Let's face it, the writing is on the wall. Coach Gottfried has taken us as far as he is capable of, and we will soon be in need of a new head coach. We don't have the passionate following, tradition, or resources of the football program, so we likely won't get the "Nick Saban" of basketball. Roy Williams, Coach K, or Billy Donovan aren't going to leave their current programs to come here. We will have to gamble on an up and coming coach who will have a resume similar to Gottfried's when we hired him. At this point, it's a risk we will have to take. Here is a breakdown of who I would call to guage interest, in the order that I would do so.
1. Mark Few, Gonzaga: One of the elite coaches in the nation. Turned a tiny, unknown college into a national powerhouse. It's extremely unlikely that he will leave. If he wanted to leave Gonzaga, he's had ample opportunities to do so, and for much better positions than what we have to offer. I think you make the call anyway and hope he's wanting a new challenge.
2. Tony Bennett, Washington State. Pullman, WA is the Starkville, MS of the PAC 10. If you can recruit and win there, you can do so anywhere. He's had back to back 26 win seasons there and is the first coach in school history to take the Cougs to the NCAA tournament 2 years in a row. He has no ties to the south, as he played at Wisconsin-Green Bay, and was an assistant in Wisconsin before working as an assistant under his father at WASU. He's a good recruiter and his teams are known for good defense. The only negatives I can see is that we don't know if he could recruit the south, but like I said, if you can convince good players to come to Pullman, WA, you should be able to get them to Ttown. I would like to think we are a step up from Washington State and the PAC 10, but he may want to stay there to continue his father's legacy. Also, we may have some competition for him if there are better opennings at the end of the season.
3. Sean Miller, Xavier. He's 93-39 in 4 seasons with Xavier, and they have the 2nd best record in the nation in March since he took over. He is signed through 2018, so I imagine his buyout from Xavier could present a problem, although I don't know all the terms of his contract. Xavier has very nice, albeit smaller facilities, and they are certainly more committed to basketball there. He may not want to leave that to come to a football school. He would certainly get more exposure at an SEC school than he has from winning the Atlantic 10 two years in a row. I rated him 3rd simply because he's been in the Atlantic 10 whereas Tony Bennett has been in the slightly better PAC 10, but really I consider both of these tied as my top realistic choice.
I would hope we would do everything in our power to hire one of the above. I consider the 3 names above to be "homerun" type hires. Anyone from the list below, I consider to be a big gamble.
4. John Beilein, Michigan. He has a lot of experience as a head coach, and has been successful everywhere he has been. Taking Canisius and Richmond to the tournament, and West Virginia to a final four. His half-court motion offense is fun to watch. It's very guard oriented and his teams run a lot of back door cuts and shoot a lot of 3's. He went 10-22 in his first year at Michigan, but has them off to a very good start this year. It will be interesting to see if the new 3 point line effects them over the course of this season. This would not be a gamble as I stated above, but I don't think it is a very realistic option either. Coming from Michigan to Alabama would be a lateral move, at best. If anything, we are probably a step down.
5. Anthony Grant, VCU. He's 52-14 in 2 seasons at VCU including an upset of Duke in the NCAA tournament, he is from Florida, and was an assistant under Billy Donovan. Foley was going to hire him for the Florida job when it appeared Donovan would leave for the Orlando Magic. Hiring an African American coach would be a historic moment and create good press for the University. His familiarity with the SEC from his days as a Gator would also help in recruiting. Still, there is a big difference in coaching at VCU and coaching in the SEC.
6. Mike Anderson, Missouri. He's a Nolan Richardson prodigy, 40 minutes of hell, a lot of pressing defense and running on offense. Very entertaining basketball if not always fundamentally sound. He turned UAB around, taking them to the tournament 3 straight years, but he hasn't exactly set the world on fire at Mizzou, going 16-16 last year, and failing to take them to the tournament in his first two seasons there. Perhaps he just needs some time to get the right players for his unique system, or perhaps he isn't quite ready to compete in a big time conference. I'm not sure he would leave Mizzou to come to Alabama anyway, but if we can't land any of the names above, I would give him a shot. Even if our record doesn't improve, at least we would be entertained.
7. Mike Davis, UAB. He took over for Bobby Knight at Indiana and got a raw deal, in my opinion. It's difficult to follow a legend, and everything he did was compared to Bobby Knight. His race did not help him up there either. Indiana is the Mississippi of the midwest, and one of the most racist states in the Union. He did a decent job there despite that environment, taking the Hoosiers to the National Championship game in his second year. (Something the general had not accomplished in quite some time). He's 43-30 at UAB, and won 23 games there last year. He's an Alabama graduate, and is from Fayette. I attended his basketball camp as a kid, and I really like him as a coach and a person. He's not the charismatic salesman Gottfried is, and his brand of basketball is not particularly exciting to watch, so he wouldn't be the best choice from a marketing standpoint. He will emphasize defense and his teams will play hard every night. As much as I like him, I would rather we go outside the family and get some fresh blood in here for this hire.
8. Tubby Smith, Minnesota. Kentucky fans will say I am crazy, but he did win a National Championship his first year there. He made the NCAA tournament every year from 1993-2007 with Tulsa, Georgia, and Kentucky. He has a 416-159 career record. He isn't the up and coming coach as some of the others on the list, but more a proven veteran. Some may question if his best days are now behind him. He is familiar with the SEC, having coached at Georgia and Kentucky, but his recruiting was inexcusably bad his last few years at Kentucky. His teams play great defense and never get blown out, which would be a refreshing change, but his offense can be as painful to watch as what we are currently seeing.
9. T.R. Dunn, Houston Rockets. He's was a good defensive assistant coach here, and he's spent a lot of time in the NBA as an assistant coach. He's another former UA player, but as I mentioned regarding Mike Davis, I would rather look outside the "family." His NBA connections would likely be attractive to recruits, and you would assume we would have a great defense, but his lack of head coaching experience concerns me. Also, he's been in the NBA a long time, and the NBA game is hardly even the same sport as the college game.
10. Ricky Byrd, Belmont. If you can't beat them, join them. He runs a motion offense and shoots a lot of 3's. They beat us with a pretty good team and should have upset Duke in the NCAA tournament last year. Again, coaching at Belmont is a long way from the SEC. He may be a great coach, but I think he needs to take another step up before being considered a serious candidate for an SEC type job.
11. Bob McKillop, Davidson. Yes, he took tiny Davidson to the Elite 8, but that had as much to do with Stephen Curry as anything. He's been there since 1989 with a 340-225 record. I think he's a lifer at Davidson.
12. Gregg Marshall, Wichita State. He was somewhat of a hot commodity after having a decent run at Winthrop a few years back. His teams regularly compete for the conference championship, and could pull off a few upsets, especially when they had good shooters. He made the tournament 7 out of 9 seasons at Winthrop, but was only 11-20 last year in his first season at Wichita. In watching some of his teams play, they make some questionable decisions late in games, so I'm not sure how much of an improvement this would really be. He may have a few screws loose, he once accepted a job at College of Charleston then changed his mind and returned to Winthrop after the press conference announcing him as coach.
I'm sure as the season goes along, there will be some mid-major coaches who make a name for themselves and could be added to the list. It seems like I am forgetting about a couple of people, so feel free to throw your own ideas out there in the comments section.