How to Choose the Next Kentucky Coach

Paul SwaneySenior Analyst IMarch 27, 2009

LEXINGTON, KY - FEBRUARY 28:  Jodie Meeks #23 of the Kentucky Wildcats drives to the basket against Garrett Temple #14 of the LSU Tigers during the SEC game at Rupp Arena on February 28, 2009 in Lexington, Kentucky.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

For the second time in two years, the Roman Empire of college basketball will search for a new Caesar. After compromising itself with the hiring of Billy Gillispie in 2007, Kentucky must maintain a clear vision of the right man to fill the vacancy and fulfill the expectations of Big Blue.


First and foremost, the next Kentucky coach must be a winner. Gillispie was criticized for his conduct off the court as well as his inability to ingratiate himself with the Kentucky fans, but the bottom line is that he did not win enough. A two-year record of 40-27 will not cut it when the expectation is a championship every year.

The next coach must compete immediately for an SEC title at the very least. The best piece of news for Gillispie's successor is that appears both Patrick Patterson and Jodie Meeks will return next season; they're a solid foundation to be sure.


The second non-negotiable characteristic to be present in a Kentucky candidate is a clear understanding and acceptance of the expectations that come with this high-profile position. Experience with a big program is an absolute must.

There has been some sentiment that it was unfair for Gillispie to only be given two years to prove himself, but the fact is that if Gillispie truly understood the expectations that come with leading this program, he would have walked away himself.


Finally, Kentucky must hire a coach who sees Lexington as the last place he'll need to buy a home. In other words, a long-term solution, ala Adolph Rupp.

Rupp's 42 years (and four championships) as head coach has been followed by 37 years (and three championships) with six different coaches. Stability is what the tradition of Kentucky basketball was founded on.

This means UK needs a coach who has a minimum of a decade left in his coaching career, though 20 years remaining would be preferable.


With these things in mind, there are eight coaches who fit the profile now that Billy Donovan has declared himself as not interested:

8. John Pelphrey: He understands the expectations at Kentucky and is young enough to be a long-term solution, but has he proven himself as a winner?

7. Anthony Grant: The hottest young coach in college basketball, he has proven himself capable of victory. Plus, this would be a way for UK to vicariously get Billy Donovan.

6. Tim Floyd: With his NBA experience, Floyd would understand the fan base's lack of patience, and he has proven that he can recruit. The only question is whether he can win enough.

5. Travis Ford: A beloved former point guard, he would understand the expectations, be a long-term solution, and has won everywhere he has been.

4. Sean Miller: Miller could make the short drive from Cincinnati to Lexington and be a long-term star.

3. Tom Izzo: He understands high expectations because he has created them at Michigan State. I doubt he would ever walk away from the Spartans, but he would be a perfect fit.

2. Jay Wright: A young rising star with a history of success. He has also coached in a town with a tough media presence, so he may be well-equipped to handle the Kentucky scrutiny.

1. John Calipari: Clearly the perfect fit. He has the history of winning, the big name, the ability to recruit, NBA experience, and a well-polished relationship with the media.