With Steve Alford hired at UCLA, the most high profile job opening on the west coast is filled and all the intrigue of who might be interested in the job is put to rest. The Bruins made a big run at everybody's favorite young mid-major coach - Brad Stevens of Butler - and were rebuffed. It's not entirely certain who else the Bruins actively pursued - national media outlets ran with the story that Shaka Smart also turned them down, but UCLA insiders insist he was never offered the job and was below Stevens, Rick Pitino & Billy Donovan on their wish list. Former assistant Mike Gottfried declared he wasn't interested, and our own Lorenzo Romar reiterated what he's said for years, that he wishes to retire at Washington.
There is a growing trend of coaches at strong mid-major programs rebuffing higher-profile schools - Stevens also turned down overtures from Illinois last year, as did Smart. Gonzaga's Mark Few has resisted attempts from numerous schools to pry him away, including Washington & Oregon (his alma mater). Mid-majors are paying more money now, and with all of the conference re-alignments that have happened recently, some of them (including Butler joining the Big East next year and VCU joining the Atlantic 10) are finding themselves in higher-profile conferences with bigger TV deals.
Major conference schools are having to dig deeper than they used to when they go looking for coaches. While not every coach is locked in to their current school the way Brad Stevens is to Butler, schools are finding that they have to readjust their expectations and move on to Plan B (or even Plan C) candidates pretty quickly.
With that in mind, I thought I'd take a quick look around the smaller D-1 schools in the West to try to identify current head coaches that could garner interest the next time a Pac-12 job opens up. The short answer is that while there isn't an obvious parallel to Brad Stevens, there are some guys who could be candidates in the next few years. Here are the guys I found (listed in alphabetical order):
Gib Arnold, Hawaii, age 42
Arnold's record isn't overly impressive at face value, but his 3 seasons with the Warriors mark a stark turnaround to the 3 years prior to his arrival. Arnold has Pac-10 experience from his time as an assistant at USC and is regarded as a strong recruiter, having been the point man on the Trojans landing DeMar DeRozan, Taj Gibson and Nikola Vucevic.
With the Warriors now relegated to the Big West, he probably needs to win his conference and make some noise in the NCAA Tournament to get on the radar of Pac-12 schools.
Randy Bennett, Saint Mary's, age 50
Bennett is the most notable guy on the list with a track record of great success at Saint Mary's, turning them from cellar dwellers to legitimate competitors with Gonzaga for WCC supremacy. In fact, he very likely would have been hired away from the Gaels already by a bigger program, but the former Romar assistant now comes with major baggage after the NCAA handed down their punishments in the wake of the recruiting scandals that rocked the program. And while Bennett thinks the punishment was too harsh, Jon Wilner disagrees. Either way, any school that hires him knows they will be inviting a lot of questions about Bennett's role in this matter, and they have to be asking themselves how much his success with the Gaels is directly tied to his recruiting violations.
That said, if his success there continues, expect a bigger school to absorb that risk and gamble that he'll win enough for those questions to fade away.
Joe Callero, Cal Poly, age 49
Callero is a name familiar to local hoops junkies, playing his college ball at Central Washington, coaching at Highline CC and Puget Sound before being tasked with helping guide Seattle U back to Division 1 status. His record at Cal Poly is nothing special, but it marks a sharp turnaround from his predecessors. He's got Pac-10 experience, having spent the '98-'99 season as an assistant at USC, and he's demonstrated a strong defensive acumen with his Mustang teams so far.
Like Gib Arnold, Callero doesn't currently have the resume to attract Pac-12 attention, but if he can continue the upward trend for the Mustangs and secure a Big West title or two and some NCAA appearances, that will change.
Kerry Keating, Santa Clara, age 41
Keating has extensive experience already at a relatively young age, having been an assistant at UCLA, Tennessee, Vanderbilt & Seton Hall. His time at UCLA and his reputation as a recruiter helped him land his first head coaching gig with Santa Clara. His time there has been up and down, but the Broncos are coming off a CBI championship and 26 wins, and he appears the have them poised to start challenging Gonzaga and Saint Mary's as a WCC title contender. While getting Santa Clara into the NCAA tournament will be difficult given the presence of those two schools, another 20+ win season and an invite to the NIT might be enough to pique the interest of a Pac-12 school.
