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Friday, March 17, 2006

More Thoughts on the John Chaney Replacement Sweepstakes

And welcome to those of you who are checking out this site for the first time from the Temple Rivals board. Please have a look around and stay a while.

If you're a hiring manager, you should have an idea of the type of person you want to fill this job. You also will work you're network, because someone who comes well-recommended from people whose opinion you value means a lot. There's a saying that the candidate you interview on a Friday isn't exactly the one who shows up for work the following Monday after you've hired him or her. Importantly, even if people in the coaching profession are better known because at this level they're public personalities, you really have no idea of what they are like to work with the same way you don't know what goes on in anyone else's house. In this regard, hiring people whom you know is a big plus and offers much less risk. If you're a hiring manager and you're graded on the quality of your hiring, that's an important consideration. It's also human nature.

Are you following so far? Sure, this is management-book speak, but it speaks to the logic of how hiring managers operate. Sure, they go through the company' processes and they build a pool and they bring in candidates, but in the end they have a few constituencies to satisfy. First, they must satisfy themselves that the candidate they hire is someone with whom they can work. In the coaching profession, that could well eliminate certain candidates, especially those who clash with authority, can get too big for their britches, etc. Second, they need someone who will have credibility within the organization, or else the instant pressure to excel will be too great. Put another way, if Temple AD Bill Bradshaw goes with the person with the great credentials, he can find a) someone who is good to work with and b) someone for whom he doesn't have to stick out his neck. Translated, he won't have to risk his job if he hires the "right" candidate. Unless, of course, the right candidate becomes an unmitigated failure. Finally, the hiring manager needs to be able to sell the candidate to his organization and community. If the coach to be doesn't have the right credentials, the pressure on everyone in the basketball program at the school will be too great. Yes, you can go the "old boy" networking route, but the person you bring in had better be able to bring home the wins, too. And quickly.

So what does this mean for the Temple search? Here are a few points to consider:

1. I think that any mention of Rick Brunson, the former Chaney player and current Houston Rocket is pure speculation. Brunson may well be a great guy, and his journey under Chaney is fascinating, as he went from someone that Chaney virtually told to leave to someone who made himself into an outstanding player and a Chaney favorite. (He was well-recruited, but he had trouble adjusting to Temple and Chaney). Brunson will get his shot somewhere, some day, and while he has a good hoops IQ, he's not ready. According the Hiring 101, he's too much of a risk, he doesn't have enough experience and he hasn't really paid his dues.

2. The logic I suggest also would seem to eliminate Bob Huggins. They say that those who get married for a second time are examples of the triumph of hope over experience. What's to say that Huggins won't clash with the Temple administration? Philadelphia sports fans are all too weary of giving a high-maintenance sports figure a second chance, as the Terrell Owens experiment proved to be a disaster. There's no reason for Bradshaw to hire Huggins. Temple's program needs a good basketball man; it doesn't need a savior. Huggins could well end up at a moribund program at a big conference school.

3. Others on the list I first posted on February 26 and recently re-posted the other day would get eliminated probably because Bradshaw won't be able to sell them. Head coaches from Northern Iowa and Winthrop might move up into the top six conferences, but they'll probably have a better chance of doing so in their regions and not outside of them. For example, if Indiana does the safe thing and brings Steve Alford back to Bloomington from Iowa, then the Hawkeyes might need to look no further than Northern Iowa and hire Greg McDermott. It's hard to sell McDermott, though, to the Philadelphia college hoops community. He'd be too much of an outsider in a community where most people who live there actually grew up nearby.

4. So who would the candidates be? Since I first posted, I received a few e-mails that suggested that the short list might include Penn's Fran Dunphy, Drexel's Bruiser Flint, Portland Trailblazer assistant Dean Demopoulos, Temple assistant Dan Lebovitz, Lehigh head coach Billy Taylor, soon-to-be-former Indiana head coach Mike Davis, one-time Ohio State and 76ers head coach Randy Ayres and current Duke assistant Johnny Dawkins. That's a pretty good pool, but then let's apply Hiring Basics 101 and handicap the race:

a. Penn's Fran Dunphy. He's beloved at Penn, well-respected in the coaching community, well-respected by John Chaney, and he knows Temple A.D. Bill Bradshaw from their days together at LaSalle. Dunphy has a great reputation, and Bradshaw wouldn't be sticking his neck out to get Dunphy the job. The only drawbacks to Dunphy are a) he's been in the same job a long time and b) he's been in a league that doesn't give athletic scholarships. Some hiring experts would argue that factor a) would signify a lack of ambition and some complacency about his lot in the coaching world, and they would argue that b) might be a tough skill to acquire after not having had to recruit with scholarships for so long. Both of those concerns can be easily dispensed with. First, Dunphy has the ambition. He apparently turned down Penn State three years ago when Ed DeChellis got the job because the compensation package wasn't enough, and he was a finalist for the Ohio State and Georgetown jobs a few years back. So, he has the itch, and he schedules tough non-conference opponents. As for the second concern, usually it's the other way around. Ivy coaches should have little problem recruiting with scholarships than a non-Ivy coach would have going to the Ivies after years of recruiting with them. Dunphy will do fine, and he's smart enough to hire a staff that has experience with that type of recruiting. The only other concern would be his ability to adjust to the type of kid that he might attract to Temple versus Penn. After years in the Ivies, that adjustment might be the hardest. Still, he's the favorite.

