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Seth Dunlap

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Seth: LSU Basketball Coaching Search - Big Conference Candidates


The NCAA Tournament has finally tipped off across the country, but the only madness at LSU is coming in the form of fans’ ire over the direction of the program under Athletic Director Joe Alleva who will be hiring a coach for the third time during his tenure at the school.
Yet, college basketball is a rare sport where fortunes can truly be turned around quickly with the right hire.   It’s not always about getting the ‘biggest name’, plenty of programs have risen on the backs of previously anonymous coaches.  
Although it’s hard to believe now, not many casual basketball fans knew about Mike Krzyzewski when he was hired by the Duke Blue Devils in 1980.  Coach K had never made an NCAA tournament during his five years as head coach at Army, and he went a dismal 9-17 during his final season there before being hired by Duke. 
There are many similar stories like Gonzaga’s Mark Few, Wichita State’s Gregg Marshall, Notre Dame’s Mike Brey, and even Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim.  These coaches were no-names before getting the head job at their current schools, jobs they haven’t surrendered for decades and counting.  Frankly, why should they?  If college basketball has taught us anything it’s that programs can be built from the ashes up to perennial title contenders.   You no longer need to be hired by a handful of programs to have a realistic shot at sustained long term success.
The LSU basketball program, and vacant head position, doesn’t have to be any different.   It’s hard to write the history of college hoops without LSU with legendary names like Pistol Pete Maravich and Shaquille O’Neal, and a run to the Final Four that captivated a nation in 2006 with Glen ‘Big Baby’ Davis. 
While Alleva wants to lure a top-rung coach to Baton Rouge, realistically that’s not likely to happen.   However there are intriguing names from Power 5 conferences and mid-major programs as well as a few out of the box prospects.   In this three part series we will take a look at each category, and give three big names to watch, and three names that are hot-yet-unlikely to end up in Purple & Gold.
Top Power 5 Conference Candidates
1.  Tom Crean, former head coach at Indiana, Marquette

Crean was fired today at Indiana, perhaps not a surprising move but one that surely raises some eyebrows outside of Bloomington.   Crean rebuilt a program that had collapsed to the basement of the Big Ten and made the NCA A Tournament four times in nine seasons with the Hoosiers, including three appearances in the Sweet 16.  Yet, the administration at Indiana wants to return that program true year-in-year-out national title contention and felt Crean couldn’t get over the hump.   Perhaps the expectations at Indiana are too high, but other schools with coaching vacancies will certainly benefit from Crean’s firing.    LSU offers him a relatively soft landing spot with low expectations, something he will surely relish after a decade dealing with overzealous Hoosier boosters and administration (cough, cough, LSU football, cough).   Couple in his tenure at Marquette, and Crean had turned two programs into consistent winners with occasional national title aspirations. in Marquette would bring immediate national recognition, cache’ and optimism to a program that sorely needs all three.  Plus, he is relatively young at 50 years old and could conceivably spend the next two decades patrolling the Tiger sidelines.   This would be an unmistakably fantastic hire by the Tigers.
2.  Mark Gottfried, former head coach at North Carolina State, Alabama

 Most everything above about Crean can also apply to Gottfried.  In addition, Gottfried would bring his familiarity with the SEC and southern recruiting to LSU.    He coached at Alabama for 11 exceptional years, going 210-131 with five NCAA Tournament appearances, including a run to the Elite 8 in 2004.  Add in three NIT trips and Gottfried led the Crimson tide to the postseason in all but three of his seasons in Tuscaloosa.   If Crean’s firing at Indiana was a bit of a head scratcher, then Gottfried’s dismissal was down right shocking.     He took North Carolina State to the NCAA Tournament in each of his first four seasons, making the Sweet 16 twice.   His squad’s stumbled to a 31-34 combined record the past two seasons, but nobody should mistake NC State for other in-state programs.   His six year tenure with the Wolfpack, when looked at in whole, was highly successful.   A Gottfried return to the SEC makes a ton of sense, and LSU offers the perfect landing spot.
3.  Chris Collins, current head coach at Northwestern

Collins name has skyrocketed towards the top of most coaching searches the past few weeks, and will only be enhanced by his team’s continued run in the NCAA tournament which, by the way, is Northwestern’s first ever trip to the big dance.   That alone could be the headline on almost any resume.    He’s also from a big-name basketball family.  His father, Doug, coached and played in the NBA and was a constant presence on NBA television broadcasts the past decade.   Unlike Crean or Gottfried, a Collins hire would offer a little bit more unknown for the Tigers.  That’s both good and bad.  While the former duo have likely shown their ceiling to be consistent NCAA tournament appearances yet rare true title contention, nobody knows yet with Collins.  Perhaps he could be the next Tony Bennett, Sean Miller, or Brad Stevens.   Yet, this seems like the least-likely hire of the three we outlined today.  Collins seems to be a bit too ‘hot’ of a name right now for LSU to land.
Hot Names, Unlikely Hires
1.  Mike Bray, Notre Dame:   This is the Jimbo-to-LSU redux.  Despite the fantasy of many LSU boosters and 'sources' Bray isn’t leaving Notre Dame for LSU.  
2.  Sean Miller, Arizona:   See above.   You aren’t prying Miller away from Tucson unless your Duke, UNC, or Kentucky.
3.  Scott Drew, Baylor:  This seems like a lateral move for Drew.   A bigger offer will come for him.

Photo credits:  USA Today Sports

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03/16/2017 7:35PM
Seth: LSU Basketball Coaching Search - Big Conference Candidates
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