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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Where Do We Go From Here?

After a dizzying 24 hours, I think it's important to take a step back and get a fresh look at this coaching search.

First off, what do we know?

For one, I'm tired. I'm very, very tired. Why does this have to be so complicated? And why does it have to happen right in the middle of spring football? Please, Damon, for my sake, let's get this over with.

OK, enough of my whining.

What else do we know?

We know that Anthony Grant isn't coming here. Georgia apparently never offered him officially, despite the hopes of many fans.

We know that Mike Anderson isn't coming either. If Anderson's agent is to be believed, no official offer came from Georgia on him either, although I have to believe there was a good bit of "preliminary" talking that occurred.

Web outlets reported that offers to both candidates took place, reported specific dollar amounts and reported a decision would come soon.

So how did the information for these stories turn out to be wrong? (Or at least, reportedly wrong, depending on who you talk to.)

A lot of that has to do with how the search has been handled from Georgia's standpoint.

There is good reason for why Georgia would want to be tight-lipped about the process, but what has occurred has been a lot of attention, a lot of interest and very little actual information. Most of the info that sources have had -- both my sources and those belonging to the other reporters, including the ones who have penned stories saying an offer was made -- has come from agents or outsiders, not from Georgia.

So bad info has been floated, the rumors have heated up, fans have gotten into a tizzy over this guy or that guy, and through Georgia's silence, they've lost control of the message. This has become problematic. I remain confident that Damon is going to get the right coach for the job, but from a P.R. standpoint, things don't look great for Georgia right now.

Fans are hesitant to trust that a good hire will be made after a long track record of failure since Tubby Smith left, and this represents the first time Damon Evans has had to make a marquee hire. There was tremendous excitement surrounding Anderson today, and now anything less is going to seem like a disappointment, even if it's actually a wise move.

So, the big question at this point is where do we go from here?

With John Calipari heading to Kentucky, the picture is both clearer and more complex. We at least know who the players are, but with Memphis in the mix (along with Arizona to an extent), there are programs with better historical pedigrees than Georgia and potentially more cash to offer.

Given that popular names like Grant and Anderson have now come and gone, the rest of the pickings appear to be either a.) thin or b.) unlikely, particularly given that Georgia is potentially third in the pecking order for luring the best talent.

That isn't to say there aren't plenty of names being floated out there by everyone from legitimate basketball people to guys on the street who have never seen a Georgia basketball game in person. (And as a side note, isn't it odd how much more interest there is in this hire than there had been in the program at pretty much any time in the past six years?)

So, who might it be? I absolutely caution you by saying that I know no reason to assume these names are likely candidates, possible candidates or even candidates at all. But given that so many fans are about to leap from tall buildings after losing out on Anderson, I think it's a good idea to open the refrigerator door and scan the leftovers for a few minutes to see what we've got.

The Prodigal Son

Tubby Smith -- He's a name people around Georgia will get behind, he obviously can recruit Georgia well (he's still getting them in Minnesota) and it would be a heck of a story to have him come home. Having said all that, I highly doubt it's happening. Tubby has said repeatedly that he's staying in Minnesota, and he has -- to my knowledge -- a rather cumbersome buyout if he leaves.

The Big Names

Tom Izzo -- Sure, his name has been out there, including for the Kentucky job. But while Georgia might have a lot of cash to throw around, they'd likely have to top Mark Richt's salary to land Izzo.

Jeff Capel -- From Day 1 of the search, his name was near or at the top of fans' wishlists, but the general consensus has remained that he's sticking it out at Oklahoma. And if Mizzou has the cash to match a Georgia offer, you can be pretty certain Oklahoma does, too. FOX Sports is reporting that Capel is now back atop Georgia's wishlist, but this also from the site that floated the Capel rumors with little sourcing several weeks ago.

Sean Miller -- He has a long-term deal at Xavier, and while some fires were stoked early on him, there hasn't been much talk in a while.

The Biggest Name

Bobby Knight -- It isn't happening. No way, no how.

The NBA Guys

Sam Mitchell and Reggie Theus -- anything is possible I guess, but while there hasn't been much said by Damon Evans or Michael Adams, they have made a point of saying they want a coach with a proven track record on the recruiting trail, and these guys are pretty far removed from their last recruiting trip.

