UConn men's basketball conducting first coaching search in 32 years

Published on Monday, 12 March 2018 17:59
Written by Neill Ostrout

Journal Inquirer

The UConn men’s basketball team is conducting a coaching search for the first time in 32 years.

When Kevin Ollie took over for Jim Calhoun six years ago, it was a transition that didn’t require much of a look around. Now that Ollie has been fired, where does UConn turn?

And how attractive is the Husky head coaching job to national applicants? Its four national titles over a 15-year period is unprecedented. But its quick drop from relevance and its non-traditional conference affiliation may scare some candidates away, as might UConn’s treatment of Ollie as it shows him the door.

With all of that in mind, let’s look at some of the candidates UConn will likely be looking at to fill its vacancy:

1. Danny Hurley, Rhode Island: The Rams’ head coach, whose team is headed to the NCAA Tournament for the second straight season, has been successful in Rhode Island at Wagner. His name still carries weight, and not just because of his father’s legendary career as a New Jersey high school basketball coach or his brother’s exploits as a player and now coach. The question may whether or not UConn is good enough for Hurley to jump ship, especially with other perhaps more attractive job openings on the horizon. He played for George Blaney, later a UConn assistant, at Seton Hall, and has former UConn assistant Tom Moore on his Rhody staff now.

2. John Becker, Vermont: The Fairfield native has won three America East regular season titles with the Catamounts and two league tournament titles to boot. He’s won at least 20 games in all seven of his seasons in Burlington.

3. Tom Crean, ESPN: The former Indiana and Marquette coach has seemingly done a good job as a TV analyst but is a proven commodity of sorts if UConn wanted to go in that direction. He has some familiarity for the program, having coached against the Huskies on a few occasions as both a head coach and assistant at Michigan State. There may be other interested parties for Crean, as it’s already been rumored he will interview for Georgia’s vacancy.

4. Steve Pikiell, Rutgers: It’s not clear if the Huskies would like to keep the job “in the family” but if so, Pikiell is the clear choice. He has a Big Ten job, and rather hefty buyout, meaning he may not be anxious to leave. But the Bristol native, who is a former UConn player and assistant coach, may still have a desire to come home.

5. Frank Martin, South Carolina: There have been indications that the Gamecocks’ head coach is not pleased with his school’s commitment to his program and that he might be looking to leave. He doesn’t have ties to the area but has had some success at two different stops as a head coach.

6. Jim Calhoun: It’s not crazy to think that UConn AD David Benedict may want to bring in a “bridge” of sorts and allow the 75-year-old Hall of Famer to return to the sidelines. Calhoun has a gig working with Division III St. Joseph’s next season, but may return to the Huskies if called upon.

7. Geno Auriemma: If this were 10 or 15 years ago, Auriemma would and should get a great deal of consideration. As it stands now, the ship may have sailed on the Hall of Fame UConn women’s coach trying his hand with the school’s male counterparts.

8. Bruce Pearl, Auburn: He comes with a little NCAA baggage, so UConn may be wary, but Benedict worked closely with Pearl at Auburn and the two remain close. He’s a New England native who is intricately familiar with the Huskies from his days at Boston College and his days recruiting the area.

Posted in New Britain Herald, UConn on Monday, 12 March 2018 17:59. Updated: Monday, 12 March 2018 18:01.