Saturday, March 24, 2007

A New Look? You Bet Your Sweet Ass It Will Be

Not much news out of Lexington over the past couple of days.

Coach flees to Minnesota (Minnesota?). Best player flees to the Knicks (the Knicks?).

All of which leaves the next 12 months or so in a serious, serious state of flux.

First of all, Tubby leaving, while unexpected, is not a shock (although jumping to coach the Gophers really is). All signs pointed to Tubby staying, but being given an ultimatum to clean house in the staff office. Due to not wanting to do that (out of loyalty), and probably also due to a general lack of further desire to put with an atmosphere such as was seen the last two years -- and make no mistake, it would only be worse next year -- he decided to step off.

Truth be told, ten years is probably enough for what has to be the most scrutinized (and, to be fair, best paid) job in college basketball. I won't recount the stats, but aside from the lack of a Final Four team in the last nine of the ten years, and a couple of duff outfits the last two years, it has been a very, very good run. Featured in it has been a pretty thorough domination of the Southeastern Conference (again, until the last two years).

MSWM opinion has been fairly unified in the opinion that this is probably a good deal for all involved. Minnesota gains some credibility and some positive notoriety for a change; Tubby, while taking a pay cut, is still pretty damn well compensated ($1.8 mil per year); and Kentucky gets some fresh blood and a chance to reverse the downward trend of the last couple of years (after the likely continuation of that trend next year, however).

Names of future coaching possibilities abound, but the name at the top of everyone's list may well be the toughest get: Billy Donovan. Billy D was an assistant in Lexington for 7 years with Rick Pitino, and he does seem the likeliest to get the Cats back near the top of the national heap. Personally, while he's at the top of my list as well, I'm extremely skeptical of the odds that he can be pried out of the situation he's built in Gainesville. Can you see him walking away from back-to-back NCs (should that still extant possibility come to pass)? Me neither.

Perhaps next on the list is John Calipari, although his perceived baggage may make him less attractive the longer you look at him.

Beyond that, Billy Gillespie, Tom Crean and Mark Few seem to be the hot names of those who would jump at the job. My personal favorite, though, would be Jay Wright, the current Villanova coach. He's got a track record at a major conference school, but he's still young enough to put a personal and long-term stamp on the progam. Perhaps most importantly, he's been the top guy at a major conference school in a major market. While the scrutiny at Villanova can't match that waiting in Lexington, fans and press don't come much tougher than in Philly, and his experience will at least put him in a better position than would facing the nay-sayers in Milwaukee, Spokane or College Station.

In any case, we may not see anything certain come about until the Gators are done -- either this weekend or next. No way anything is offered to anyone else before Billy D turns it down -- and he doesn't seem inclined to make a decision either way until his current team is finished. One more reason to root for the Ducks tomorrow.


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