Creative Ideas for Memphis' and Arizona's Head Coaching Vacancies

Mark Scacewater@ScaceH20Analyst IApril 5, 2009

10 Feb 1996:  Head coach Bobby Cremins of the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets calls a play from the sideline during the game against the University of North Carolina Tar Heels at the Dean Smith Center in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.  Georgia Tech defeated UNC Mandatory Credit:  Craig Jones/Allsport

As the Final Four tips off today in Detroit, there are currently two very high profile college basketball coaching vacancies. Arizona was recently turned down by USC's Tim Floyd, while Memphis is currently playing their cards close to the vest.

Instead of writing an article focusing on the predictable candidates for these positions, I want to look at 10 out-of-the box candidates that could fit in at either school.

There is a bit of a misnomer that Memphis is a "high-profile" job, but the reality is that Memphis immediately became a middle of the pack team once John Calipari left for Kentucky and the Bluegrass state.

Not only is Tyreke Evans gone, but so are important contributors Antonio Anderson, Robert Dozier, and most importantly, Calipari's heralded recruiting class led by the nation's No. 1 prospect, Xavier Henry.

Despite this fact, Memphis, with the right coach, can continue to dominate Conference USA.

Much like when Indiana surprised everyone and hired Kelvin Sampson several years back, these candidates would be a surprise to many if they were hired at either school.

We have to assume neither school will hire an assistant, so only head coaches will be looked at for these scenarios.

Candidate: 1. Jamie Dixon, Arizona (Pittsburgh)

Dixon could stay at Pitt and be a highly successful Big East coach for as long as he wanted in all likelihood, but the competitiveness of the Big East takes a toll on its teams in the regular season.

Dixon has been an excellent regular season coach for a number of years, but his team has not advanced to the Final Four yet, and this was probably his best chance to date.

Losing Lavance Fields, Sam Young, and DeJuan Blair will make next season a transition year, so if Dixon were to leave, now would be the time. Arizona would be a place where Dixon could go in and continue on the tradition of success left by Lute Olson.

While regional issues might arise when it comes to recruiting, Dixon would be an intriguing selection by Arizona, if he were willing to leave Pitt.

Candidate 2. Sean Miller, Arizona or Memphis (Xavier)

While this would not be a shocking hire, Miller changing time zones would be a big deal. Xavier is in the Atlantic 10, not a power conference, and Miller has probably reached his peak with any Xavier team.

The odds of them advancing past the Elite 8 are slim, although they have come close. Reasons why Miller would make the move to either school would include a huge pay raise, more prestige and better recruits. Memphis may be a bit of a lateral move, but if Miller wants a new challenge, either school would fit the bill.

Candidate 3. Gary Williams, Arizona (Maryland)

Why would Williams ever leave Maryland? It's no secret he had a very public spat with his athletic director this season, and perhaps Williams is tired of hearing the whispers from the fans.

Much like Tennessee's Phil Fulmer, the shine of William's national title has begun to rust, and he would be a perfect successor to Lute Olson. His team's play a somewhat frenetic style at times, something 'Zona fans are used to.

Another factor to consider is the longevity factor: Williams has been at Maryland a long time, and perhaps it is time to move on. I think both parties would be happy with each other in this scenario.

Candidate 4. Kevin Stallings, Memphis (Vanderbilt)

This one would be a shocker to everyone outside the state of Tennessee. The chances of a SEC coach moving to a Conference USA school are slim to none, but Stallings perhaps could foresee a future filled with easier opponents and better recruits.

Stallings is also a proven winner, something Memphis will require when they hire their new coach. Stallings doesn't have a lot of notoriety among college basketball fans, but his coaching ability is not something that can be questioned. Between big SEC victories and Sweet 16 trips, Vandy could be looking for a new coach themselves.

Candidate 5. Mike Brey, Arizona (Notre Dame)

Brey has probably been over-hyped in his time at Notre Dame. His teams score a ton of points, but play defense like the NBA's Golden State Warriors. Brey could come to the sad realization that Notre Dame will never win another Big East title in this era, competing against the likes of Jay Wright, Rick Pitino and Jamie Dixon on a nightly basis.

Arizona fans would embrace Brey's coaching philosophy, and provide Brey a fresh start minus the suffocating pressure he must be feeling after this season's surprising decline.

Candidate 6. Bobby Cremins, Arizona or Memphis (College of Charleston)

This one would be a complete shocker. Cremins has been coaching in relative anonymity for the past few seasons, with his most newsworthy event this season being the defeat of Davidson and Steph Curry in the Southern Conference semifinals.

Who knows if Cremins would relish the chance to leave what must be a relaxing job by the beach. If his competitive juices were to get fired up, perhaps we would see Cremins hired by either school looking to replace a legend with a highly successful veteran coach.

Candidate 7. Randy Bennett, Arizona or Memphis (Saint Mary's)

2008 Co-Conference coach of the year in the West Coast Conference, Bennett would be a solid yet unspectacular hire for either school looking to hire him. The Saint Mary's coach would have to be deemed an "up and comer" type coach.

In seven years at Saint Mary's, Bennett is the winningest coach in the program's history, and this season his team was one of the last team's out of the NCAA Tournament.

If Patty Mills decides to go pro, Bennett would be wise to jump at the chance to coach Arizona or Memphis. 'Zona would make more sense from a regional standpoint, and Bennett would bring with him a proven track record of winning. Along with a jump in pay and job prestige, Bennett could catapult himself onto the national coaching stage with a successful stint at either school.

Candidate 8. Rick Barnes, Arizona (Texas)

Barnes has been mentioned before for high-profile jobs, but thus far he has stood firm in Austin. Perhaps Barnes seeks to escape the shadow of the "football school" label that Texas is undeniably tagged with, and decides to go somewhere where basketball is indeed supreme.

While this would be a lateral move at best, Barnes would continue the winning tradition at Arizona. Barnes is one of a handful of coaches that Arizona fans would endorse as a proven winner.

Candidate 9. Fran McCaffery, Memphis (Siena)

Back to back first round wins in the NCAA Tournament give McCaffery credibility in the eyes of athletic directors around the country and it's only a matter of time before he takes the plunge and moves to a bigger school.

Memphis would be a great fit in the sense that McCaffery wouldn't be stepping into a pressure cooker job like Kentucky. Memphis fans love their basketball, but they would also recognize that a new coach would need a few years to rebuild the team.

Most importantly for McCaffery, Memphis would shower him with support (and money) if he were to accept the job. More importantly for Memphis, McCaffery has led 3 different schools (Siena, UNC Greensboro, Lehigh) to the Big Dance.

Candidate 10. Gary Waters, Memphis (Cleveland State)

Watching Waters during the Horizon League championship game, it was hard not to believe Waters is in coaching more for himself that his players. When they beat Butler, Waters stood on the sideline seemingly celebrating with himself. While this could be an unfounded judgment, the picture on the television screen told the whole story. With that in mind, it's difficult to believe Waters won't be looking for a new job this offseason, capitalizing on his recent successes.

Having coached at Rutgers before, perhaps Waters believes he owes it to himself to see if he can have success at a bigger program. Waters got a win in the NCAA Tournament this season, so perhaps Memphis would take a chance of a guy who seems to coach with energy and passion.


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