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Thursday, March 22, 2007

3/22/07 - Coaching Carousel

With the surprising news that surfaced last night of Iowa Coach Steve Alford "probably" on his way out of Iowa City and heading to New Mexico, the Big Ten now has three coaching positions waiting to be filled. Let's take a look at each one and some possible candidates to fill those positions.

Iowa Hawkeyes
It should be interesting to see Iowa scramble to find itself a replacement for Alford. It was only a few days ago that Iowa AD Gary Barta had met with Coach Alford and lent him some support for next season while also looking for improvement. It seems very strange for a coach on the 4th place team in the Big Ten, and only one year removed from a 2nd place regular season finish and conference tournament championship, to be leaving for a school that just finished 4-12 this year and tied for last in the Mountain West Conference. Barta may have a tough sell on his hands as it looks like Alford decided anywhere is better than somewhere he is not wanted. A successful coach may find Iowa's fan base unappealing at this point. However, you can be certain that Dana Altman of Creighton will be on Iowa's list of possible replacements, as well as possibly Tennessee's Bruce Pearl, a former Iowa assistant under Tom Davis. But the Hawkeyes may not be too keen on bringing Pearl back and all of his baggage with Illinois and possible recruiting violations he helped surface when he was an assistant at Iowa.

Michigan Wolverines
After six seasons without a trip to the NCAA Tournament, Michigan fired Tommy Amaker after their loss to Florida State in this year's NIT. After spending his first years at Michigan on probation, Amaker never got Michigan back to the national prominence they enjoyed in the late 80s/early 90s (nonetheless cheating of course). The new coach will be taking over a program that is hungry for a winner and a program located in a hot bed for recruiting. It seems UNLV's Lon Kruger is towards the top of Michigan's list of possible candidates right now, but it is yet to be seen whether he would be interested in a return to the Big Ten. Also, I expect Southern Illinois' Chris Lowery to draw some attention from the Wolverines.

Minnesota Golden Gophers
After letting interim coach Jim Molarnari go after season's end, it appears the Gopher's are waiting around for the NBA season to come to an end and attempt to get Minnesota-alum Flip Saunders to leave the Detroit Pistons and become the Gopher's next head coach. Saunders visited the campus over the NBA's All-Star weekend, but denies speaking with anybody about the coaching position. Saunders remains adamant that he has no intention of becoming the next coach at Minnesota, but does want to see the program successful. Other candidates include Kruger, Lowery, Butler's Todd Lickliter, and Xavier's Sean Miller.

With three openings and only so many coaches to go around, it should be very interesting to see who lands where this offseason and how all three of these searches affect each other. Needless to say, next year's Big Ten basketball season will definitely have a new flavor.

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