Hey, did you hear the news? Brad Underwood kicked OSU to the curb a day after its first round loss to Michigan on Friday, opting to get absolutely paid in Champaign to be the coach for the Fighting Illini.
Almost 365 days after Underwood was hired, we have another coaching search on our hands. Somehow, some way, Mike Holder and Oklahoma State have to swallow the gut punch from Underwood leaving and launch a new search. They have to start from scratch and hit the trail quickly, with the pool of candidates being fished from by many other major schools looking to fill vacancies. Here’s a look at some candidates OSU should look at and why.
Dan Muller — Illinois State head coach
KenPom Ranks for Illinois State in 2016-17: Offense: 115 | Defense: 18
Since taking over at Illinois State in 2013, Muller has grown the Redbirds program from little-known Missouri Valley Conference team to perennial conference title contender. He’s a young up-and-comer (41 years old) and has plenty of coaching left in his promising career.
You know who else did something similar in grooming an MVC team into a national power? Gregg Marshall at Wichita State.
Here’s this: Muller’s Illinois State team won the regular season MVC title this season over Wichita State, but failed to win the conference tournament and missed an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. In part because of a poor non-conference schedule, and in part because the MVC is a one-bid league.
Muller’s salary is believed to be in the ball park of $400,000, according to the Des Moines Register. So nabbing him from a mid-major program and getting him on a cheap deal (with the agreement that his buyout will be eleventy-million dollars and slightly higher for schools named Illinois) is an intriguing prospect. Illinois State won 28 games this season and notched wins over Tulsa and Wichita State and was also named Missouri Valley Coach of the Year over Gregg Marshall. The lure of coaching in the Big 12 would be impossible to turn down — along with the money. Muller previously served as an assistant coach to Kevin Stallings at Vanderbilt. Stallings is now the head coach at Pitt who replaced TCU head coach Jamie Dixon.
Andy Enfield — University of Southern California
KenPom ranks for USC in 2016-17: Offense: 38 | Defense: 86
You remember Dunk City, right? Andy Enfield was the wizard behind that magical Florida Gulf Coast NCAA Tournament run several years ago. After that season, he went to the West Coast to take the job as the head coach at USC, where he has been only moderately successful until lately. The Trojans are a game away from a Sweet 16 appearance, having barely snuck into the field of 68, and play Baylor on Sunday for a chance to likely play Duke.
The lure for Enfield is simple: Get the heck away from the West Coast. The Pac-12 is awful. Unless you’re Arizona or UCLA or Oregon, it’s pretty difficult to find success in a mostly average basketball conference. USC is a legitimate school with very solid resources, sure, but it’s also a football school. And I get the feeling that while USC has had relative success and is trending in the right direction, a Sweet 16 appearance every five years is maybe the ceiling for that program. So a chance to move to the Bible Belt, because it is believed that his wife is an Oklahoman, could be appealing. He’s had some success, and his wide-open offensive system is intriguing. The Trojans ranked 38th at KenPom in offensive efficiency this season.
Doug Gottlieb — Analyst, radio personality
Gottlieb likely won’t be first on OSU’s list, simply because he has no coaching experience. But if you’re looking at the coaching search from a year ago, it’s easy to see why he makes the list again. He’s a former OSU basketball player. He absolutely has passion for Oklahoma State. And he’s a smart X’s and O’s guy. By his own account, he was the runner-up to the man who bolted for life in Champaign City.
Gottlieb would not command an outrageous salary. He would not bounce for another job elsewhere, and he dang sure knows how to rally a fanbase behind him.
“I know that coach (Eddie) Sutton wanted me on that sideline, and I know that former teammates wanted me on that sideline,” Gottlieb told the Tulsa World. “Brad said he was loyal but has not shown to be loyal. I don’t want the job sheerly out of loyalty, but that’s a destination job.”
The obvious knock: He has no coaching experience. So while he might be able to talk about pinwheel action and have you drooling with his informative periscopes, handing him a job as a Division I head basketball coach comes with some risk. Does Holder want to please a portion of the fan base that has voiced its support for Gottlieb, or does he have a sure thing elsewhere? I think a sure thing trumps him. But I’m not sure there’s a Brad Underwood in this current pool.
Tim Jankovich — Southern Methodist University
KenPom ranks for SMU in 2016-17: Offense: 10 | Defense: 30
The SMU basketball program was left for dead after Larry Brown stepped down, but in his first year as the head coach at SMU, Tim Jankovich led the Ponies to an incredible 30-5 record. Jankovich was a head coach at Illinois State from 2007-2012, and he has a very interesting coaching history.
He was a former Oklahoma State assistant in 1992-1993, and he spent four years on Bill Self’s staff at Kansas as an assistant coach and also under Self at Illinois the year prior.
Tom Crean — Unemployed (Former Indiana head coach)
KenPom ranks for Indiana in 2016-17: Offense: 28 | Defense: 106
Tom Crean won more outright Big Ten titles in the past nine years than Thad Matta, Tom Izzo, Bo Ryan and John Beilein while he was at Indiana. In fact, he won at outright title a year ago — and was let go recently for a lackluster 2016-17 campaign in which injuries derailed the Hoosiers.
Crean is widely regarded as a brilliant tactician, a hard worker, and an all-around good coach. And he’s proven he can win big on the biggest stages with a ton of pressure like he had in Bloomington. Making the move to Oklahoma State would be out of the blue, random, but interesting. He turned around Indiana after its scandal, so surely he could turn around OSU, which is on the rise. And because he was fired, Indiana already paid the buy out. However Crean was making more than $3 million at Indiana. So would he take a pay cut from his last gig?
Archie Miller — Dayton
KenPom ranks for Dayton in 2016-17: Offense: 53 | Defense: 40
Archie Miller is going to be in line for a big job when he wants it. In fact, the Dayton head coach’s name has been linked to Indiana after Crean’s firing. The brother of Arizona head coach Sean Miller, Archie is an absolute lock of a good coach. He’s coached at Dayton since 2012, and the Flyers have lost less than 20 games just once in his tenure. His salary, according to one database called Boyds Bets, is less than $1 million. So buying him out and giving him double his salary seems feasbile. But getting into a bidding war with Indiana might not be Holder’s cup of tea.
Buzz Williams — Virginia Tech
KenPom ranks for Virginia Tech in 2016-17: Offense: 23 | Defense: 154
Buzz was a name linked to OSU last season, and as a fit, it makes absolute sense. He’s an Oklahoma City University grad, he knows the Midwest well, and bringing him back in the area from Blacksburg makes a whole lot of sense.
The problem is his contract. Buzz is making around $2.6 million to coach at Virginia Tech. And that number is higher than what OSU was willing to pay Underwood. So would OSU not only up the ante, but potentially go to the $3 million per year mark for a coach like Buzz?