UCLA's Ben Howland might be the craziest idea in Nebraska's coaching search. But considering the circumstances in both Westwood and Lincoln, it's certainly worth discussing. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-US PRESSWIRE
Now that the Doc Sadler era is over, it's time to figure out who Nebraska will turn to next to coach Husker basketball. Nebraska lack of success in basketball means that the next coach is essentially starting with a blank slate. It also means that it's highly unlikely that Nebraska's next coach will have a past association with Lincoln as a player. As a former assistant coach? Maybe a little more conceivable, but again, I think Tom Osborne wants to break out of the rut that Nebraska basketball has been in.
Facility improvements should show a potential head coach that there is a commitment to do basketball right in Lincoln. The new Hendricks Center has wowed everybody who has seen it, and the new downtown Pinnacle Bank Arena will be top-notch as well. Some people will dismiss the notion that Nebraska basketball can ever be nationally competitive, but with the right coach, you never know. Bill Snyder turned the worst college football program in the country into a national title contender in under ten years. I think the money is going to be there; Marc Boehm told the Lincoln Journal-Star that money may not be a concern.
So here is a list of candidates that have been mentioned as of late:
"We'll pay if it's the right coach," Boehm said. "This is a pivotal hire right now. We need to make sure we find the right guy."
John Groce, Ohio. Former Ohio State assistant who's done well at Ohio. Seems that the last basketball coach Nebraska hired from Ohio did well for the first ten years or so.
Ben Howland, UCLA. One month ago, this would have seemed patently absurd and ridiculous. But a Sports Illustrated expose about players out of control may put pressure on both Howland and UCLA to separate. And Howland may be looking for an escape to a place with fewer, um, distractions than Hollywood. And with a familiar face like Marc Boehm in Lincoln, you never know. But would Osborne want to bring somebody in who's been accused of not doing things the right way? From a basketball perspective, this would be an incredible get.
Gregg Marshall, Wichita State. Creighton fans' worst nightmare: the Missouri Valley's best coach leaves only to move 50 miles down the road and restore the interest in Nebraska basketball. Sure, the Jays benefit by only having to face a Marshall team once each season and not having that game affect their conference standings, but akin to winning a battle and losing the war. Marshall likely won't be available for at least two weeks, and he'll likely be a target of other power league basketball programs needing a new coach.
Tim Miles, Colorado State. Can the Nebraska Way work in basketball? Miles has four Nebraskans on his roster, and the Rams' RPI is 25 this season.
Shaka Smart, Virginia Commonwealth. Might as well throw his name in here, but it sure looks like Illinois has a bead on Smart. The Illini AD worked with Smart before, and let's face it, Illinois has a track record of beating out Nebraska when in competition for a basketball coach. (Remember Bill Self?)
Mike Davis, UAB. You never want to be the guy who replaces the legend, and in Davis' case, it was replacing Bobby Knight at Indiana. So he goes to UAB and rebuilds his career. That being said, some Blazer fans would be all too happy to have Davis leave Birmingham. So take this name with a huge amount of skepticism.
Scott Spinelli, Maryland Assistant Coach. Here's where the Nebraska connection could possibly come into play,. He's regarded as a top-notch recruiter, but one has to wonder when his big catch on his resume was Aleks Maric. But there is some buzz here, so we'll list him here.
Dana Altman, Oregon. This one might make some Briejay fans vomit. I know that former Omaha talk radio host Matt Perrault will throw up the champagne he's been celebrating Sadler's dismissal with if Altman becomes a serious candidate. Altman would have coveted the Nebraska job ten years ago, and probably five years ago. But could Nebraska counter Phil Knight's Nike money?
Steve McClain, Indiana Assistant Coach. He knows the Big Ten, and has head coaching experience at Wyoming, only to be fired in 2006 after failing to reach the postseason in his final four years in Laramie despite 3 NIT and 1 NCAA appearances in his first five years. He apparently was a finalist for the Penn State job this year.
Handicapping things right now, I'd put my order of interest as follows: Howland, Smart, Marshall, Groce. Howland still seems too good to be true, so I'm tempering expectations. Smart seems destined for Illinois, so I think it comes down to Marshall and Groce. If I had to put my money on who will get the job, it would be Groce because I see Marshall also being a hot candidate going elsewhere.
In the end, the next head coach at Nebraska needs to have a strong recruiting background. Nebraska can't allow players like South Sioux City's Mike Gesell to get away moving forward. It was clear this year that Nebraska did not have the players to compete in the Big Ten this season. There are a number of reasons for that, but in the end, it was what ultimately sunk Sadler's career at Nebraska. That's something that Nebraska's next coach will have to solve.
Who's on your list? Rank them on who you'd like to see considered...