Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Indiana Is the Key to This Year's "Coaching Carousel"

A backdrop to March Madness is always the speculation of how the annual "coaching carousel" will play out. We are entering the time of year when schools that fell short of their goals decide to "move in another direction," preferably winning, and change coaches. Open season on coaches started early this year with the vacancies popping up at Missouri and Indiana.

While Missouri, despite Quinn Snyder's best efforts, is still an attractive job, I believe it is Indiana that will be the main focus of carousel watchers over the next few weeks. Just like the North Carolina opening started dominoes falling three years ago, the Hoosiers' job could do just that this year.

In this piece by CBS Sportsline's Gregg Doyel regarding the Indiana vacancy, one of The CourtMaster's favorite writers, he makes the obligatory mention of Steve Alford, but also tosses out names like John Calipari and Rick Pitino--two serious coaching heavyweights. A move by any of those three would be fascinating in and of itself, but also trigger a chain-reaction that would likely result in several coaching moves. For example, in 2003 Roy Williams left Kansas for North Carolina, Bill Self left Illinois for Kansas, Bruce Webber left Southern Illinois for Illinios, and Matt Painter was promoted at Southern Illinois.

There is a potentially interesting twist here, though. Former Hoosier start and current New York Knicks president Isiah Thomas was seen on the Indiana campus on Tuesday and was spotted walking into the office of the president. Why would the president of an NBA team want to become a college head coach? Have you seen the Knicks play recently?

I don't know of a single objective person who doesn't think Thomas has turned the Knicks into an absolute train wreck, and this could be his escape hatch. It worked for Pitino, who was with the Boston Celtics before taking the Louisville job. Thomas, however, has made Pitino look like the second coming of Red Auerbach. I doubt anyone would be happer than Knicks fans if he was hired by Indiana.

Thomas coached the Indiana Pacers a while back and wasn't bad. I think he could be a successful college coach. Hoosier fans would certainly embrace him, a factor which would be appealing to AD Rick Greenspan after all the grief he'e heard about Mike Davis over the last couple of years.

I'll be watching the carousel spin as it begins to pick up speed, so stay tuned.


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