The List (of realistic candidates) for Memphis

It’s possible (perhaps not likely) that Josh Pastner will be the coach of Memphis for the next 20 years. He’s young, is considered an elite recruiter and, despite the popular narrative, is improving as a floor coach.

I like to entertain the notion of Pastner being at Memphis for a long, long time. I really like the guy.

It’s also possible (perhaps not likely) that Memphis could be looking for Josh Pastner’s replacement by this weekend. Arizona State is firing Herb Sendek and Josh Pastner’s name is the first mentioned as a replacement. Memphis fans shouldn’t kid themselves – the Sun Devils could do a lot worse. Pastner is a PAC 12 guy and would relish the opportunity to go head to head with Arizona for west coast talent. Having gone to 4 NCAA tournaments in the past 5 years, Pastner also has a track record to market to potential employers.

Memphis fans might regret the day they ran off Josh Pastner.

But in the meantime, it would mean COACHING SEARCH TIME!!!!

I love a good coaching search. I already have some ideas.

Let’s dispense with the top tier of candidates, namely Shaka Smart and Gregg Marshall. These are guys that might make a move, but if Memphis plans to remain in cost cutting mode, Smart and Marshall aren’t realistic candidates to come here. If Memphis wants to charter flights and put $3m on the table (as Gary Parrish reports Alabama is about to do) – then maybe they can take a run at these guys. Even then, it’s still not clear they could get that done.

Otherwise, let’s entertain a more realistic list. I’ll be honest, none of the names on this list thrill me. I’m going to keep digging.

My criteria:

1. Coaching experience and success. After hiring an assistant and enduring several years of on the job training, Memphis fans would probably appreciate hiring a guy with some experience this time. So if I were making the hire, I wouldn’t be afraid to gear my search towards more established coaches.

2. Familiarity with and appreciation of the Memphis program, its history, its fan-base. One of the under-appreciated aspects of Josh Pastner is the way he embraces the heritage of the Memphis program. If Pastner bolts, finding another coach with an appreciation and connection to the Memphis fans would be a big plus.

3. Personality. It would be great to have a coach that can engage and re-unite the fan base.

Here are some candidates that meet some or all of those criteria.

[Note: This is not a complete list. It doesn’t include guys like Steve Prohm and Brad Underwood, who would clearly be viable candidates. There are others as well.]

Archie Miller, Dayton (36), 89-46 / currently makes $400k / I would probably call Archie Miller first. Miller, the brother of Arizona coach Sean Miller, comes from a basketball family. His father was a coach and his brother has been close with John Calipari. Undoubtedly, Archie Miller knows the potential of the Memphis program and is considered a rising star. He doesn’t appear to be a promoter / big personality, but at this point he’s a top line candidate. Memphis could probably get this done and, if he’s 3/4 the coach of his brother, they probably wouldn’t regret it. Archie’s track record at Dayton indicates he’s the real deal.

Tom Crean, Indiana (49), 310-203 / currently makes $3.1m / I don’t really like Tom Crean, and ordinarily the head coach of Indiana is never going to leave IU to come to Memphis. On the other hand, this situation falls under the “Frank Haith” rule. Haith left Missouri for Tulsa last year because he was probably on his last leg in Columbia. So he got out ahead of the firing squad. Similarly, Crean is on shaky ground at IU. He has been for a while – despite leading the Hoosiers through a complete and total rebuild after the Kelvin Sampson fiasco to 2 consecutive Sweet 16 appearances. Crean is also close with Calipari and coached against Memphis while at Marquette. Crean coached Marquette to the Final 4. He might jump at a long term contract, especially if it’s in the range of what Pastner currently makes. If you can get that done, you almost have to get it done.

Larry Eustachy, Colorado State (59), 471-288 / currently makes $910k / This takes some vision, but stay with me for a minute. Larry Eustachy is hilarious. Larry Eustachy, in terms of press conferences and interviews, is the anti-Josh Pastner. He’s crusty, he’s unpolished, he’s got a terrific dry sense of humor. Eustachy coached against Memphis for years while at Southern Miss – so he therefore knows and appreciates the Memphis fan base. In 24 years of coaching college basketball, mostly at traditionally inept programs, he’s only had 3 losing seasons. He just won 27 games at Colorado State – and has led 4 separate programs to the NCAA tournament. The Memphis program expects more success than Eustachy has generated, so one would have to believe that given the resources of the Memphis program Eustachy would rise to that next level. I believe it’s possible and I’d talk to the guy. $1.5m or $2m could probably get this done.

Tim Floyd, UTEP (61), 412-229 / currently makes $600k / For many of the same reasons Eustachy makes a lot of sense for Memphis right now, Floyd makes sense as well. Floyd is from this region, has a tremendous pedigree as a coach including having coached in the NBA (albeit with one of the worst records of all time), and is affordable. Sure, he’s older and has some baggage (like Eustachy) but he can flat out coach and has a respect for the Memphis program.

Rick Byrd, Belmont (62), 711-366 / currently makes $525k / As long as we’re looking into the grandfather market – I would make Rick Byrd turn me down, which he probably would. Byrd seems happy at Belmont, but can you imagine his uptempo, precise, 3pt shooting offense at Memphis – with better athletes? Memphis fans would be ecstatic and I think it would work. Sure, he’s 62, but he’s probably good for another 5-10 years and he’s one of the best in the country. Why not?

Will Wade, Chattanooga (31), 40-25 / currently makes $198k / Wade is younger than Pastner, but he has some experience now and would surely jump at the opportunity. He trained under Shaka Smart – so he runs the HAVOC system and would implement it at Memphis. He’s affordable and though he turned down Charlotte, Wade would likely jump at the chance to coach Memphis (if Alabama or someone else doesn’t grab him sooner). Would Memphis fans resist another fresh faced youngster?

Mike White, Louisiana Tech (38), 100-39 / currently makes approx $550k per year / Another up-and-comer, White has turned down opportunities but eventually will move on to a higher profile situation. He’s had Louisiana Tech in the NIT 3 years running – and probably should have been in the NCAA at some point in there. His teams have won at least 27 games over the past 3 years, so the guy can coach. Like Wade, however, White might be too young to be palatable for Memphis fans.

Andy Kennedy, Ole Miss (47), 213-126 / currently makes $1.8m / A few years ago, as Ole Miss basketball toiled in obscurity, it was a foregone conclusion that someone like Kennedy would probably jump for the Memphis job. I don’t think it’s at all clear anymore that Memphis would get Kennedy – depending on how much money they throw at him. Kennedy has led Ole Miss to two NCAA tournament appearances in the past 3 years and 9 consecutive winning seasons. The Rebels have a new arena on the way, and can match any amount of money if they want to. Kennedy might leave for a brighter stage and a bigger city, but he might not. He wouldn’t be my first choice anyway – but he’s established himself as a good coach and I’d certainly consider him.

Ron Hunter, Georgia State (50), 361-265 / currently makes $500k / Ron Hunter had won a lot of basketball games prior to falling off his stool last week at the NCAA tournament as his team pulled off the biggest upset of the 1st round. He’s elevated the GSU program, but before that he was at IUPUI for many years and led that program to the NCAA tournament as well. He knows how to win, has a huge personality – as we all saw – and is certainly affordable.