Virginia Tech Basketball: Jay Wright and the Top Candidates for Coach

Ben GibsonSenior Analyst IApril 29, 2012

Virginia Tech Basketball: Jay Wright and the Top Candidates for Coach

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    It's been almost a week now since Virginia Tech made headlines by parting ways with Seth Greenberg after nine years together.

    The Hokies said that they wanted to move quickly and they have done just that. After contacting some coaches and even confirming one interview, Virginia Tech appears to be narrowing down its pool of candidates and soon pulling the trigger.

    Let us take a look at some of the names being mentioned, assessing not only the likelihood of them signing but also the impact they could make on the program.

6. Shaka Smart (VCU)

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    As long as Smart is at VCU, he is going to be associated with every single opening at a major college or university.

    The young man who preaches his "Aggressive, Confident, Loose" mantra has already turned down job offers from North Carolina State and Illinois. His love of Richmond, Virginia has been cited as the main reason, but Blacksburg is not that far away.

    Nonetheless, multiple sources have indicated that Smart declined to be interviewed for the opening with the Hokies. It seems clear that Smart wants to make Virginia Commonwealth the Gonzaga of the East. 

    The Rams were a few minutes from making their second straight Sweet 16 before Indiana doused their hopes with a late shot.

    Smart would have been a great shot of adrenaline to the Hokie basketball fans, but it was never a likely scenario.

    Considering that Smart attacked the Commonwealth's ACC schools earlier this year, claiming that the CAA schools in Virginia were better, this was a bit of a no-brainer.

5. Rob Murphy (Eastern Michigan)

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    Rob Murphy is an up-and-coming coach who spent most of the 2000s as an assistant coach under the legendary Jim Boeheim of Syracuse.

    Murphy finally got his own chance at a head coaching gig with Eastern Michigan, finishing 14-18 in his first year last season.

    While only 38, Murphy looks to be on his way to becoming a successful coach, but his thin resume has to be concerning to Hokie fans.

    Is there really any guarantee of success with this hire?

    Is he prepared to deal with the pressure of the ACC with a program that will take time to recover from the Greenberg fallout?

    While Murphy appears to be one of the names on the Virginia Tech list, he simply is too risky at this point of his career to be given the title.

    However, if Virginia Tech were to strike out on some of their bigger targets, he could fill in. Then he would have to deal with unfair scrutiny, but his potential could easily erase the doubters.

    Murphy will undoubtedly get a shot at the big time eventually, just not here.

4. Jeff Jones (American)

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    On the surface, Jeff Jones going to Virginia Tech really does not make that much sense.

    After all, Jeff Jones is a former Virginia Cavalier player and coach. The last time the Hokies did that was Ricky Stokes, the coach before Greenberg and an unmitigated disaster in Blacksburg.

    Yes, Jones does have ACC experience and his American Eagles are one of the better Patriot League teams. However, Jones lost control of the Virginia program and his American team has not made the tournament since 2009.

    In fact, his overall record at American is 160-141—not exactly the big name to replace a "mediocre" coach in Seth Greenberg.

    Still, David Teel of the Daily Press reports that Virginia Tech took a look at Jones. He is a good X's and O's coach and his ACC experience could make him a good recruiter.

    On the other hand, this hire would do no favors in appeasing the fanbase and Jones seems rather content to end his coaching career at American. 

3. Jimmy Patsos (Loyola)

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    Don't sleep on Jimmy Patsos as a long-shot candidate to actually win this position.

    Patsos has experience in the ACC. As a longtime assistant at Maryland, he was on the bench when the Terrapins took home the NCAA title in 2002.

    At Loyola, Patsos took over a program that was so bad it had suffered a 1-27 season the year before.

    In eight seasons, Loyola has slowly moved back into contention and made the NCAA tournament for only the second time in school history.

    He has built a strong support staff around him, including the son of Minnesota coach Tubby Smith.

    Patsos knows the ACC about as well as anyone and his demeanor would make him another colorful character in the conference.

    Then again, the reasons Patsos could get this job are also the reasons he probably will not.

    After all, Virginia Tech already had a coach known for turning programs around and using his personality to attract attention, recruits and headlines.

    It did not work out so well for him, so why would they go in the same direction in 2012?

2. Bobby Lutz (Assistant at North Carolina State)

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    It seems clear that Bobby Lutz is the safe hire.

    Lutz and the Hokies have been playing footsie with each other since he interviewed with the Virginia Tech brass last Thursday. 

    The former Charlotte coach has built on his reputation as a strong recruiter by being the key assistant on Mark Gottfried's staff at North Carolina State.

    Many are crediting him with the strong influx of talent and now he may be bringing some of that prowess to Blacksburg.

    In his 12 seasons at Charlotte, the 49ers had eight postseason appearances and upgraded from Conference USA to the Atlantic 10. However, zero NCAA tournament appearances since 2005 finally wore on the patrons.

    Lutz is not a home run hire by any stretch, but he certainly could prove to be a good one. With the name recognition, the conference affiliation and the fanbase of Virginia Tech, Lutz could bring in some big classes and hopefully produce.

    His head coaching experience is a plus and his humble personality makes him a desirable fit.

    While there is no guarantee of success with Lutz, the potential is certainly there. More importantly, if rumors are to be believed, the hire could be imminent.

1. Jay Wright (Villanova)

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    Whenever a coach is let go, fans like to dream big.

    No one, however, envisioned a big fish like Jay Wright on the radar.

    Yet the rumor mill persists. All over social media and subscription websites, the rumblings are abundant that Wright may actually shock everyone by jumping ship and heading to Blacksburg.

    David Teel and others report that Wright has been contacted primarily as a consultant only but who knows where that relationship may end. Wright and Athletic Director Jim Weaver know each other from their days at UNLV and while this may prove to be a pipe dream, that relationship give Hokie fans a ray of hope.

    Villanova's head coach has made the Wildcats a force in the loaded Big East conference. Prior to this season, Wright had made seven straight tournament appearances in the Big Dance with four Sweet Sixteens and a Final Four to boot.

    With an overall record of 213-115, Wright would be an incredible hire for Virginia Tech and instantly bring credibility to a program mired in the ACC with other second-tier teams.

    Some wonder if Wright may not be posturing to secure a heftier pay day from Villanova and Virginia Tech would have to shell out more than the nearly $2 million a year to secure him.

    However, that money would be some of the best spent in school history. Wright is a proven commodity and one of the few names that would justify just how this entire ugly closing chapter went down.

    While few believe this could happen, he does represent the best option out there.

    Courting Wright is one thing, but can Weaver get the biggest commitment of his tenure?