Pitt’s coaching search started a scant six days ago, but a lot has happened to clarify the focus of athletic director Heather Lyke. Here’s an update on the coaching search candidates and what else we’ve learned.
Let’s start by taking a look at the candidates PSN identified on the first day of the search and see if their stock has risen or fallen over the last six days.
The Rhode Island coach has acknowledged the rumors that could place him at Pitt amongst other available coaching jobs, but Hurley says he’s remaining focused on the Rams as they enter the NCAA Tournament against Oklahoma in Pittsburgh on Thursday afternoon.
But there are significant questions about whether Pittsburgh is Hurley’s top choice. A report from Peter Thamel of Yahoo! Sports on Monday said that Pitt was the odds-on leader for his services.
But since then, ESPN’s Jeff Goodman suggested that Hurley might be more likely to head to Connecticut, and Providence Journal reporter Bill Koch said that Hurley was more concerned about being able to win right way than money.
Stock: Down, not because of Hurley, who seems like top coach available, but because of questions about Pitt’s ability to land him.
Matta turned down an offer to be the next coach at Georgia on Wednesday after also turning down Ole Miss earlier this cycle. Both times, his visits were widely publicized, leading to speculation that he’s not all that interested in actually coaching and just wants to retain his Ohio State buyout by seeking work.
Significant questions remain if Matta is truly interested in returning to coaching, but if he is, crossing two destinations off the list can only be seen as a plus for Pitt.
Stock: Slightly Down
On the other hand, it’s not entirely clear how much Pitt is interested in Matta. A PSN source reports that Matta’s health concerns loom large in Pitt’s eyes and that the Panthers have not extended any kind of formal offer at this point.
Crean’s inclusion on the initial list was more about him being the kind of coach Pitt was looking for more than it was about Crean being a particularly good fit for the job. Crean has a reputation of being hard to deal with and that was one of the complaints boosters had about Kevin Stallings, and early on the process, Andrew Fillipponi of 93.7 The Fan reported that neither side was interested.
But all that changed on Wednesday, when ESPN reported that Crean and Pitt had a meeting about the job. ESPN should know — that’s where Crean works these days.
So what changed? Sources tell PSN that the involvement of Fogler Consulting was the difference-maker in getting Crean to interview. Fogler is the search firm that is assisting Heather Lyke with the search and is also the firm that helped Crean land at Indiana when he was hired there in 2008.
Stock: Way up Crean might not have been at the top of the list at the outset, but by being the only confirmed interview, he’d have to be considered one of the front-runners at this point.
Rumors persist that Miller is interested in returning to Pitt if things don’t work out at Arizona, and continued reports to that end suggest that Miller seems interested in getting Pitt to hold the door open until his situation is decided.
Stock: Slightly up Even if Miller is available, and he’s been cleared by the FBI, there’s the matter of timing. Arizona could very well be in the Final Four this year. Will Pitt want to wait that long? What happens if they make the Final Four? He can’t be fired after a season like that. Miller still seems like a long shot, but his continued interest means there’s at least some chance.
Shrewsberry, an assistant with the Boston Celtics, wasn’t on PSN’s initial list. But the 41-year-old Indianapolis native has been a rising name in Pitt’s coaching search. The obvious draw is Shrewsberry’s association with Celtics head coach Brad Stevens, himself a rising star in the coaching industry.
Shrewsberry had stops at Purdue and Butler before joining the Celtics and sept two seasons as the head coach at NAIA IU South Bend.
Stock: Up Shrewsberry seems to be toward the top of the list when it comes to the second tier of candidates, at least in Pitt’s eyes. PSN expects that he will get an interview.
Like Shrewsberry, Jent is an NBA assistant with Midwestern ties. Jent’s head coaching experience isn’t extensive — one year in the G-League — but he’s had long tenures as an assistant in the NBA and under Matta at Ohio State.
Stock: Slightly up Jent’s name is one that keeps coming up, and though he’s not a favorite, he shouldn’t be discounted entirely, either. Jent was a student and a coach at Ohio State while Lyke was there. It wouldn’t be a surprise for him to land an interview.
Becker’s season finished with a thud as the Vermont Catamounts went 15-1 in conference play, but lost to UMBC in the America East final and then got trounced by Middle Tennessee in the NIT.
This is the year for Becker, who is 31-1 in conference play over the last two seasons. At some point, the grind of a one-and-done league and coaching in a small town gets to a guy, and at 49, if Becker doesn’t make a move quickly, he’s going to end up pigeonholed.
Stock: Meh Just because Becker is interested doesn’t mean it’s being reciprocated, but expect to keep hearing his name involved with every good job open this year, because he’s going to take one of them. As a defense-oriented coach with Northeast roots, Pitt could do worse, but Pitt fans probably hope to do better.
The Bonnies made a splash with a win over UCLA in the first four and that should somewhat help the profile of Schmidt, who is a good coach whose resume hasn’t been bolstered much by stops at Robert Morris and St. Bonaventure, where he’s competed against schools with more resources.
Schmidt seems to be a popular name for several jobs, and it seems likely that he’ll be able to parlay the Bonnies’ run into a nice upgrade.
Stock: Slightly up Schmidt was near the bottom of PSN’s initial list, but the Bonnies making some news probably helped his cause.
Oats, whose Buffalo Bulls will face Sean Miller’s Arizona Wildcats in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, has basically gone completely off the map since he signed an extension in Buffalo.
Stock: Way down It could just be tournament-related radio silence, but to not have had his name come up, combined with him signing a contract extension and seeming honestly interested in staying in Buffalo makes it hard to believe he’s a serious candidate.
John Brannen, Earl Grant, Ron Sanchez
They all seem to still be fits based on the same reasons they were listed originally, but PSN hasn’t been able to source anything that definitively links either side to any interest in the job. But the absence of evidence isn’t evidence of absence, so they’ll stay put for now.