All right, Rutgers fans, take a deep breath.
Our top target for the vacant basketball search, Danny Hurley, turned the job down. By all reports, Pat Hobbs offered Hurley the moon and more and Danny decided he’d rather coach his potential top 25 team next year. More power to him.
He was my top choice. It didn’t happen. You move on.
But, Rutgers fans, what you don’t do is this: Panic. Yesterday, after Hurley said no, Steve Politi published a column saying that Rutgers should hire high school basketball coach Kevin Boyle. Let me repeat the four words of that again: "high school basketball coach."
Listen, we all love Scott Goodale, but basketball is not wrestling, where you can take a risk like that because the stakes aren’t as high. Wrestling is a great college sport, but the eye of the media isn’t on it 24/7 like football and hoops. Had Goodale been a disaster (which was a possibility when he was hired—he was a high school coach), you fire him and move on. If Boyle were to fail, the media would turn its head (yes, probably even Steve, who I love) and make Rutgers a laughing stock again for taking that kind of risk.
Would Boyle bring talent? Early on he probably would (but even that I can’t guarantee. Remember the influence AAU guys have—more so than high school coaches). But if those kids didn’t blossom quickly, people would stop looking Kevin’s way. And then what? He’s already learning on the job. He’s learning how to be a program leader. Do you remember what it was like when you were 18 and away from home as a college freshman? Do you remember how freeing?
Now imagine being the guy trying to control that. It’s easier at high school. Not as much on a college campus. And Boyle would be learning on the job. Even if he can coach, there’s a lot more that comes with the job.
Thinking outside the box will kill Rutgers here. Not only would Boyle be a big time risk (one that would come with a lot of skepticism early), but should he fail, he’d bury the program even more. Each time a coach fails, it gets harder and harder for our beloved basketball team to bounce back. That’s why hiring Jay Williams would be even more terrible.
Williams is an analyst. He’s never had the word coach by his name. He’s an analyst who tears open his shirt to pick the winner of the big game. Going from ESPN to Rutgers is a big jump. It’s not like he’s leaping into a ready made spot.
And, what a lot of newer Rutgers fans are learning is, basketball isn’t football either—this is a local sport. People talk, just like they do in your town at the deli. While football has that corporate silence to it, basketball has the internal chattering of small town politics. Everyone talks and everyone has an agenda. People negotiate throughout the media. People leak stories or call their friends or tell their high school coach buddies.
Stories are going to leak to fit agendas, and they aren’t all true.
What Rutgers needs is to take a breath. Find the right college coach. A guy who isn’t learning on the job. Someone from the Atlantic Ten or the AAC, the next step down from the Big Ten. My top two choices are Mike Lonergan (if they can convince him) or Mark Schmidt (who’s available for phone calls now). Both these guys know what it takes. Even Steve Masiello would be good.
Not happy with that? Aaron has a whole list here and here.
But the key is not to rush into things. Don’t listen to Steve, Rutgers fans, you haven’t before. Why start now?
Remember, this isn’t just about landing a few bodies and throwing them out on to the court with the ball. Rutgers picked a guy who never coached in college last time and the lack of defense lead to an average of fewer than ten wins per year.
You can’t afford to make that mistake again. Find experience. And give him the resources to succeed. Don’t throw up your hands and try to bury this program more because you might get a few snazzy ESPN headlines for a week.
Do it right.
Danny said no. That’s okay.
There are other coaches out there.
Take a deep breath and do it right.