b) Dean Demopoulos. This is an easy one. He was Chaney's top aide for years, and Chaney wanted Temple to annoint Demopoulos his successor years ago. When that didn't happen, Demopoulos left to pursue other opportunities. He has great ties to the area, should get a good recommendation from Chaney and is well-known to the Temple community. As for Hiring Basics 101, Bradshaw wouldn't be sticking his neck out for an unknown if he hires Demopoulos, because he'd be hiring a Chaney protege. That said, Demopoulos didn't actually set the world on fire in his year at Missouri-Kansas City, and he's been away from the college game for a while. Of course, college hoops and is a small world, and my guess is that if he had the appropriate assistants, his recent absence from the college game wouldn't hurt him.

c) Bruiser Flint. Great guy, from all accounts, extremely well-connected to HS and AAU coaches in the area, popular in Philadelphia, and has strong media support. Going with Hiring Basics 101, he's the people's choice for those who wouldn't be backing Dunphy, and Bradshaw wouldn't be sticking his neck out too far because Flint played his HS ball in the area, went to St. Joe's and has had two Division 1 coaching jobs. The drawback is that he hasn't excelled at either UMass (where, among others, Philadelphia Inquirer reporters think he got a raw deal after he succeeded John Calipari) and Drexel, where he's been for the past few years. Had Flint turned around the Drexel program in his short tenure there, he might be the favorite. His candidacy is the type where Bradshaw would perhaps say that his heart tells him that Bruiser Flint might be the right guy, but his head would tell him to look elsewhere.

d) Johnny Dawkins, top assistant, Duke. Not much has been written because Dawkins' sole connection to Philadelphia was that he played for the 76ers in the late 1980's and early 1990's. Still, that's enough of a connection, and being Coach K's top aide is a big plus. He has the credentials, but he's been at Duke long enough to make you at least ask the question whether he's happy being the #2 man and really has the ambition to be the #1 man. Moreover, the track record of Coach K's assistants in head coaching positions hasn't been great. Mike Brey did well at Delaware and has done above average at Notre Dame, while we're still waiting for Tommy Amaker to emerge at Michigan after only faring above average at Seton Hall. David Henderson was just fired at Delaware, and Quin Snyder quit under a cloud of suspicion at Missouri. In other words, the question could arise whether Coach K is so dominating a presence that he really is developing head coaches. Dawkins is an intriguing possibility. If he's interested, he probably gets a lot more than a courtesy interview.

As for the rest of the candidates, I'll note that Taylor hasn't been at Lehigh long enough or done well enough there to warrant serious consideration. Temple would not be smart to hire him instead of Bruiser Flint, who is better known to the community. As for Lebovitz, apparently he's more than a capable assistant, and he'd be a dark horse candidate. The advantage is that he's a known quantity and that he's the top assistant now. The last time, however, that Temple replaced a legend with a top assistant, Don Casey, Harry Litwack's top aide, achieved only to an above-average level (Casey is the answer to the trivia question "Who coached men's basketball at Temple between Harry Litwack and John Chaney?"). It may be that Lebovitz, like junior faculty at Harvard, has to get his tenure elsewhere as a head coach before getting consideration in the city where he grew up. As for Randy Ayres and Mike Davis, well, both have outstanding resumes. If Temple were to hire either of them, Bradshaw would have to make sure that they have recovered from whatever burnout they might have suffered at their previous jobs. Davis seems burned out, but he was in an almost impossible situation at Indiana, and he's a decent recruiter. Ayres has been away from the college game for a long time.

Another name mentioned was Lafayette's Fran O'Hanlon, whom I would heartily endorse, because I think that he's a transcendant coaching talent, perhaps better than anyone in Philadelphia who has yet to retire. With all due respect to the other Big Five coaches (Jay Wright, John Giannini, who did a great job at LaSalle this year), Fran Dunphy and Phil Martelli, and, also, Flint, O'Hanlon is a technical wizard and his teams are fun to watch. He's an excellent technician, and he's suffered at Lafayette because he's coaching at the only Patriot League school that doesn't give full rides for men's hoops (Army and Navy do by way of grants, and the rest give full scholarships). Put O'Hanlon on North Broad Street, and the Owls will do great, great things. (My guess is that if Fran Dunphy were to get the Temple job, Fran O'Hanlon would be a leading candidate for the Penn job). Sure, O'Hanlon has about a .500 record in Easton, Pennsylvania over the past 12 or so years, but don't let that fool you. The man can flat out coach -- with anyone. He's a known quantity within Philadelphia, has a good reputation, etc., but the political risk according to Hiring Basics 101 is that because of his long tenure at Lafayette he might be tough to sell to the Temple community. After all, it's hard to hold Bruiser Flint and Fran O'Hanlon to different standards, except that the latter has probably had a handicap to his coaching success that the former has not.

So there you have it. That's a very strong pool, and one that's sure to yield a coach that will help Temple return to the Top 25 or the cusp thereof for a while.

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