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Who are athletic directors looking to hire under the pressure of a fan base that had likely been clamoring for change? Is it an under-the-radar but well-respected assistant from a major program? Or could they, in fact, be wooed by the sparkle of a mid-major coach who appears to have a world of promise after leading his small program on a Cinderella run in the NCAA tournament?
That is the topic Sports Illustrated’s Seth Davis explored in an interview Tuesday on The Dan Patrick Show, days after UCLA fired head coach Ben Howland and Minnesota fired head coach Tubby Smith.
There is a certain degree of instant gratification that comes along with chasing the hottest commodities. In this go ’round of the coaching carousel, that is likely Butler’s Brad Stevens and VCU’s Shaka Smart, perhaps with Memphis’ Josh Pastner added in for good measure. Athletic directors will try to score early points, regardless of whether or not that is the best long-term fit for the program. As Davis terms it, “winning the press conference.”
Not to say Stevens and Smart in particular are not quality coaches, but there is a difference between a secure mid-major job with a near guarantee of an NCAA tournament every season and taking a job like the one at UCLA. Smart and Stevens can do no wrong at their respective schools right now. The recruiting pipeline continues to pump in talent that can developed over a full four-year collegiate career and there is less overall media attention.
In moving to a job like UCLA, there will be an initial honeymoon period, but eventually any coach hired will be subjected to the same level of scrutiny that got Howland fired after three Final Fours in Westwood.
So the question some coaches will have to answer in the coming months is: will it be worth it?