Where do Terps turn next in hoops coaching search?
Like most Maryland fans, I went to bed late Saturday night thinking Arizona's Sean Miller was to going to succeed Gary Williams as the Terps' coach and woke up to the stunning news that he decided to stay in Tucson.
So who's next on Kevin Anderson's wish list?
Amid reports that Notre Dame's Mike Brey and Butler's Brad Stevens have rejected Anderson's offer to talk about the job, you get the feeling of what happened back in December when Anderson fired Ralph Friedgen. There was a lot of excitement among the fans about the possibility of Mike Leach coming to College Park, and it was a tremendous letdown for many of them when Randy Edsall was introduced as the school's next football coach.
After Miller changed his mind, I never thought Brey would come. If you are Brey, despite your roots in the area and your ties to the Atlantic Coast Conference as Mike Krzyzewski's longtime assistant at Duke, are you going to want to be viewed as a second choice? (Or even a third choice if Pitt's Jamie Dixon was also approached, as has been reported.)
And if you're Anderson, would you want to have another press conference where the coach you introduce is not the one the fan base was all fired up about (think Edsall and Leach) but whose "dream job" was coaching at Maryland? Had Miller not been rumored to be on his way to Comcast Center, Brey's hiring would have played well.
As for Stevens, unless there were plans to move the Maryland campus about 600 miles west to Indianapolis -- and I know of a moving company that used to make that sort of trip for an entire football team -- I doubted Butler's boy-wonder coach was going anywhere soon, given that the Bulldogs showed their first run to the NCAA title game wasn't a fluke by doing it again. Stevens' success is rooted in the Hoosier State, and his down-home style would not have played as well with recruits along the Baltimore-Washington beltways.
There's also been mention of Texas A&M's Mark Turgeon. He's well-respected in the coaching community for what he's done at Wichita State and the Aggies, but does anyone outside of the Big 12 know him? Put it this way: Edsall would be considered a much more high-profile hire in these parts than Turgeon.
So where does that leave Anderson?
Anderson could also start from scratch, with a new list of big-name coaches such as Rick Barnes of Texas, who recruited a phenom named Kevin Durant out of Maryland, or an up-and-comer like Memphis' Josh Pastner, who brought the Barton brothers, Will and Antonio, down from Baltimore last summer. Anderson did say he had until recruiting began in July, though Williams seemed to suggest at his retirement ceremony to act quickly.
Anderson could hire a guy who is well-known on the recruiting trail, well-respected by Williams and well-liked by the Maryland players. In fact, he could be the next Brad Stevens.
His name is Rob Ehsan, and right now he is the interim head coach of the Terrapins.
Given the timing in early May, one major college coach told me over the weekend that it's a tough time for any established coach to move.
"We've all got things set for next year," he said. "It might be best just to let an interim guy go for the year and see how he does."That Anderson named Ehsan to that position after Williams suddenly announced his retirement Thursday is an indication of the respect folks at Comcast Center -- particularly Williams -- has for a 28-year-old who graduated college in 2005. He quickly moved up the hierarchy of Williams' staff since joining it straight out of UC Davis, where he earned a degree in economics.
When he was promoted four years ago, Stevens was 31 and better known at the Eli Lilly pharmaceutical company based in Indianapolis than on ESPN. Now he's the poster boy for the thirtysomethings who are looking to take over the sport from Hall of Famers like Jim Calhoun and Krzyzewski and a future Hall of Famer named Gary Williams.
In this case, going from Williams to Ehsan could be more like the transition the Miami Heat made after Pat Riley anointed Erik Spoelstra when Stan Van Gundy was forced out. Williams could be Riley to Ehsan's Spoelstra, minus the rumors that he would come out of retirement if things went wrong. It would even allow Williams to come watch a few games played on a court named in his honor.
Ehsan has established himself as a future Division I coach, maybe even a coaching star. If you followed Maryland the past few years, Ehsan's presence on the sideline increased during timeouts and I'm sure in terms of practices and game preparation. Ehsan also was credited with signing a number of players, including Terrell Stoglin.
Maryland's next best choice might be right under its nose.