First things first, it is going to be hard for the University of Louisville to hire a new men’s basketball coach as long as there is NCAA uncertainty hanging over the program.
The bombshell Tuesday that the FBI apparently has video of one of Rick Pitino’s assistants participating in an alleged scheme to route $100,000 to the family of a top prospect would seem to assure that U of L — which was already in the NCAA’s sights for the prior “strippers for recruits” scandal — faces months more of scrutiny and investigation.
This week’s news has already led Louisville interim president Greg Postel to place Pitino and Athletics Director Tom Jurich on administrative leave, presumably as a first step toward terminating their employment.
At some point, the turmoil at U of L will settle and the Cardinals will be able to seek a new coach for a new era.
Who should Louisville target?
First, we’re addressing an eventual, full-time replacement for Pitino, not the interim coach Louisville will presumably need for the coming season.
Second, I think U of L should break completely free from the Pitino era. Given the vast reach of Ricky P.’s coaching tree, that eliminates a lot of candidates.
Three, I think prior head coaching experience is a necessity for a rebuilding task as herculean as Louisville figures to be. That would mean no Kenny Payne, the ex-Louisville player and longtime Kentucky assistant under John Calipari.
Finally, with the FBI apparently expanding its probe of sleazy financial dealings in and around the world of big-time college hoops recruiting, the pool available to Louisville — who needs someone above reproach — may also be reduced.
In alphabetical order, here are some names to ponder:
Chris Collins. The former Duke player and assistant, 43, worked a basketball miracle, getting Northwestern to the men’s NCAA Tournament for the first time in its history last season.
Bryce Drew. After a successful five-year run at his alma mater, Valparaiso, Drew, 43, will soon begin his second year as Vanderbilt head man. His name recognition from the days when he hit one of the most famous game-winning shots in NCAA Tournament history would presumably help.
Fred Hoiberg. With the Chicago Bulls in full rebuilding mode, will the ex-Iowa State coach, 44, soon be seeking a return to college hoops?
Chris Mack. The Xavier coach’s wife, the former Christi Hester, was a star athlete at Louisville’s Holy Cross High School. Scuttlebutt has long held that Mack, 47, would end his successful run at X for a chance to coach U of L. Whether that holds true with Louisville as a reclamation project is unclear.
Dan Majerle. The former NBA standout, 52, has won 27 and 22 games, respectively, the last two years as head coach at Grand Canyon. “Thunder Dan” has name ID from his pro playing days.
Gregg Marshall. Feisty to the core, the current Wichita State coach would enter this state prepared to “stand up” to John Calipari. Because Marshall, 54, thrives via evaluating players who have to be developed, he might be well suited for a U of L rebuild.
Kevin Ollie. Since beating Kentucky in the 2014 NCAA championship game, the Connecticut head man, 44, is a so-so 61-43. Still, Ollie is respected in basketball circles and a move to Louisville would get him into a power-five conference.
Steve Prohm. As a former Murray State coach, Prohm, 43, knows the state. After taking Murray to the NCAA Tournament round of 32 in 2012, Prohm has led Iowa State to back-to-back NCAA tourneys since replacing Hoiberg two years ago.
Shaka Smart. Both in terms of playing style (up-tempo) and personality (up-tempo), the Texas head coach would be the perfect fit at U of L. Historically, Louisville is a better basketball job than Texas. But would Smart, 40, be willing to take on a potentially epic rebuild?
Buzz Williams. After making the NCAA Tournament five times in six years at Marquette, it took Williams, 45, only three years to get Virginia Tech into the Big Dance. Another guy with the feisty personality that could aid a rebuild.
Steve Wojciechowski. In three seasons at Marquette, the former Duke point guard and assistant, 41, has had one 20-win season and one trip to the NCAA tourney.