"My rule was I wouldn't recruit a kid if he had grass in front of his house.
That's not my world. My world was a cracked sidewalk." —Al McGuire

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Exclusive: Mike DeCourcy on the Marquette coaching search

It is our pleasure to welcome The Sporting News' Mike DeCourcy, one of the nation's top college basketball writers, to Cracked Sidewalks.

Mike was gracious enough to offer his perspectives on the Marquette program and the current search for a new head basketball coach in this Q & A, which he completed exclusively for Cracked Sidewalks.

Which names do you expect to hear in connection with the job?
(MD) There are few things I hate worse than "lists" and "names being mentioned." Whose list? Mentioned by whom? Too many in the media just throw out as many people as it seems might be peripherally connected with a job without any consideration to whether that person might actually be interested, or whether that person might be qualified, or whether that person would be of interest to the people doing the hiring.

What do you think are the most important criteria Marquette will need to consider when narrowing down candidates for the next coach?
(MD) Getting the best person for the job. That's all. He'd better be an excellent recruiter, because even though Marquette is a wonderful university with a passionate following, it is a Big East school in Big Ten country -- and that makes it, by definition, a difficult sell. Tom Crean recruits as well as any head coach, and it was tough for him to get all the people he wanted.

The next coach also better be good with Xs and Os, because he almost certainly is going to be going against teams with better players -- there aren't going to be many years in which the Golden Eagles' talent is not bested by some combination of Connecticut, Georgetown, Syracuse and one or two others.

In your opinion, which coach would be the best fit for the job?
(MD) I don't think Marquette should fear hiring an assistant. It worked out beautifully last time. One person I would tell you is very gifted and ready to make this kind of move is John Groce, the associate head coach at Ohio State. He helped build the roster that went to last year's NCAA title game, had a large hand in recruiting Stanley Burrell for Xavier, which made this year's Elite Eight and was a big part of Butler's success early in this decade. He does much of the gameplanning and play-calling for the Buckeyes now. He would excel in this position.

Marquette has a lot going for it in terms of the Big East, great facilities, commitment to pay large dollars, but coaching searches are always less fruitful than fans want. To what extent will MU be able to attract a top candidate?
(MD) When Marquette hired Tom Crean, how many fans really knew who he was? Maybe those who were really in tune. Not to be disrespectful, but fans too often get caught up in whether a coach is famous and not whether he's truly gifted. Getting a "name" coach generally is the least important consideration.

Will having a new athletic director hinder Marquette's ability to land one of its prime targets?
(MD) I would think not, so long as that AD consults the right people and makes wise decisions. Hey, Indiana's AD was on a long losing streak and pulled out Tom Crean. So I wouldn't put it past anyone to hire a good coach.

Buzz Williams is a hot name on the message boards because the feeling is he could stop the bleeding. Hiring from within paid dividends for Pitt with Jamie Dixon, do you see any parallels here?
(MD) It's a different deal, but that doesn't mean Buzz couldn't do a great job. Jamie helped Ben Howland build up the program. He helped write the blueprint. Buzz was a relatively recent addition to Tom's staff. However, Buzz has more head coaching experience than Jamie had and is an extremely accomplished recruiter. His connections to Texas offer Marquette an avenue to talent that could be very useful. I thought Buzz was a great hire by Tom. Keeping him could work out very well.

One of the best aspects of the Big East is that the BE Champion should be considered a strong candidate to also be the national champion. However, it's clear that one motivator for Crean to move to IU was the ability to attract better recruits and contend for that same NCAA championship. To what extent do you think Marquette will be able to contend for the Big East and NCAA Championship?
(MD) I'd say the two are more mutually exclusive than you suggest. Pitt has proven that. Pitt has won Big East titles -- regular-season and tournament -- with teams that had virtually no chance of winning the NCAAs. You need much more talent to win six NCAA Tournament games than to win even the best league over the course of 18 games. It's a different challenge and values physical toughness and stamina much more than individual playmaking ability.

Mike, thanks for taking the time to offer your perspectives during a busy Final Four week.

Folks, please be sure to bookmark Mike's landing page over at The Sporting News and check back often for the latest news and perspectives on college hoops.


BF4ever said...

Marquette should reach out to Larry Brown and determine if his statement about wanting to return to college coaching could apply to their opening.

Larry is a world class basketball mind, who would immediatly elevate the play of our talent laiden roster.

Somehow retain Buzz Williams to stay on and handle most recruiting as the eventual heir apparent.

If Larry was up for the challenge, and wanting to work with a group of players that actually listen to his coaching, he could win a National Championship at Marquette.

But of course...it's NOT Indiana, it's NOT Indiana.

jce said...

Larry Brown? I guess this quote just went over your head:

"Not to be disrespectful, but fans too often get caught up in whether a coach is famous and not whether he's truly gifted. Getting a "name" coach generally is the least important consideration."

Anyway, John Groce is a name I had completely forgotten, but considering what he is doing at OSU and his exposure to a MU-like school in Xavier, that might not be a bad choice.

Janet said...

Decourcy is right,hire a recruiter.Rider University head coach Tom Dempsey merits an interview for recruiting Jason Thompson; second in rebounding,18th blocked shots,29th scoring,NBA bound.Was Dempsey lucky or can he close the deal.Marquette must hire someone who can recriut big time post players.Everything else then becomes a lot easier.

Packer Pat said...

Larry Brown would be a great Funeral Director or something, but not a College Coach anymore.
He'd never convince recruits that he's sticking around.

Tony Bennett is the answer! Please pay the man and get this done before the Final Four.
There is not a coach out there better at X's and O's. Recruiting will not be a problem for him.

MilwaukeePanther said...

MU should hire Pearl- that would (never happen but..) be hilarious. Doubt anyone reading Cracked would be interested, but I've been writing a UWM Basketball blog for quite some time now (hey, we almost when .500 this year! (even after getting pulverized by the Golden Eagles at the BC)).


Ahhhh, next year, you'll get your money's (and non-con game's) worth. We'll keep it within 10- I promise. LOL. Peace from Pantherland.

jce said...

Tony Bennett would be my first choice as well. He only makes about $800K and has a pretty small buy out. Plus, Washington State is a real, real tough place to recruit and he did pretty well. He did turn down a chance at IU, but remember it was IU that fired his sister as women's coach a couple of years ago.

Oliver said...

I agree with getting Bennett, but he probably won't come. Marquette should throw a $1.3 million, 5 year deal at him and see if that gets his attention.

I have a feeling that Buzz Williams is going to get the job, but that scares me a little. The recruiting connections in Texas won't last forever. After that he would have to stand on his own in the Midwest.