It’s always perilous to critique — not to say criticize; the words have different meanings — a coaching search until a coach is actually hired. What if Jay Wright decides he has had enough of winning national championships at Villanova and gives Georgia Tech a call? Coup of coups, wouldn’t you say? So please don’t take this as a rip of Mike Bobinski, because it’s not. (At least not yet.)
Another reason not to pass judgment before the search is done: We don’t know — and never will — everything that has transpired. Cuonzo Martin went from being Tech’s prime target, according to SFgate.com, to not even a candidate, according to Bobinski. (Per the AJC’s Ken Sugiura, Bobinski didn’t make it sound as if Martin had said no. The Tech athletic director hinted strongly that Martin hadn’t been considered.)
All we know for sure that Tech fired Brian Gregory 13 days ago and, as of 3:30 p.m. Thursday, doesn’t have a coach. As searches go, that’s a protracted one — especially when you consider that nearly every coach worth his whistle was in Houston for the Final Four, as was Bobinski. I figured we’d have an announcement by Wednesday. Wrong again.
We know that Bobinski met with Bryce Drew on Saturday. (Earlier Saturday, Bobinski begged off meeting with yours truly because of two pending appointments. Drew was one.) Drew picked Vanderbilt over Tech, which isn’t a crazy choice: Vandy is a good basketball school in a league where’s it easier to make the NCAA tournament than in the ACC. Still, it stings — no pun intended — when you want someone and he chooses another.
I heard at the Final Four that Tech had offered Tommy Amaker $2.2 million. This rumor never gained traction, and I haven’t heard Amaker’s name since Monday. (Danny Ferry, who knows Amaker well, insists he’s happy at Harvard — his wife is on the medical school faculty and he has a great recruiting class forming for 2017 — and going nowhere.)
It’s believed that Tech met with Duke assistant Jeff Capel, a belief buttressed by Capel’s removal of his name from consideration. (If he hadn’t been a candidate, there’d have been no name to remove.) It’s also believed that Tech expressed interest in Boston Celtics assistant Jay Larranaga, which I don’t understand, and that it might be considering Winthrop’s Pat Kelsey, which I understand — while a Xavier assistant, he worked under Bobinski — but would describe as something approaching a worst-case scenario.
Not because Kelsey is a terrible coach. Some smart people say good things about him. And not because Winthrop is a negligible job. Gregg Marshall, pound-for-pound the best coach other than Krzyzewski, left Winthrop for Wichita State. But here’s the thing:
Kelsey has worked at Winthrop for four seasons without making the NCAA tournament. Marshall made the NCAA field seven times in nine seasons before exiting. Can an ACC program sell its constituency on a coach who has never made the Big Dance? (Brian Gregory made it twice at Dayton, Paul Hewitt once at Siena, Bobby Cremins once at Appalachian State.) Among basketball people, the belief is: If you’re at a mid-major or sub-mid-major and you’ve reached the NCAA, you’re hire-worthy; if not, you’re less so.
No, not everything is about winning the press conference, and Bobinski surely knows Kelsey better than we do. Still: To start with Capel and Drew and finish with Kelsey would be … well, is there any word that fits besides “letdown”?
Granted, this could be cart-before-horse stuff. Bobinski has hired nobody. Until he does, he deserves the benefit of some doubt. He could wind up with Chris Holtmann of Butler, about whom people whose opinion I respect absolutely rave. Heck, M-Bob could call his old buddy Thad Matta, who was Bobinski’s first major hire at Xavier, and be shocked by Matta saying, “Know what? I’ve had enough of Ohio State. Get me to Atlanta.”
In coaching searches as in Yogi Berra’s world, it ain’t over until it’s over. It’s a bit surprising that Tech’s search remains ongoing, but all that matters is the result. I’m fairly confident there’ll be one before Memorial Day.