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Coaching Search Notes: Smart Reactions, Guerrero’s Jet (?) & Edney’s Pitch for Bruin Greatness

News and notes concerning UCLA's ongoing search for Bruins' next basketball coach.

Andy Lyons

Let's pick up from Achilles post on yesterday's Shaka Smart development as reportedly he decided to stay at VCU for a raise of $300,000 per year bumping up his salary from $1.2 to $1.5 million per year. Hey, that's good for the young coach. But the part in Pete Thamel's "excited" report about Smart turning down an opportunity to coach at UCLA doesn't jive for a number of reasons. And those reasons were well articulated by our community members in our comment thread.

First, from FilmBruin (emphasis added throughout):

I mean seriously, if he had been our number one guy, does it pass the small test that he would've passed up a huge payday and settled for a paltry $300,000 raise? No way.

I suspect he saw the writing on the wall, i.e., we're holding out for either BS, RP or BD, and decided to leverage his school TODAY for whatever he could get. If he'd had a real offer from us, one he could've shown his AD, he woulda gotten WAY MORE than 300K.

nickramz then added the following must-read perspective on the story:

1 - I don't buy that we offered Shaka and low balled him. The reason I say this is because Shaka got a 25% raise ($300K) - which UCLA can well afford - but if UCLA low balled him, don't you think Minnesota, who's AD has a connection with him (and Shaka is from the Midwest as well) would have tried swooping in? If he was really looking to making a move up, I doubt he takes himself off the market this quickly. This tells me that Shaka used the potential for UCLA and Minnesota to come knocking and leveraged a raise and extension, as he well is within his rights to.

2 - Don't forget that a lot of the Shaka Smart was UCLA's #1 choice is media hype. Stop listening to blowhards like Peter Thamel and Seth Davis who are trying to get a kick out of UCLA fans. Shaka might have been a top candidate for a lot in the MSM, and here on BN, but that doesn't mean he was in the top 3 that UCLA is rumored to have - Stevens, however, supposedly is (as are Pitino and Donovan).

And I think point 2 is worth mentioning again because, at the risk of sounding like a broken record, we don't really know if Shaka is that tier 1 candidate we're looking for. Up and coming? Sure. Plays a different brand of basketball from his predecessor? Sure.

But as many others have written about it, I'm not sure he's proven enough yet - well, beyond what the MSM pundits would have you believe.

Coach 1: Inherited a program which in the prior 3 years had 24, 24, 28 wins and 3 conference titles and 2 NCAA tourney appearances. Past 4 seasons of 27, 29, 28, 27 wins. 2 NCAA Round of 32 exits, 1 CBI championship, 1 Final Four run. Zero conference 1st place finishes.

Coach 2: Inherited a program which in the prior 3 years had 29, 20, and 13 wins with 1 conference title and 1 NCAA tourney appearance. Past 4 seasons of 27, 22, 28, 33 wins. 1 NCAA Round of 32 exit, 1 CBI semifinal run, 2 NCAA Runner Ups. Two x 1st place conference finishes.

Ask yourself, which of those coaches above should be the higher priority for UCLA?

That certainly makes sense to number of us.

Also making just a little bit of sense is Peter Yoon from ESPNLA, who argues why someone like Stevens would be preferable to coaches such as Donovan, Pitino and Phil Jackson:

UCLA makes legends, not the other way around. It is one of college basketball's meccas. It's the dream job for just about any coach in the country and the place where the coach should become a star.

Those other guys [Donovan, Pitino and Jackson] are already stars for things they did somewhere else. The stories for those coaches and others in their class have already been written. Bringing them to the Bruins would be a mercenary hire. UCLA shouldn't be looking at coaches who cemented their legacies at some other job; UCLA should be looking for someone who will cement his legacy in Westwood. UCLA should be looking for a guy who will eventually go to the Hall of Fame and there will be no doubt about what hat he chooses to wear.

Ask yourself: Is Pitino the Louisville guy or the Kentucky guy? Is Jackson better known as the former Lakers coach or the former Bulls coach? That's what you'd be asking about Donovan if he came to UCLA and won a couple of national titles the way he already has at Florida.

The coach is the face of the program, but when you see Pitino or Donovan or Jackson, you're going to see many different teams or programs. That's not something you should be seeing when you see the coach of UCLA, one of the Mount Rushmore programs in college basketball. UCLA should be looking for the guy who will become known only for leading the program back to the national elite. UCLA should be looking for the next Pitino, the next Donovan, the next Jackson.

That's why coaches like Brad Stevens of Butler and Shaka Smart of Virginia Commonwealth make so much more sense. Guys like that have cut their teeth and shown they can coach. They've taken their respective schools to unprecedented heights but haven't yet reached the pinnacle. If a coach like that came to UCLA and won a national title, they would become college basketball royalty.

