John Beilein shocked the world on Monday morning, accepting the Cleveland Cavaliers head coaching job before most people on the east coast had even finished their commute to work.
That decision opens up a world of possibilities, as the coaching carousel that we thought was done is kicked back into gear.
I say that because Michigan is going to be a very, very attractive job for some big name coaches.
Michigan is one of the biggest and most recognizable brands in all of college athletics, but much of that is a result of the historic success they’ve had on the football field. Basketball matters in Ann Arbor, but the pressure that comes with coaching the program is very different than at programs where basketball supersedes football. That said, the salary, the facilities and the investment in the program is on par with just about anyone in college basketball. There is a recruiting base. Beilein proved that it’s possible to win there.
Simply put, this is a very, very good job.
So who can they get?
The Wolverines will, almost assuredly, call all the names you think that they will call: Tony Bennett, Jay Wright, Chris Beard, Brad Stevens. I don’t expect that any of them will leave for Michigan. Nate Oats, who spent his entire coaching career in Wisconsin, Michigan and Buffalo before taking the Alabama job, would have been a nice fit, but he’s already pulled his name out of consideration.
Where things get interesting is in that next tier of coaches.
Billy Donovan’s name is one that has popped up over and over again in college coaching searches, and Michigan is an awful lot like the Florida program that Donovan led to back-to-back national titles a dozen years ago. I don’t know if there will be a better job opening up in the near future, so if his time is up in Oklahoma City and he’s looking to get back into the college ranks, this makes sense. The best currently-unemployed college basketball coach is Thad Matta, and I have no doubt that he would tear things up in Ann Arbor, but he is a former Ohio State head coach that is having a great time living that buyout life. That would be a tough sell.
Shaka Smart could be looking for a chance to have a soft landing after struggling to get it going at Texas, and Michigan would be a good fit in terms of the things that were important to him when he left VCU. That would be a bit of a tough sell, however. Mike Brey has done terrific things at Notre Dame, and while the last two seasons have been underwhelming, he’s the kind of coach that is going to do things the right way and build a program that develops players over three, four and five years, which is what Beilein did so well. Butler’s LaVall Jordan is a Michigan-native, a former Beilein assistant and has three years of head coaching experience, although he has only had one winning season.
Former Fab Five member Juwan Howard could be the next NBA player-to-college head coach, following in the footsteps of Penny Hardaway and Patrick Ewing, while there are a handful of mid-major coaches that would be good fits — I personally think that both Craig Smith and Wes Miller are going to end up being really, really good high major coaches sooner rather than later.
It’s probably too early to make any predictions, but I do think that this is the kind of job that is going to attract a pretty big name.