Dennis Wolff Fired! Will Pitino's Son Take the Boston Terriers' Reins?

Michael HurleyContributor IMarch 24, 2009

14 Nov 2001:  Head coach Dennis Wolff of Boston University yells instructions to his team as they play Iowa at the Guardians Classic in Iowa City Iowa. DIGITAL IMAGE Mandatory Credit: Jonathan Daniel/ALLSPORT

There has been a whole lot of speculation on who will take over the Boston University basketball team.

Head coach Dennis Wolff has been fired after 15 years.

Wolff won the most games in program history, 247, and had four seasons remaining on a ten-year contract. His buyout is rumored to be over $1 million. 

The team finished in third place and will return four starters—including America East first-team players Corey Lowe and John Holland. They also return Freshman of the Year Jake O'Brien. 

Considering these factors, Athletic Director Mike Lynch must have some top candidates in mind, because Wolff was coming off a winning season and a third-place finish in the America East despite season-ending injuries to two impact players this year.

The cupboard is also not bare, given the aforementioned players' return. With Lowe, Holland, and O'Brien returning the incoming coach will have an impressive roster that will be able to contend immediately in the America East. This hopefully will attract better candidates than if waited to fire Wolff.

AD Mike Lynch decided to hire Parker Executive Search at a price of $75,000 to search for the new coach. The company is well-respected and has been used in searches for Notre Dame's Athletic Director, Nebraska's head football coach, the Big 12 commissioner, and basketball coaches for the likes of LSU, Arkansas, Kentucky, Iowa, Minnesota, and Oregon State.

Lynch obviously is not looking to fill the position prematurely, but rather will deliberate over many qualified candidates. Now onto the possible candidates.

Within a day of the firing, The Boston Globe reported a list that led with Richard Pitino, Rick Pitino's son. Pitino is an assistant at Louisville for his father. He previously was an assistant for St. Andrew's High School in Rhode Island, the College of Charleston, Northeastern, and Duquesne. Pitino has spent the last two years assisting his father.

When asked about his interest in the BU job Pitino responded, "I would be very interested." Although there is immediate name recognition with the Pitino hiring, he has only been an assistant at the Division-I level for five years. He does have Boston roots, as he went to St. Sebastian's, but he is very young.

The other Louisville assistants who are in the running are Steve Masiello and former Celtic Walter McCarty. McCarty played for Pitino at Kentucky and on the Celtics. He has only been coaching for a couple years, so he is inexperienced. McCarty would immediately bring name recognition and he has expressed interest, but he is considered a long shot.

Steve Masiello on the other hand is the most experienced of the three Louisville assistants. Masiello has been assisting Pitino for four years. Prior to that he was an assistant to Bobby Gonzalez at Manhattan College for four years, two of which Manhattan made it to the tournament.

It has been reported by the Louisville Courier-Journal that Masiello is not interested in the job and is waiting for a bigger opening, MAC/A-10/C-USA type.

It will be interesting how Rick Pitino plays into. If he is pushing for one of his coaches over the others it would probably be his son Richard. Also does Pitino have enough juice left to even get the coach he wants the job at BU. He is not the only coach recommending his assistant.

Before UConn's opening game against Chattanooga Jim Calhoun said, "I called Mike Lynch and talked to him about Andre (LaFleur). I think there was some interest." LaFleur was one of the top scorers for Calhoun at Northeastern. LaFleur then played and coached overseas for 11 years. He has been part of the UCONN staff for the last eight years. 

Other top assistants mentioned have included Pat Duquette for BC, Pittsburgh assistant Tom Herrion, and Providence assistant Pat Skerry.

Duquette has spent the last 12 years on the BC staff. BC has been incredibly successful during his time with post-season berths in seven of the last eight seasons. Duquette has stated he would not leave for just any job, but this does not seem to be any job because he has expressed his interest.

Herrion has been the associate head coach for Pitt the last two years. Before that he was the head coach for the College of Charleston and led the team to an 80-38 record under him including an NIT appearance and a top-25 ranking.

Herrion has also been the assistant at the University of Virginia for two years and Providence College for four years. In total he has 18 years of experience at the college level. Herrion was a graduate of Division II Merrimack College and grew up in Oxford.

Pat Skerry spent this past season assisting Keno Davis at Providence College. Prior to that he was an assistant at Rhode Island for three years, spent two years assisting Tom Herrion, another possible candidate, at College of Charleston, and three years at William & Mary. Skerry has spent 17 years at the collegiate level, 12 of which have been in New England.

Other names mentioned include former Providence and Iona head coach Tom Welsh, former Celtic Ed Pinckney, former Harvard head coach Frank Sullivan.

Tim Welsh is the only coach with experience at a high level school in Division I who is under consideration. Welsh has expressed interest in the job. He coached the Iona Gaels to three straight MAAC championships and post-season births. His teams made the NIT twice and NCAA once.

Welsh then moved onto Providence where he was unable to match the success at Iona, but finished with five post-season births in ten years. None of his teams ever won a NCAA tournament game. His overall record is 215-148. Welsh also was an assistant at Florida State, Syracuse, and Iona before becoming the head coach of the Gaels.

Pinckney has been an assistant for the Minnesota Timberwolves for two years and previously spent the prior four years as an assistant for his alma mater, the Villanova Wildcats. Pinckney played in the NBA for twelve years for multiple teams including the Celtics. Pinckney starred for Villanova in their run to the National Championship in 1985.

Sullivan has expressed interest in the position. He spent 33 years coaching at the collegiate level including his last 16 as head coach of Harvard. Sullivan also assisted at recognizable schools like Villanova and Seton Hall. Sullivan also was a very successful head coach at Bentley for seven years. He has spent the past two seasons as the America East coordinator of officials. Sullivan is a native of Lexington and went to Westfield State.

AD Mike Lynch seems to want a new face for the program, so I doubt Tim Welsh, the most qualified, or Frank Sullivan are in the running even though both have expressed their interest. If any of the Louisville assistants are going to get this job it will be Richard Pitino, because the name still resonates at BU and also on a national stage. Masiello does not seem to have interest in it removing one of Richard's biggest competitors for the position.

The Pitino coaching tree has already produced numerous successful coaches, including Billy Donovan, Tubby Smith, Ralph Willard, Reggie Theus, Herb Sendek, and Travis Ford, to name a few. Pat Duquette is a formidable competition for the job. He knows the area so well and has much more experience than Pitino. LeFleur will be getting a head coaching shot soon, but it does not look like this year will be his.

Watch out for the dark horse Tom Herrion in all this.


Favorites: Richard Pitino, Louisville assistant; Andre LeFleur, UConn assistant; Pat Duquette, BC assistant.

Dark Horses: Tom Herrion, Pitt assistant.

Longshots: Walter McCarty, Louisville assistant; Ed Pinckney, Timberwolves assistant.