next? Every year March Madness puts a few coaches from smaller schools into the spotlight, and there are likely at least one or two that Hobbs would consider once their tournament run ends. Let's take a look at a few possibilities.
The longtime Stony Brook coach played at UCONN in the late eighties when Jim Calhoun started having success after rebuilding the program. He played point guard and was a two-time captain on teams that advanced to the Sweet Sixteen and Elite Eight. Pikiell was an assistant coach under Calhoun, then Yale, Central Connecticut State and George Washington, before landing as the head coach at Stony Brook in 2005. They are also headed to their sixth postseason appearance in seven years and after winning the American East conference tournament last weekend, are headed to their first NCAA appearance in school history. They went 26-6 this season and play Kentucky on Thursday. At 48, he is primed to take the next step up the coaching ladder and is well respected among his peers. He is local and has experience learning how to build a program, both as a player and coach, under the legendary Calhoun. Pikiell should be Hobb's first call if Hurley and Lonergan both don't work out.
The Iona coach has won 20+ games in all six seasons on the job and went 22-10 this season, winning the MAAC tournament over favorite Monmouth. He has made the postseason every year on the job, including now three NCAA appearances. He replaced Kevin Willard in 2010, who was hired by Pat Hobbs to be the new coach at Seton Hall, and has made them a consistent winner. The Queens native was a prominent high school coach in Manhasset, New York and won multiple state championships in his 14 seasons there. He then jumped C.W. Post for five seasons before taking over Iona. He is 56 and lacking a power 5 background, but there is no denying Cluess has won everywhere he has coached. Not sure what Hobbs' interest would be as Cluess is not a younger, up and coming coach, but a win over Iowa State would get him a lot of attention.
The 50 year old native of West Orange, New Jersey is a sleeper candidate in my opinion. He was an 1000 point scorer at St. Benedict’s prep in the early eighties and a two year starter and captain at George Washington. After becoming the head coach at East Carolina at just 29 years old, he compiled a 4 year record of 57-52 at a traditionally bad basketball school. After a couple quick stints as an assistant at Wyoming and New Mexico, Dooley was a longtime Kansas assistant under Bill Self from 2003-2013. He was a part of the 2007-2008 national championship team. Dooley ended up landing his second head coaching gig at Florida Gulf Coast, taking over for March Madness sensation Andy Enfield once he capitalized on that miracle run and went to USC. He has won 20+ games in all three seasons at FGCU and the postseason each time. He led FCU to their first NCAA tournament win since Enfield left last night, blowing out Fairleigh Dickinson in the first four game. I think Dooley is definitely worth consideration based on his jersey roots and Kansas connection.
The Long Island native played at Albany in the eighties, was an assistant there in the nineties, before sticking at Yale and has been the head coach there since 1999. He has the highest winning percentage in school history at .571 and has the most wins in program history. He was named the Ivy coach of the year the past two seasons, tying Harvard for the league title last year, before winning it outright this year. He has led Yale to a 4th place finish or better for the past 16 seasons, no small achievement. They are currently 22-6 and play Baylor in the NCAA tournament, their first appearance since 1962. There was a scandal this season, with team captain Jack Montague being expelled from school regarding a sexual assault allegation. However, Jones has a stellar reputation and solid track record, making him a possible candidate Hobbs could speak with.
Payne won the national championship as a player at Louisville in 1986, played for the Philadelphia 76ers, and has been an assistant coach at Oregon and Kentucky. He has been at Kentucky since 2010 and is the associate head coach under John Calipari. He is a top recruiter and landed Michael Kidd-Gilchrist from New Jersey prep power St. Patrick's. Payne has never been a head coach before but if Hobbs needs to expand his list, he is definitely worth a phone call. Who knows if Payne would be interested in leaving for the Rutgers job and recruiting here is a lot different than for the bluegrass power school. However, he has recruited this area a very long time and has been lauded for his work with Kentucky's big men.
Ganot played at Tenafly high school in New Jersey and was an assistant coach at West Coast Conference power St. Mary's for five seasons. He landed his first head coaching position at Hawaii this year and led them to a 27-5 record. They are making their first NCAA tournament appearance since 2002 on Friday against California. He won Big West coach of the year in his debut season and is only 33 years old. If Hobbs really is looking for a young, up and coming coach, Ganot should be of interest. However, he has been on the west coast for over a decade and his recruiting success as a head coach is yet to be determined.
He is the associate head coach at Miami under respected coach Jim Larranaga. He followed Larranaga from George Mason to Miami and has worked under him for the past 14 seasons. He is essentially the defensive coordinator for the Hurricanes and is known as a good recruiter. He is from Elmhurst, New York and graduated from New York City powerhouse Archbishop Molloy, playing for legendary high school coach Jack Curran there. He is only 36 years old and considered a rising star in college basketball. He would be a hire with great potential.
What Should Hobbs Do?
Hobbs should absolutely consider Pikiell. His experience and recent success at Stony Brook make him an excellent candidate. I think talking to Dooley, Jones, Payne and Caputo make sense as well. A couple other names of coaches who Hobbs could consider that are not in the NCAA tournament include St. Bonaventure coach Mark Schmidt, Manhattan's Steve Masiello, and free agent Herb Sendek. We discussed these three candidates, among others, here and here. With Hurley out of consideration, the scope of this search will potentially get much larger. Where it ends is anyone's guess right now. Take your time Pat and get it right!