With Duke assistant coach Jeff Capel and Valparaiso coach Bryce Drew off the list – Capel having removed his name from consideration and Drew headed to Vanderbilt – who could Georgia Tech turn to next?
Tommy Amaker, Harvard – Tech reportedly reached out to him at the start of the search, along with Vanderbilt and Stanford, but was turned down. The former Duke star led the Crimson to NCAA tournament appearances 2012 through 2015, the school’s first since 1946. Amaker was a candidate in 2011, when the opening was ultimately filled by Brian Gregory.
It’s conceivable that Tech could make another run at Amaker. However, Amaker is said to be quite content at Harvard. His wife is on the medical school faculty at Harvard and he has a loaded recruiting class with three players ranked in ESPN’s top 100, unheard of for the Ivy League. (Two of whom are from metro Atlanta.) Bobinski might have to offer the sun and moon, and he still might not be able to persuade him to come to Tech.
Randy Bennett, Saint Mary’s – An out-of-the-box candidate that I floated at the start of the search. He has won for a long time at Saint Mary’s in the West Coast Conference, becoming a peer of Gonzaga’s. He has built up a pipeline from Australia (Patty Mills, Andrew Dellavedova) that might serve Tech well.
At 53, with 15 years at Saint Mary’s, a history of turning down bigger jobs and no discernible ties to the Southeast, he is an unlikely candidate. He’d likely not have great familiarity with the region’s recruiting circles, not a great place to start. It’d be somewhat akin to Jim Larranaga coming to Miami in 2011. Larranaga’s success doesn’t prove anything, but Bennett seems like he might be a good fit.
Pat Kelsey, Winthrop – He has been there four years and gone 62-35 in the past three years. The Eagles won the Big South regular-season title this year. They were 39-54 in the three season previous, including Kelsey’s first. He has two noteworthy influences, Xavier’s Chris Mack and the late Skip Prosser (Wake Forest) for whom he worked before his first head coach job at Winthrop. And, he was Mack’s associate head coach for two years when Bobinski was Xavier’s AD. An endorsement from Bobinski at the time of Kelsey’s hire.
“Pat is a very dynamic coach who has been around nothing but success as a player and a coach at both Wake Forest and Xavier. He knows what it takes to win. He’s a high energy, high integrity person who leaves no stone untouched to get the job done right. Winthrop has made a great choice and he’s a guy that will represent the university in an absolute first-class manner every day. I look forward to following his success.”
However, he hasn’t taken Winthrop to the NCAA tournament and the ACC is a considerable jump from the Big South. It ranked 25th in conference RPI this season. (The Horizon League, of which Valparaiso is a member, is 20th.)
King Rice, Monmouth – He was reportedly a candidate at Vanderbilt, where he was an assistant for five seasons before taking the Monmouth job in 2011. Monmouth was one of the stories of the season, beating power-conference teams USC, UCLA, Georgetown and Notre Dame. The former North Carolina star steadily improved Monmouth’s team, finishing under .500 in each of the first three seasons before improving to 18-15 last year and then 28-8 this season and winning the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference regular-season title.
Like Kelsey, he has never been to the NCAA tournament as a head coach, and he also signed a five-year extension in February. Also, the MAAC is a long way from the ACC, although both leagues have “Atlantic” and “Conference” in their names. (Interesting to note: Tech hired Paul Hewitt out of the MAAC. Siena, to be precise.)
The question with him and Kelsey – they may well turn out to be great coaches, but are they clear upgrades from Brian Gregory?
Bobinski is, as I’ve written before, a process-oriented person, so it’s doubtful he is getting panicky and spent Monday doing a Google search on “top available college basketball coaches.” That said, the search is getting to the point that most, including him, thought this would wrap up. I believe he was thinking this would wrap up in 10 to 14 days, and Monday is Day 10 (counting the day following Gregory’s dismissal as Day 1). It well could finish in that timeframe, and, frankly, I’m not sure if there’s a great difference in making the hire official Friday as opposed to next week. The pressure is somewhat artificial.
If he makes the right hire, no one’s going to care how long it took. Mike Brey took the Notre Dame job in July 2000 (he was hired from Delaware after Matt Doherty left Notre Dame for North Carolina following the surprise retirement of Bill Guthridge). July is a sub-optimal time to start a coaching job, but somehow Brey managed.
The other thing is, Drew and Capel were not the only two available coaches in the country who can succeed in this job. It’s not the best position for Tech to be in, and Drew’s decision to pick Vanderbilt over Tech raises some questions, and Bobinski needs to hustle a little bit, but there’s plenty of opportunity for this to work out.