Here’s a working list of candidates:
Ron Bradley: The current Associate Head Coach has been with the Tigers during past successful years. Plus he has over fifteen years of head coaching experience at smaller schools.
Frank Smith: He rose with Oliver Purnell. Will this Assistant Head Coach carve his own path with Tigers?
Steve Donahue: He’s hot and likely headed for Boston College. But stranger things have happened.
Brian Gregory: Hot off a NIT Championship, could Gregory take the same path as Oliver Purnell? Flyers to Tigers?
Joe Dooley: The Kansas assistant coached in the neighborhood at ECU in the 1990s.
Billy Gillespie: The former Kentucky coach keeps coming up in the carousel this year.
UPDATE: (April 6)
Steve Wojciechowski: Known for his energy on the bench. If he is ever going to be consider a successor to Coach K, he’ll have earn his chops a quality school like Clemson.
Gregg Marshall: The Wichita St. coach grew up in South Carolina and previously was the nearby Winthrop head coach.
South Carolina Sports News adds former assistant and current VCU Shaka Smart to the list, as well as Stanford’s Johnny Dawkins. It would be hard to consider Dawkins leaving for anything but the Duke job, considering he at preeminent West Coast basketball-plus-academic school. They also point out that Brad Stevens was born Greenville.
Xavier found their man in house. So did Portland State. And Isiah “Thompson” Thomas is starting off pro-bono at FIU. He’s not sunshine to everyone. Speaking of Florida, Richard Pitino (Rick’s son) is headed south too, filling VCU’s Shaka Smart’s vacancy at Florida.
The Orlando Sentinel interviewed Smart a year ago when he joined Florida. Prior to Florida, Smart was an assistant at Akron for three years, and then Clemson for two years. Akron coach Keith Dambrot said this about Smart a couple years ago:
“Shaka is one of the best young coaches in the country. He has unbelievable work ethic, great recruiting expertise, and had great rapport with our players.”
Smart, 32, inherits one of the better non-BCS conference programs which could be argued as one of the best stepping stone jobs in college basketball.
With two high profile coaching changes in seven years, Virginia Commonwealth could be argued to be the best stepping stone for coaches seeking high profile BCS conference jobs. If star junior forward Larry Sanders stays, VCU could be a fertile ground for a new coach to follow Jeff Capel and Anthony Grant’s lead.
This may become a dilemma for VCU trying to retain their coaches. But is it really that bad? Marketing VCU as a coaching spring board could help maintain the Ram’s recent national relevance. Future recruits would know that if their coach leaves, VCU has a special ability to find and pluck the best upcoming coaches available. How fun would have been to play for Jeff Capel before he became a coaching star?
As every head coach in America is proud whenever his assistant is offered a head coaching position, similarly VCU athletic director Norwood Teague should take Grant’s departure as a paradoxical complement to the Ram’s program. All signs point to him doing just this. Wasting absolutely no time, Teague got on the plane to interview possible replacements.
According to Foxsports.com, Texas’ assistant Russell Springmann, Florida assistant Shaka Smart, Wake Forest assistant Jeff Battle, Kansas assistant Joe Dooley, Ohio State assistant Archie Miller, current VCU assistant Tony Pujol, Auburn head coach Jeff Lebo, and Navy head coach Billy Lange.