Julie Hermann

Assigned Reading: An in-depth look at search firms

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When Rutgers needed to hire a replacement for Tim Pernetti as the university’s athletic director, the school did what most schools in that situation do: they hired a search firm to help them parse through candidates.

The bill?

$70,000.

The end result?

Rutgers hired Julie Hermann away from Louisville, a move that was lauded until the Newark Star-Ledger dug up some embarrassing details from Hermann’s past. Namely, she was fired as the head volleyball coach at Tennessee in 1996 for actions that were all too similar to those of Mike Rice. Rice was fired in April when a video of him abusing his players reached Outside The Lines. Pernetti lost his job because he failed to fire Rice last December when he first became aware of the video.

The entire soap opera brought to light the topic of search firms and how they operate. If Rutgers is paying $70,000 for Parker Executive Search to help them find an AD, isn’t checking for skeletons in the closet part of the job?

On Friday, Dana O’Neil of ESPN.com published an interesting look into Parker Executive Search and how search firms operate, which is really worth your time. I found this passage most interesting, however:

The perception exists among the coaching fraternity that if you don’t know Parker and other top search firms, or vice versa, you won’t get a job because of the wide breadth of their influence.

Some go to great lengths to stay in their good graces.

“When I was at Murray State, I did an interview for a job I didn’t want because a high-powered search firm wanted me to,” Cronin said. “The school wanted to interview me and I wasn’t interested in the job, but I wanted to endear myself to the search firm. I thought it was better than pissing them off.”

Others take far less complicated routes, but with the same goal: to stay in good favor.

Wilder said that, prior to Peach Jam, more than a few coaches stopped by the firm’s Atlanta office to say hello en route to North Augusta, and its Final Four party has become a must-attend event for coaches trying to get noticed.

“It’s one of the funniest things in the world. Everybody is practically in line to meet them and kiss the rings,” the agent said. “You’ve got the ADs they’ve hired or the associate ADs that want their help. There are maybe a handful of head coaches and a bunch of assistants trying to get face time. Then you’ve got six of me who are making sure their guys get seen but also protecting them to make sure other agents aren’t trying to talk to them. It’s unreal.”

Right or wrong, the perception for just about everyone around these search firms is that it’s not much more than an old boy’s network.

And it doesn’t look like that will change, regardless of what their higher-ups are telling ESPN.com.

Villanova beats Duke, Kansas, Indiana for Jermaine Samuels

Atlanta, GA - MAY 27: Nike EYBL. Session 4. Jermaine Samuels, Jr. #23 of Expressions Elite dunks. (Photo by Jon Lopez)
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Villanova landed a commitment from top 50 prospect Jermaine Samuels on Saturday.

Samuels is a tough and athletic 6-foot-5 wing that will remind many Wildcat fans of Josh Hart. He’s got the same kind of versatility and nose for the ball that will let him guard perimeter players as well as work in as a small-ball four. Players like this are a specialty of Jay Wright.

Samuels picked up an offer from Duke recently and also had Indiana, Kansas and Georgetown in his top five. Beating out blue-bloods for a prospect like this is quite the statement for Villanova, one that should tell you the reigning national champs are here to stay as a national power.

Syracuse lands critical piece in Andrew White

LINCOLN, NE - FEBRUARY 3: Andrew White #3 of the Nebraska Cornhuskers shoots the ball over Rasheed Sulaimon #0 of the Maryland Terrapins during their game at Pinnacle Bank Arena on February 3, 2016 in Omaha, Nebraska. (Photo by Eric Francis/Getty Images)
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Syracuse has found their replacement for Malachi Richardson.

On Sunday, Nebraska transfer Andrew White committed to the Orange, picking Syracuse, in the end, over VCU. White is a graduate transfer who spent last season with Nebraska, where he averaged 16.2 points while shooting 41.2 percent from three. A top 50 prospect out of Virginia back in the Class of 2012, White played a limited role for Kansas his first two seasons in college.

This is a significant pickup for the Orange, one that legitimately puts them into the conversation as a Final Four contender and a threat to finish at or near the top of the ACC. Jim Boeheim has put together a roster full of talented, long and athletic front court players, but after Richardson declared for the NBA Draft as a one-and-done freshman, he was left with just two back court players on his roster.

Earlier this offseason, Cuse landed Colorado State grad transfer John Gillon, a 6-foot-1 combo-guard, to reinforce their back court. The addition of White gives them a lights-out shooter and a big-time scorer on the wing, something that would have been a major void on their roster.

With Paschal Chukwu getting eligible at the center spot and Tyler Lydon likely landing on every breakout player list this preseason, the Orange should be a markedly better team than the one that made their way to the Final Four last season.

Arizona lands first commitment in 2017 class

Alex Barcello (Jon Lopez/Nike)
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Arizona landed their first commitment in the Class of 2017 on Friday night as point guard Alex Barcello pledged to Sean Miller and the Wildcats.

Barcello is a 6-foot-2 point guard from Tempe who plays his high school ball for Corona del Sol. He committed to the Wildcats on an official visit to the Tucson campus.

Barcello is a borderline top 100 prospect who sits at No. 123 in the Rivals top 150. He’s known for his ability to shoot, and he’s more of a combo-guard — i.e. shoot-first — than a point guard at times, but he’s a nice pickup and projects as a solid four-year player for the Wildcats.

Virginia, Indiana, Stanford and Butler were the other four schools on Barcello’s list.

Duke lands first commitment in 2017 class

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Alex O’Connell knew exactly where he wanted to play his college ball, which is why, just two days after picking up an offer from Coach K and the Blue Devils, he became Duke’s first recruit in the Class of 2017.

O’Connell announced the on twitter on Friday afternoon:

O’Connell is a four-star prospect from Georgia that had a terrific summer, going from being a borderline top 75 prospect to a player that caught the interest of Duke, who, along with Kentucky, sit atop the college recruiting hierarchy. He’s an explosively athletic and lanky 6-foot-6 wing with three-point range on his jumper. He needs to add some weight and some strength — he’s listed as a crisp 175 pounds — but he has the tools, and the swagger, to develop into a very effective player in the ACC.

Is he a one-and-done prospect?

Probably not. In fact, since 2010, Duke has landed just two players that were rated lower than O’Connell: Antonio Vrankovic and Jack White. If you know who both of them are, you’re probably either Jon Scheyer or lying.

But what O’Connell is is a kid who put in the work to get better this past year and who has the skill set, the physical tools and work ethic to continue to improve. He may not be on Grayson Allen’s trajectory, but O’Connell has the makings of being an impact player for the Blue Devils for three or four years.

Alex O'Connell (Jon Lopez/Nike)
Alex O’Connell (Jon Lopez/Nike)

Shaka Smart lands contract extension at Texas

Texas head coach Shaka Smart instructs his team in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Baylor on Monday, Feb. 1, 2016, in Waco, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
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Shaka Smart has already landed himself a contract extension at Texas.

The school, according to the Austin American-Statesman, has given Shaka a one-year extension — through the 2022-23 season — and bumped his salary up to a cool $3 million, a raise of $100,000 annually.

Smart’s Longhorns went 20-13 last season and lost on a half court buzzer beater from Northern Iowa’s Paul Jespersen. It will be tough for Smart to match the success that he had last season, specifically because he lost senior point guard Isaiah Taylor to the professional ranks.

That said, the former VCU head man has been reeling in quite a bit of talent from the state of Texas — namely, Andrew Jones and Jarrett Allen — and is not all that far from turning the Longhorns back into a relevant member of the Big 12 title race.