LSU Basketball Coaching Search - Mid Major Candidates
by Seth Dunlap,posted Mar 20 2017 7:58PM
As the NCAA Tournament reaches its second weekend the LSU basketball coaching search is heating up. This is part two of our three part series looking at potential hires for the Tigers. You can read part 1, targets from Power 5 conferences, here. Tomorrow, I’ll highlight three out-of-the-box candidates that LSU should look at.
In this article I highlight three viable candidates from mid-major programs, and also tell you which ‘hot’ mid-major names you should discount as the search winds down. While LSU Athletic Director Joe Alleva said he was looking for an established winner in his season ending press conference, the Tigers have been linked to a few candidates from smaller schools. These coaches would bring more youth, and potentially higher upside than a re-tread hire from a bigger school.
The rankings below are ordered by who is the most likely candidate to get the job, not necessarily who I think would make the best Tiger coach.
Mid Major Conference Candidates
1. Will Wade, head coach at VCU
Full disclosure, I had Will Wade further down this list prior to the weekend. However with reports saying that Alleva and deputy AD Eddie Nunez flew to Virginia to meet with Wade he rocketed to the #1 spot on this list. Wade is two years into his tenure at Virginia Commonwealth, having the undeniably difficult task of replacing local legend Shaka Smart, who left for the Texas Longhorns. Wade has continued the success of his predecessor, making back to back NCAA Tournament appearances while going a combined 51-20. He previously coached at Chattanooga for two seasons, going 40-25 with one CIT appearance. Wade was a hot name for the Vanderbilt coaching job last year before Bryce Drew took that job, and at only 34 years of age he is quickly becoming one of the hottest mid-major coaching candidates in the country. Optimists will point to his youth, his three year run of success, and untapped ceiling as reasons the Tigers should hire him. He may indeed get the job, but I’d be wary if Tiger fans expect Wade to truly rebuild the LSU program. He won the past two years at VCU with mostly Smart’s recruits, and since he only has a couple short two year coaching stints on his resume nobody truly knows if he can recruit at a high level in a major conference. Plus, would Wade’s hire truly excite LSU boosters and alumni? Wade would quickly have to answer skeptics in all of these areas and more.
2. Kermit Davis, head coach Middle Tennessee State
Davis has been at MTSU for 15 seasons, and the question is would he really want to leave? He is 57 years old and likely could have one final stop in his career, if he wants it. Davis has slowly turned the Blue Raiders into a true mid-major powerhouse, with 24+ wins in five of their last six seasons, including three NCAA Tournament appearances. If there ever was a time he should leave, this is it. There were recent reports that he was negotiating a contract extension with the school, but LSU would still have time, and the resources, to lure Davis away. He may not be the true long term answer for the Tigers, but he would be perhaps the best mid-major option to truly rebuild the program before he eventually gives way to a younger successor.
3. Randy Bennett, head coach at St. Mary’s (CA)
I debated moving Bennett to the ‘keep an eye on’ category below, but he just makes too much sense for the Tigers. Will he be the next LSU head coach? Probably not. Yet Bennett would likely be the best possible hire that Joe Alleva could make. If you’re not familiar with Bennett he has spent the last 16 years building up the St. Mary’s program from a laughingstock into one of the best programs, mid-major or otherwise, on the west coast. His resume includes ten consecutive 20+ win seasons, all with a post-season berth, and five NCAA Tournament appearances. Oh, and he’s somehow done all of that in the shadow of the West Coast Conference behemoth that is Gonzaga. What he has done at St. Mary’s is truly remarkable, and all signs point to the 54 year old as finally wanting to get out from under the Zags shadow. Can LSU lure him away from the West Coast to the Baton Rouge? They would need to offer him a very long term contract, likely in the range of $3+ million a year for 6+ seasons, with heavy buy outs. He wants security if he leaves the Gaels. One of the most promising aspects of a possible Bennett hire are his connections to the Australian basketball academy pipelines, a resource that he has used to churn out premier talent year after year. Those kinds of outside-the-box recruiting talents would be a huge asset to LSU, a program that will always be in the recruiting shadow of Kentucky in the SEC. I would be extremely disappointed if Joe Alleva didn’t make any attempt to lure Bennett to Baton Rouge.
Keep an eye on: 1. Steve Forbes, East Tennessee State: If LSU fails to land one of their top targets, Forbes is an intriguing prospect with great success at his previous two stops, albeit short ones. He’s also only 51. 2. Joe Dooley, FGCU: Similar to Forbes, if LSU strikes out on its top targets Dooley seems like a good option.
Hot Names, Unlikely Hires 1. Greg Marshall, Wichita State: Marshall makes $3 million per season with the Shockers. LSU would likely have to significantly increase that to get serious interest from Marshall. 2. Archie Miller, Dayton: If he is saying no to Indiana, he probably won’t even take a call from LSU.