Well, I agree with most of that. But I also think of Bruins do not land one of those four and have to settle for someone like Buzz Williams of Marquette, Tony Bennett of Virginia, Gregg Marshall of Wichita State, Fred Hoiberg of Iowa State, Tad Boyle of Colorado or some NBA assistant, it will be a huge let down. Perhaps those choices could work out like it did with Jim Harrick. And we will give those coaches breathing room while setting reasonable expectations. But not landing one of the Big-3 should mean the end of Guerrero in Westwood. There will be no spinning for the guy who has had to fire three major revenue coaches (four if you count Lavin). Sure Mora has a good season to start in Westwood but it remains to be seen whether his on field performance next two years will build on his decent first season in Westwood (which ended with three straight losses).

So the pressure is on Guerrero to land one of the Big-3 (no longer the Final-4). We discussed on Wednesday morning that it is an extremely risky strategy to put all eggs in Donovan/Pitino baskets without knowing for sure that there would be at least 75% chance that they would extend a viable offer from the Bruins. That strategy is even riskier and silly if waiting means Bruins may lose out Brad Stevens in the process.

That brings us to the question is who is actually making the final decisions to close the process? Is it Guerrero? Is it Gene Block? Is it one of the big money donors who have invested millions in the renovation? Is it a committee decision? Do they have a consensus in what their strategy is? Is the process being driven a strong-minded executive who can look at the donors in the eye and tell them that it would not make any sense to wait on someone like Donovan if Stevens is ready to accept the deal? GULP.

Well perhaps we can take an optimistic view here (I don't know how I can muster it up right now) and perhaps hope and pray that Guerrero is fighting for his job and pull off a miracle by closing on Stevens. From public records (thanks Oh9Bruin) it appears that someone did fly from LA to Indy and then flew back in a private jet this week. Here is the link to the public flight tracker and according Oh9Bruin he knows "for a fact that DG has used that exact same jet before" as he works (we will take his word) in the fractional ownership/prepaid flight industry. Well, then. I think we will probably know an answer by Monday.

Let's get to some left-over tidbits re. the search and departure of Howland:

  • Mike DeCourcy from the Sporting News suggests that the "UCLA job requires someone to handle the SoCal basketball scene." Well that makes sense but as a solution he suggests hiring Kerry Keating as the head coach. I dunno. Would love to get KK back as an assistant to one of the Big-3 or may be as a last ditch desperation combination of an NBA coach (Mike Dunleavy, Scott Skiles - yes, I am just throwing their names out there based on some discussions I was having with a good friend yesterday strictly as hypos) with him as a top assistant. Even then we would then want Chianti to be fired immediately (while laying off the new coach).
  • For those of you who are big fans of Brad Stevens here is Greg Doyel from CBS (not a big fan of him) gushing over him as the basketball version of "the Rain Man."
  • Tim Keown from ESPN in somewhat sane piece takes apart "Howland defenders":
    Howland's defenders -- and coach-defending is a special talent in today's media -- point to one thing: record. He went to three Final Fours in 10 years. He won 233 games. He won the conference four times in the past eight years, including this season.

    This ignores just about everything else. His teams were wracked with internal issues in the Reeves Nelson era. He had 11 players transfer out of the program in five years, including two who left during this season. He reneged on commitments to locals, making it difficult for him to compete for players in one of the nation's best areas of high school players.

    When his run of Final Fours ended in the 2007-08 season and the Bruins failed to make the tournament in two out of three seasons, he did what a lot of coaches do: He put a prominent AAU coach on his staff -- this one from a program in talent-rich Atlanta -- in an effort to boost recruiting.

    Muhammad, through no fault of his own, symbolized Howland's last chance. He headlined the best recruiting class in the nation at a time when he should have been preparing for the NBA draft. It's hard to say how much of Muhammad's background Howland knew, but we sure know a lot more now than we did a year ago.
    And Keown then takes a look at the Shabazz's Anderson's bizarre one year stopover in Westwood. He should email this to blowhards like Duke Vitale and rest of his tWWL colleagues.
  • Gottfried is funny. He just tweeted:
    Okay then.
  • We will leave with you a great interview of Tyus Edney on Fox Sports radio in which Edney beautifully pushed backed against the UCLA hating nonsense from clowns like Vitale (rough transcript):
    How do you answer Dickie V as to why would anyone would want the UCLA Job?
    "People may think it's a tough job. It's also a job where winning is a possibility. I don't see any reason why any coach wouldn't come to a program where they could win and start a legacy. I don't understand why a coach who wants to achieve great things wouldn't come to a program like this. It's one of the best opportunities in the country to do that.
    Now if Guerrero can make that kind of pitch in person ... we could be getting somewhere.

Fingers crossed and I leave you with Tom and Eddie: