Yesterday, ESPN's Andy Katz broke the word that Nebraska was interested in Oregon head coach Dana Altman, but that Altman planned to stay a Duck. Lee Barfknecht of the Omaha World-Herald contacted Altman, and asked him about that, leading to the following mumble:
"Uh, I'm not going to talk about anything. I didn't talk to Andy when he called. I didn't talk to anybody. I just don't want to talk about anything or get anything started.''
When told that this "no comment" essentially refutes Katz's report that Altman has no interest in Nebraska, a member of Oregon's media relations cut off the interview. So is Altman interested in the Nebraska job? Who knows at this point.
At this point, it's growing increasingly clear that Nebraska is starting to focus on two candidates: Ohio coach John Groce and Colorado State coach Tim Miles. Could there be other candidates? Possibly...but probably only if these candidates fall through.Groce's Bobcats face off against North Carolina in St. Louis tonight. That's his focus at this point; on Thursday, he declined comment about the Nebraska rumors, except to say that he's flattered to be mentioned for a Big Ten coaching job.
Sources around the Mid-American Conference suggest that Groce is still leaning against the Nebraska job. Every key player from his team should return next season. If he's a hot commodity this season, he could be smoking next year. While his name has been mentioned for the Illinois job, the pressure is on in Champaign to hire a minority coach. MAC sources think Nebraska would offer $1 million, and with Ohio considering bumping Groce's salary to $450,000, I can see why those sources think Groce will stay. I'd suggest that Nebraska will probably offer Groce something closer to the $2 million that Wichita State's Gregg Marshall apparently rejected. Would Groce turn down top-15 money from Nebraska?
Barfknecht's sources say that Miles has received rave reviews from Osborne's advisors. I'd suggest he's the fail-safe candidate should Groce not be interested. He likely would receive something less than Marshall or Groce would command, but more than Doc Sadler made.
Dana Altman's $1.8 million salary with Oregon makes him unlikely to leave, no matter how evasive or flip-flopping he seems to be. SB Nation's Oregon site "Addicted to Quack" featured a rather scathing critique of Altman, echoing much of the undercurrent from Creighton fans in recent years. Maybe he's not willing to dismiss the Nebraska job out of respect and admiration for Tom Osborne, but I have this gut feeling that Altman's best days in coaching are behind him.
Who else would Nebraska consider? Kansas assistant coach Danny Manning has receive a couple of mentions, but as long as the Jayhawks continue on in the NCAA tournament, he's off limits. Another name that popped up today is Michigan State assistant coach Dwayne Stephens. He's a solid recruiter who's worked not only for Tom Izzo but also Indiana coach Tom Crean.
One thing that has annoyed me in the last day or two is the impatience some fans and media members are showing. (Hence, the "Day 15" joke in the title.) Tom Osborne told us when this started that he didn't have a timetable and that many candidates would be preoccupied with the NCAA tournament.
"Naturally you'd like to not have it drag on forever, but you have a lot of people that are going to be involved in the NCAA Tournament, and they're not going to want to talk about anything except the tournament right now. So I would say, no there is no particular timetable. It's more important to get it as right as we can, so we'll just play it along one day at a time."
So yes, this search continues...and will likely continue into next week. Right now, I think Osborne is waiting for an opportunity to talk to Groce, and that's been delayed by the Bobcats run to the Sweet 16. Comparisons to Steve Pederson's football coaching circus in 2003-04 are premature. We don't have any reports of airplanes waiting to bring Tubby Smith or Pat Knight to Lincoln. We're at two weeks of waiting, not six. We've seen some candidates say no, but they are candidates that probably could best be described as stretch candidates.
Judging from the interviews Osborne apparently held in Atlanta earlier this week, it's obvious that there are coaches who want the Nebraska job. But Osborne is holding back and seems to want a shot at convincing a blue chip coach. Considering his success in recruiting football players, I think it's worth giving him the opportunity to make that home run hire.