Friday, April 5, 2013

Who will it be now?

Day 13 of Hofstra’s coaching search is complete and I suppose I should get in on the speculative bandwagon. So here goes:

I guarantee Mike Rice will not be the next coach of the Flying Dutchmen.

(Early tangential sidebar: Thank you Rutgers for making the rest of us feel better about ourselves. Three coaching changes in 36 months? Six players arrested in less than four months? Yeah well at least nobody here participated in homophobic basketball dodgeball and then thought the videotapes that were in the possession of a vindictive ex-employee wouldn’t see the light of day!)

Anyway, Rice is safely eliminated from contention, but he’s about the only candidate who won’t get consideration in what I imagine is, and will continue to be, a wide-ranging search for Jeff Hathaway.

He has been on the job less than a year but it is not too early, nor hyperbolic, to say this is the hire that will determine Hathaway’s legacy here. Hathaway took a pretty big chance firing Mo Cassara (more on that in today’s second post), a move that obviously imperiled Cassara’s incoming recruiting class and made a Towson-in-2012 season a very realistic possibility for next year’s Flying Dutchmen.

As a school now defined and anchored by a basketball program that is in its most precarious position since Jay Wright arrived in 1994, Hofstra and Hathaway cannot afford to miss with this hire.

Hofstra was already at the bottom of Division I in men’s basketball, and building a I-AA football powerhouse, when Wright got here, so there was little to be lost if he flamed out in the mid-to-late ‘90s.

But now that football is dead, the entire operation rests on men’s basketball. So Towson-in-2012 will be OK next year, as long as it is followed a year or two later by Towson-in-2013. Following it with Towson-in-1996-through-2011 will leave a ruinous, disastrous mess.

Whomever succeeds Cassara will have a monster of a rebuilding job ahead of him, and my guess is that the eventual winner of this derby will come as a surprise to many of us. As affable and accessible as Hathaway is in public, this isn’t his first rodeo, and he’s going to complete this search on the double down low.

Of course, that won’t stop me from pontificating about the possibilities, just in case one of my darts gets part of the board and allows me to brag about it to everyone. And if none of these guesses are accurate, I will disavow any knowledge of this post and delete it. #Sportswriting

--The hire will be part of the Hathaway tree, which has a whole lot of branches. He went to high school in Baltimore at DeMatha, home of one of the country’s great prep dynasties, and graduated from the University of Maryland before working for Maryland, Colorado State and UConn in the ACC, the WAC and the Big East (back when the WAC and the Big East were good). How many hundreds of coaches has he encountered? If I were a betting man, I’d wager the next Hofstra coach has shared office space or a conference with Hathaway.

--That said, the new coach almost certainly won’t be the most obvious branches of Hathaway’s tree. Why would Stony Brook coach Steve Pikiell or Quinnipiac coach Tom Moore, both of whom were assistants under Jim Calhoun when Hathaway was at UConn, leave their current prime gigs, with teams that are positioned to compete for NCAA Tournament berths over the next few years, for the bleakness and barrenness of Hofstra?

--The buzz is Tim Cluess is very interested in the job, because of the better facilities and salary Hofstra can offer as well as the chance to return to his alma mater. But is Hofstra interested in him? Cluess is a helluva coach who could win in Antarctica, but he didn’t get a sniff when Hofstra had an opening three years ago and he’s gone to two NCAA Tournaments with Iona with the kind of questionable high major transfers that got Cassara fired. Now, Cluess shouldn’t be punished because his players didn’t get in trouble at their second collegiate stop. But my guess is Hathaway will want to go in a different direction.

--Ryan Restivo, who writes for the outstanding Big Apple Buckets and was all over the Jimmy Patsos-to-Siena hire, Tweeted Tuesday that three different MAAC coaches told him Niagara’s Joe Mihalich would be the new Hofstra coach. I’ve heard from multiple sources that he’s not in the running. One of us will obviously be right and it may be by accident, since purposeful misinformation is the name of the game this time of year. It is worth noting, though, that both Mihalich and Hathaway are DeMatha grads.

--I expect Hathaway will leave no stone unturned #cliche in his search. Three years ago, Jack Hayes consulted with Wright before hiring Tim Welsh (don’t worry, Jay, we don’t blame you). Hathaway would have nothing to lose by asking Wright if he wanted to finish his career where he started it. Maybe he wants to coach again at a place where nobody spreads vicious rumors about why the men’s basketball coach will be resigning any day now (I’m not going to dignify that chatter here, but as long as you can access the Googletron, you can figure out what I’m talking about). Probably not, but doesn’t hurt to ask, and bringing Wright back would be a giant hit with alumni.

--The new coach probably won’t be Speedy Claxton, which is a shame, because when it comes to beloved players coming home to coach/manage, I think he’d be more Robin Ventura than Clyde Drexler. Claxton has no ties to the current athletic administration, and while I don’t think he meant any harm by going to Newsday with his desires, I bet that didn’t win him any points with Hathaway.

--Claxton would be a perfect coach-in-waiting, though, under Wright or….no I’m not even going to say it, because Stuart Rabinowitz would just as soon bring back football as do THAT. But wouldn’t THAT be juicy?

--Don’t be surprised if interim coach Patrick Sellers gets serious consideration. He and Hathaway go way back and are good friends, and you can be sure Hathaway hasn’t forgotten how Sellers took the fall for Sgt. Schultz, err, Calhoun at UConn back in 2010. In addition, promoting Sellers on a permanent basis would not give Hofstra half a chance at keeping much or all of Cassara’s recruiting class and perhaps easing some of the pain of next season.

--Complete wild card here and nothing more than pure speculation on my part, but what if Cassara’s firing was part of a plan by Hathaway to help usher Hofstra into a new conference? New league, new coach, new era? Hey, it happened in 1994.

Let me say that I don’t think Hofstra is actively looking to leave the CAA, where it is now a core member surpassed in seniority by only James Madison, UNCW and William & Mary, and that the CAA will survive realignment Armageddon. But the league is certainly in a vulnerable position, and all the remaining members would be foolish not to examine every possible option to ensure they’ve got a seat whenever the music stops. And there is one local league with an uneven number of teams. Just saying.

--With the Final Four starting tomorrow, I’d imagine Hathaway will conclude his due diligence over the next 72 hours. Whomever the new coach is, I bet we know his identity next Wednesday so that Hofstra can introduce him Thursday. That’s the day Wright, Tom Pecora and Welsh all got introduced. Well, two out of three ain’t bad.

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