Marvin Menzies, New Mexico State, age 51
Menzies has spent most of his career on the west coast. The UCLA grad has coached Santa Monica CC and been an assistant at Sacramento State, San Diego State, USC & UNLV before apprenticing under Rick Pitino at Louisville for 2 years and then landing the New Mexico State job. He's enjoyed significant success there, guiding the Aggies to 3 NCAA Tournaments in his 6 seasons. Menzies is another guy considered to be a very strong recruiter from his results at Louisville, UNLV & USC.
Given his success already, his background and his recruiting rep, I suspect it won't be long before a bigger program comes calling for him.
Dan Monson, Long Beach State, age 51
104-91 at Long Beach State, 274-214 overall
Monson is another fixture on the West Coast basketball scene. The son of former Oregon coach Don Monson gained national attention when he led Gonzaga to the Elite Eight in '99 and kicked off the national obsession with the Zags. A long-time Zag assistant and Spokane native, he spent just 2 seasons as Gonzaga's head coach before that Elite Eight run landed him a big school gig with Minnesota. He had been there just three seasons before Washington came calling, and he briefly accepted the job before having a change of heart, forcing UW AD Barbara Hedges to look further down her list and tap Lorenzo Romar for the job. Monson had moderate success with the Gophers, but not enough to satisfy the locals and was fired in 2007. He's been rebuilding his reputation since then with Long Beach State, and after a difficult first season he's had two NIT trips sandwiched around an NCAA appearance in his last 3 seasons with the Dirtbags.
Monson is riding a 3-year streak of winning the Big West, and if he can continue that, it seems highly likely that he'll get another shot with a bigger school soon. The question is whether he'll take it, or play it safe this time around.
Randy Rahe, Weber State, age 52
An Iowa native, Rahe has spent his entire professional career coaching in Colorado and now Utah, most of it as an assistant under Stew Morrill. He's had a successful run so far with Weber State with 3 regular season Big Sky championships in his 7 seasons, but he hasn't been to the NCAA Tourney since his first season where the Wildcats also captured the Big Sky Tournament and the auto bid that goes with it.
Given his resume and connections, he's probably more of a candidate for the Utah or Colorado jobs currently, but a big season and NCAA run would boost his appeal to the Pacific states as well.
Reggie Theus, Cal State Northridge, age 55
Theus is probably the most well-known name on this list from his time in the NBA as a high-scoring SG and a recent stint coaching the Sacramento Kings. He spent time at Louisville as an assistant to Rick Pitino and garnered a reputation as a high-level recruiter (not surprising given his NBA pedigree) before landing the New Mexico State job. He led a quick turnaround from Lou Henson's miserable final season and got the Aggies back in the NCAA Tournament in his 2nd season before being tapped by the Maloofs to take over the Kings job. When that didn't work out, he took an assistant job with the Minnesota Timberwolves and was a candidate for the UNLV job (his alma mater), but it went to longtime assistant Dave Rice instead. When Cal State Northridge came calling last month, Theus accepted.
I think it's safe to assume that if he has success there, he'll jump at a chance to move up to a bigger school, and given his pedigree it's pretty easy to imagine he'll get that chance.
Wayne Tinkle, Montana, age 47
Tinkle appears to be the latest in a long line of successful coaches at Montana with an opportunity to move up to bigger and better things, following in the footsteps of guys like Jud Heathcoate, Mike Montgomery, Stew Morrill and Larry Krystkowiak. Tinkle has taken the Grizzlies to the NCAA Tournament the last 2 seasons and 3 of the last 4 and has positioned Montana as the top program in the Big Sky Conference.
The main drawback for the Montana alum is a lack of experience at a major conference school - outside of brief stints playing in the CBA and overseas, his basketball life has been solely associated with Montana, which might give AD's in the Pac-12 pause wondering if he can adapt. As well, it's possible (though unlikely) that he'd prefer to sit tight at his alma mater even if offered a bigger job.
Russ Turner, UC Irvine, age 42
Turner does not yet have the resume to attract interest from Pac-12 schools, but he has a strong background from his time as an assistant under Don Nelson with the Golden State Warriors and stints with Mike Montgomery at Stanford and Dave Odom at Wake Forest and is regarded highly in coaching circles. If he can continue improving the Anteaters, he'll start popping up on radars at bigger schools.
Of the above list, I think I'd be most excited by Menzies. I'd be very tempted to give Bennett a shot, but I think he needs to prove he can continue winning without breaking rules. Theus would also be intriguing given his name value and recruiting appeal, but he's also the oldest guy on the list.
If either or both of Craig Robinson and Ken Bone don't survive next season, don't be surprised if some of these names pop up in coaching searches for Oregon State and WSU.