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Friday, April 11, 2008

Trent Johnson Leaves Stanford for LSU and. . .

Does Mike Montgomery's new contract with Cal have an inexpensive "out" clause in it that will let him return to Stanford? Remember, Montgomery brought Stanford to great heights when he was the head coach there, and then he cashed in his chips and went to the Golden State Warriors, where he must have questioned his sanity. He recently was announced as the head coach at Cal, replacing Ben Braun. Meanwhile Johnson, his former assistant, decided to bolt The Farm for perhaps a better chance to win a national title in Baton Rouge.

Which means, of course, that the Stanford job is open, and Montgomery hasn't established roots in Berkeley yet. So, could Stanford call him up and recall him, so to speak, before too long? Or is Montgomery's decision to go to Cal regarded as so mercenary in Palo Alto that his name is not to be mentioned and he's the veritable Lord Voldemort on the Cardinal campus? On the other hand, would forgiveness come easily?

My guess is that the Montgomery chapter is closed for good at Stanford, and it would be way too messy for Montgomery to go back to Stanford at this point (Billy Donovan's waltz with the Orlando Magic after last season notwithstanding, the stakes are different and potentially uglier here).

So, if Johnson is gone, who is the next men's b-ball coach at Stanford?

Here are a few suggestions:

1. Gonzaga's Mark Few. The guy's a flat-out winner and could elevate the Cardinal's game even further. That's who I'd go after. (After Mark Few, I am naming people as they come to mind, and not in any particular order).

2. St. Joseph's Phil Martelli. Probably too rooted in the Philadelphia b-ball culture to move, but he blends aggressive basketball and good academics and has succeeded on Belmont Avenue.

3. Davidson's Bob McKillop. Similar to Martelli, an institution at an excellent institution with a good hoops tradition. Still, for both Martelli and McKillop, Stanford is a (big) step up.

4. ESPN's Bob Knight. He probably can coach smart kids better than anyone else, but is his old-school, unapologetic mentality likely to be a fit in a very liberal part of the country. The matchup would be intriguing, but I doubt it will happen.

5. Boston College's Al Skinner. Excellent coach, has a good job at, again, a school that excels at blending academics and athletics. Doubt he'd move at this point in his career, because he's already in a top league, but his chances of fending for a title in the Pac-10 at Stanford might be greater than contending for one in the ACC at BC.

6. Notre Dame's Mike Brey. Another good fit for Stanford, and, yes, I think that Stanford would be a step up for Brey, because the Cardinal is now (much) more of a basketball school than a football one (even if Jim Harbaugh has elevated the football culture at Stanford). Notre Dame will always be a football school first, despite its present problems. I think that Brey would be a safer and perhaps less exciting pick than some of the others, but his record speaks for itself.

Those are six that immediately came to mind, and I'm sure that there are some Big Sky, WAC, other WCAC coaches and Big West coaches that might draw attention, plus some top assistants at the likes of Duke (Steve Wojo. and Chris Collins), North Carolina, etc.

The Stanford job is an excellent one. Who do you think is a prime candidate?

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