It has been a weekend full of news, rumors and combinations of the two as the world tries to figure out who will be the next basketball coach at the University of Kentucky. This story is literally all-consuming and has led the battle for the Final Four to be a mere afterthought in the Kentucky area. Stories have flown over the last couple of days of a number of coaches coming to Lexington, visiting the Cats and even accepting the job. Everyone and their brother has a “source” about payments that have been made, houses that have been bought and wives that have been courted. It is a very exciting, and for that matter amusing, time to be a Kentucky fan. Some of you may have spent the weekend doing things other than checking the internet for Kentucky news (amazingly) and thus here is a quick rundown of where we stand:
Billy Donovan: Virtually every individual I have spoken with and every person who is following this story can agree on one thing. It seems as if Billy Donovan has become the number one option for Mitch Barnhart. Stories have flown over the last few days about meetings between Donovan’s people and UK and agreements that may or may not have been made. Here is what we know…..Billy Donovan has been given MULTIPLE opportunities to express his desire to not be considered for the UK job….and he has repeatedly denied the opportunity. Donovan does nothing but say that it “isnt his job” to make the decision, but never says he does not want to be considered. Many have opined on what Donovan’s interest would be and some, including Andy Katz and Dick Vitale have guaranteed that he will not come to UK. But one who knows him well…..Bret Bearup says he would at least listen, and all signs point to that happening. Billy’s team is focusing on the Final Four so I expect no confirmation this week…..but for now, Donovan as UK’s first choice seems to be a safe bet.
Billy Gillespie and Jay Wright: Now we start moving into more speculation. Having surveyed the scene over the last few days, I have come to the conclusion that these are the two most likely contenders for UK’s coaching position if Donovan is not hired. My sources (and I know people hate that word and so do I, but if you can think of a better one, I will use it….maybe “conquistadores”) tell me that Jay Wright’s people have been contacted by UK (when I get contacted, I assume that Hubby will be considered “my people”) and that an interview of some sort either has or will take place this week. Comcast Sports allegedly reported today that Nova’s AD had been contacted about such a meeting (multiple people heard the report), but they now say no such report was made. However my conquistadore on Wright still suggests that the meeting will take place.
Other reporters (read, not me) have stated that a similar meeting has been set with Billy Gillespie of Texas A&M this week. I find that very likely as the folks that I have talked to say that if this process goes past Donovan, Gillespie will be high on UK’s list. Both of these young coaches would bring a high level of excitement to the UK position and both are considered to be hot prospects. I lean more towards the Wright (oh yeah) for a variety of reasons that I will get into later in the week. But it may very well be the case that the final decision comes down to these two men.
Mark Few Lots of talk about how much Mitch likes Mark…..very little info to suggest that movement is being made in this direction. Gonzaga’s AD has said he will let Few speak to Mitch, but there is no word if it has happened. Let me go on record with this….of ALL the candidates mentioned for this job, none would excite me less than Few.
Tom Crean All the early buzz went to Crean. Early stories said he would be named coach the day after Tubby left. But his name has been drowned out by the chants of NOOOOO that followed the news. Crean is a good coach…..but there is no indication he is a great coach when not given Dewayne Wade. He plays even slower than Tubby….Crean will get a look, but I hope not much more.
Tom Izzo I like Izzo as a prospect. Mitch loves Izzo as a prospect. I expect that a call either has or will be made between the two parties. I dont expect Izzo to leave Michigan St……but if it happens, UK would get the most proven coach in the entire group, including the one in Gainesville…..but its Tubby style again and many wont be satisfied.
John Calipari Dont listen to the Memphis Italian Stallion. He would love to come here…..but I cant see how a university in UK’s position would take a shot at Calipari. He would EXCEL at UK and likely immediately recruit better than virtually any other program in America. He is a CANT MISS success…..but forces at UK are such that it would be a huge upset if Calipari is even given a call.
Travis Ford Please no.
Mike D’antoni Season ends in June….disqualifying factor.
Rick Barnes Everyone close to Mitch says that he loves Barnes. I hear all about their various connections and mutual contacts. I personally think Barnes cant coach his way out of a paper bag. But he can recruit….and he has succeeded everywhere he has gone. Interesting to follow over the next few days.
Bottom line is this…..the UK nation can be unified under one coach, Billy Donovan. Bring in the Gator to Lexington and UK basketball is more exciting than it has been in years…..after that however and the presumptive favorite splits. We are all on hold at this point until Billy makes a choice after his team finishes its run at a repeat championship. But until then, Mitch is working on other options….and Wright and Gillespie seem like the early leaders. But of course EVERYTHING can, and likely will, change.
McDonalds Game on Wednesday….dunk contest tonight….should have Patterson and Lucas info as it comes in. At this point, both are still considering UK…..Mitch’s job is to keep UK in Patterson’s top three when he makes his decision this week. Lucas wont make a decision until UK has a new coach.