There are two major developments on the coaching carousel: UCLA has whiffed again, this time on Rick Barnes, and at St. John’s, Chris Mullin, who didn’t get an extension, is apparently stepping down.
St. John’s first.
The A.D. there now is Mike Cragg, who spent 31 years at Duke, which means that he knows Bobby Hurley well. Certainly he’d be remiss not to try for the elder Hurley brother (younger brother Danny is currently rebuilding UConn) who we expect would crawl from Tempe to get that job. What kid who grew up in Jersey City wouldn’t want that job? Danny would probably love it too.
Bobby would be a great hire. Certainly he’d put a fire under that program and he'd recruit the area like a dream. As a matter of fact, he’d be smart to hire his dad and let him help. Who is held in higher regard in New Jersey and New York high school basketball than Bob Hurley, Sr?
The question would be Bobby’s situation, specifically his buyout.
And we’re assuming he’d be tempted. It’s also possible that he loves Tempe, that he loves the desert and the Western part of the country. Maybe his family is incredibly happy there.
At heart though we think he’s a gym rat and a city kid.
Cragg will do his due diligence - he’s not an idiot like UCLA’s Dan Guerrero who negotiated with Jamie Dixon and got to the end before realizing his buyout was problematic.
There were also reports that Rick Barnes had a similar issue though we haven’t seen that totally confirmed.
But if he made the same mistake twice, it’s time to just give up and let someone else make the hire.
Or perhaps it’s time for a more radical step.
UCLA clearly thinks it’s still in a position to anoint a great coach but that hasn’t worked. So far anyway, no one has been willing to take on the ugly combination of expectations and limitations that constitute UCLA’s current program (the Bruins haven’t made the sort of investments in the program that other supposed blue-blood programs have and it’s costing them in this search).
So what do you do when you’ve made your search into a joke? When you're so sure that you can hire a big-name guy only to find out that UCLA doesn’t mean what it used to?
You think outside the box.
In the LA Daily News, Mark Whicker has a great idea. What if there is a coach out there who is highly respected, universally regarded as a winner, and who would dearly love a head coaching position but just can’t seem to get one?
No, not Rick Pitino. Not Larry Brown.
San Antonio assistant Becky Harmon.
It would be a really intriguing move. First, it would be something totally out of character for Guerrero and right now that would be smart because a lot of people are having doubts about him. Second, everyone who has worked with Harmon says she is a gifted coach who can absolutely get it done. And third it would get more attention for UCLA than any other possible hire.
It’s a great idea and the downside is pretty minimal considering the scenarios we’ve seen. Jamie Dixon was an awful fit. Mick Cronin isn’t much better. Barnes has never been a great tournament coach and he’s 65. He can keep Tennessee going until he retires but rebuilding UCLA would be tough now.
Harmon would be imaginative, daring and historic and in a stroke, Guerrero would wipe away the mess he finds himself in.
He’s too focused on getting a star which is too bad because nothing he does could be more interesting and at this point, he’s running out of options.