UK Men's Basketball

10 things to look for when picking next coach

John Clay
John Clay

A wise man once said, it's a bad coaching search only if you hire the wrong guy.

And there are no perfect guys. As Kentucky goes about the business of finding a new basketball coach, the search party will surely encounter candidates with a variety of flaws.

But were I in that search party, here are 10 things I would be looking for:

1. A winner

That's the ultimate judgment. I've received angry e-mails from Billy Gillispie supporters arguing that were UK's record better, Gillispie still would be coach. But it wasn't better, so Gillispie's inability to play nice with others came into play.

Still, the point is well taken. If you're going to be the coach of the winningest program in college basketball, you need to win.

2. A recruiter

To win, you have to have players. The days when Kentucky attracted players simply because it was Kentucky are over. The school spent $30 million on the Craft Center, its indoor practice facility, yet its recruiting doesn't seem measurably better than it was when the team practiced in Memorial Coliseum.

You recruit good players with a good product, a good coach, a good school, and a good recruiter.

3. Charisma

This characteristic might not be so important were the next candidate not following a coach who seemed uncomfortable with the personality aspects of the job. Considering this will be UK's third coach in four years, it might help to have someone who gets the fan base excited.

4. Accessibility

No. 3 ties into No. 4. If you are going to excite the fan base, you have to be accessible to the fan base. That means speaking engagements, public appearances, charity events. Follow Tubby Smith's example. Don't be just a part of the university, be a part of the community, and the state.

5. An Ambassador

In everything he does and says, with every move he makes, the Kentucky coach represents the school, the program, and the state. Find someone who can do that in the best way possible.

6. comfortable in his own skin

You never really got that feeling with Gillispie, for whatever reason. The coach who can handle this job is someone who has self-confidence, self-respect and knows how to handle the praise as well as the criticism. He'll receive an ample supply of both.

7. An appealing style of play

Does this mean the three-point-shooting, pressing, run-and-gun style of the Rick Pitino days? Not necessarily. But Kentucky has a tradition of "racehorse" basketball that for the most part has served the program well over the years.

Besides, today's recruits want a style of play that showcases their talents, especially for the next level. Two examples are Coaches Bruce Pearl at Tennessee and Mike Anderson at Missouri. There's a reason they were able to turn those programs so quickly.

8. Flexibility

After Gillispie's rigid notions about the game, it would serve the next coach to be a bit more flexible.

9. driven

Yes, Kentucky has high expectations. Yes, those expectations sometimes spill beyond realistic bounds. So if you're going to be the coach at Kentucky, you had better be driven to succeed.

10. Experience

When Billy Gillispie got the Kentucky job, I remember C.M. Newton sounding a cautionary word. The retired athletics director said he was a little surprised at the hire, given Gillispie's lack of experience.

At the time, I thought maybe it was sour grapes, considering Newton's frayed relations with his alma mater since his departure. Turns out, maybe C.M. was right.

Experience doesn't necessarily mean head-coaching experience. Roy Williams had never been a head coach before he started taking Kansas to Final Fours on a regular basis. But the former North Carolina assistant had been a longtime aide at a prominent basketball power. He knew his way around the block.

For UK, it might not hurt to get someone who knows his way around the block.

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