This week The Michigan Daily will profile 12 possible candidates (three each day) to replace former Michigan basketball coach Tommy Amaker. Athletic Director Bill Martin intends to name a new head coach by the middle of April.
The profiles are listed in no particular order.
Candidate: John Beilein
Current job: West Virginia head coach
Coaching experience: 29 years (all as a head coach)
Pros: In his 29 years of coaching, 25 of them have been winning seasons. During his five years at West Virginia he’s been to the National Invitation Tournament and NCAA Tournament each twice and has taken the Mountaineers to the Elite Eight and Sweet Sixteen in consecutive seasons (2004-2006).
His Princeton-style offense, emphasizing back-door cuts and constant motion, may be perfect for the Wolverines’ current recruiting class.
Cons: Beilein has a major contract buyout, so a move may not be so easy. According to various reports, Beilein’s $3 million buyout kept North Carolina State from offering him a job last season. Michigan would only have to pay $2.5 million, but it still may be too much for the athletic department to pony up.
Plus, Beilein (54) may not be interested in coaching for much longer.
Back in April 2005, just after Beilein’s contract was extended to 2012, West Virginia University President David Hardesty couldn’t comment with certainty on Beilein’s coaching future.
“No, he doesn’t go that far,” said Hardesty during that April press conference. “It’s hard to tell how long he will want to coach. He did say he had lots of things he wanted to accomplish before he left here.”
Candidate: Tony Bennett
Current job: Washington State head coach
Coaching experience: Seven years (one as a head coach)
Pros: As an assistant at Wisconsin, Tony Bennett played a key role in recruiting some of the Badgers’ top talent, including Kirk Penney, Devin Harris, Alando Tucker and Brian Butch. Now, after a successful campaign in his first season as Washington State head coach, Martin acknowledged Bennett’s candidacy and his Midwest connections.
“(Bennett’s) name has come up, particularly since he was in the Midwest and grew up in the Midwest,” Martin said. “We need somebody that’s got regional ties to the Midwest.”
Cons: There just hasn’t been enough time to truly evaluate Bennett as a head coach. Even though hiring a young coach allows a school to think more about the long term, that inexperience could bury the program before it has a chance to get off the ground. Bennett took the reigns of the Washington State program just this season, following his father’s retirement. He had an incredible first year, but Martin wouldbe taking a bit of a risk on someone who hasn’t established himself as a top coach, especially with so many other qualified coaches on the market.
Candidate: Ernie Kent
Current job: Oregon head coach
Coaching experience: 25 years (15 years as a Division I head coach)
Pros: In nine seasons, Ernie Kent led Oregon to four NCAA Tournament appearances, including a run to the Elite Eight in 2002. Despite the success, he may be willing to go to Ann Arbor.
“I want to be at Oregon as long as they want me there,” Kent told The Oregonian. “But if they don’t want me there anymore, and Michigan wants to talk, Oregon owes me the opportunity to listen.”
Kent has two highly rated recruits from Detroit on his team: Detroit Renaissance alumni Malik Hairston and Tajuan Porter. Not only has he proven he can recruit well, he’s proven he can recruit well in Detroit, a traditional pipeline for Michigan basketball.
Cons: As long as Oregon shows any interest in keeping him, Kent has no reason to go to Michigan. The Ducks are becoming a national powerhouse, and Kent may want to stick around a few more years to reap the benefits.