The ACC Also-Rans

Oliver Purnell, Leonard Hamilton and Frank Haith -- Each of the three names has been mentioned at one time or another, and ESPN's Andy Katz floated Purnell and Haith on Tuesday as potential replacements should the Anderson thing fall through. Of the three, Haith seems the most likely to actually take the job if it's offered, but Damon would have to work some serious public relations to smooth over that hire with a fan base that had expected more.

The Outsiders

Herb Sendek -- He has SEC ties after being an assistant at Kentucky, has recruited the South as a head coach at N.C. State, and has won at a football school at Arizona State. He's got a lot to like, but the name is pretty far out of left field at this point.

Scott Drew and Tim Floyd -- Both candidates have some impressive name recognition and both fulfill another important aspect of the Georgia search -- they've proven they can win at a football school. Floyd reportedly was a candidate when Georgia hired Dennis Felton, so he could certainly be on Georgia's radar again this time. The problem with both candidates is that they come with a certain level of baggage that, given the scars of the Jim Harrick era, Georgia may not be willing to accept.

The Surprise Candidates

Ummm... your guess is as good as mine. Hey, everyone is pretty bummed about the swing-and-miss on Anderson, but Damon Evans is no dummy either. There's just as good a chance that, given the tight-lipped nature of the proceedings thus far, Georgia has another candidate targeted who will come completely out of left field. Remember, the search firm in charge of identifying the next coach handled the same situation for LSU a year ago and plucked Trent Johnson seemingly out of thin air. That could certainly be a possibility again this time, and given the amount of money it appears Georgia is willing to spend, there can't be a lack of candidates willing to sign their name on the dotted line.

So, who am I forgetting?


ChicagoDawg said...

David -- As always, thanks for the good work. However, I have to disagree with you a bit on Georgia's communication strategy. This is a damned if they do, damned if they don't deal. I think it is unrealistic to think that they could "control the message." With ongoing breathless dispatches by Internet outlets and small aircraft tracking, there is no chance that a School can control the message on these deals. When you have agents, other schools and "sources close to the program" shopping rumors/leaks, real or imagined, there will be outlets all to happy to take the bait in an attempt break the story.
I am not trying to be a University apologist, but they would have to give hourly briefings to stay ahead of this thing and that is not practical or advisable.

David Hale said...

Chicago -- I agree with you for the most part, but I do think that silence tends to be a breeding ground for rumors. While there are always going to be "Internet reports" I think most fans know the difference. But when the same stories begin cropping up everywhere, including many reliable sources, it becomes something that is more than just a rumor. I guess there's no reason to assume this could have gone smoothly, but look at how things proceeded at Alabama, and it was a lot less ugly.

ChicagoDawg said...

I understand and there is probably a healthy balance between radio silence and hourly briefings. Clearly, they have skewed to the silence end of the continuum. I think your Alabama comparison speaks to the real issue that is going to amp up the scrutiny on Damon, which is UA got their first choice (or what is perceived to be the first choice). UGA took a gamble and passed on Grant, hoping for bigger game and it appears as though they swung and missed. Had they gotten Anderson, they would be viewed as the model of how to manage a search. As it is, unless they land a surprise big name, UGA is going to suffer by comparison and perhaps fairly so.

David Hale said...

I think that's a good synopsis of my feelings, Chicago. I do believe Damon knows what he's doing and will land a good coach, but fans aren't going to be happy if that coach doesn't have some box office cache because the promise of Anderson appeared so close to coming true. We shall see though. My money says Damon still has a few tricks up his sleeve.

rbubp said...

Fans will forget about the need for box office cache if whoever they hire gets in here and wins games. This, too, will all be forgotten if the hire is successful--even if it's Frank Haith. Haith wins games without cheating, we love him and Damon...

Anonymous said...

Has anyone thought about hiring a good assistant coach from any of the final four teams? I would think that an assistant coach from UNC, Duke, UCONN, etc would be just as good if not better than someone like Haith. I know it seems crazy that anyone from those schools would want to come here but for that much money and to finally be a head coach at a school with a major athletics program, it might make sense.