Sources: Valparaiso's Drew, USC's Enfield among Pitt targets to fill coaching vacancy
March 23, 2016 4:00 PM
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USC coach Andy Enfield gives his team instructions during an NCAA tournament game against Providence.
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Bryce Drew has led Valparaiso to two NCAA tournaments and two NIT berths in five seasons.
By Paul Zeise / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Now that Sean and Archie Miller and former Pitt coach Ben Howland are out of the mix, Pitt’s process of searching for a men’s basketball coach should begin to move forward.
The school identified and reached out to several candidates to gauge their interest, according to sources with knowledge of the search, and there are some intriguing names on the initial list, though often the candidate that emerges and gets hired is someone added later or whose name is kept out of the public until a hire is made.
Valparaiso’s Bryce Drew, USC’s Andy Enfield, Alabama-Birmingham’s Jerod Haase, Butler’s Chris Holtmann, Monmouth’s King Rice, George Washington’s Mike Lonegran, Wisconsin-Green Bay’s Linc Darner, Arkansas-Little Rock’s Chris Beard and Rhode Island’s Danny Hurley are coaches that Pitt (via various avenues) has already reached out to or is expected to contact.
Pitt also has interest in a couple coaches with regional/local ties — Seton Hall’s Kevin Willard and Herb Sendek, most recently the coach at Arizona State.
Drew, 41, also has been linked to the St. Louis vacancy and is considered one of the hotter names among the mid-major coaches. He played in the NBA and has led Valparaiso to two NCAA tournaments and two NIT berths in five seasons.
Enfield would certainly fit the exciting brand of basketball requirement that athletic director Scott Barnes laid out Monday and is well known for being the architect of “Dunk City” when he was at Florida Gulf Coast. He is only 46, from Shippensburg and led the Trojans to the NCAA tournament this year, but he is only 85-81 as a head coach.
Haase is 41 years old and has four years of head coaching experience with the Blazers, but he does have ACC ties, serving as an assistant at North Carolina from 2003-12.
Holtmann is 44 and has five years of coaching experience and some ties to recruiting in ACC markets. He spent three seasons as head coach at Gardner-Webb before joining Butler as an assistant. He has led Butler to the second round of the NCAA tournament in each of his two seasons there.
Rice played at North Carolina and was an assistant at Vanderbilt from 2006-11 before taking the Monmouth job. This year, Monmouth was one of the last teams left out of the NCAA tournament field. He has yet to lead the team there in five years as head coach.
Hurley’s older brother, Bobby, is at Arizona State, but Danny Hurley has been a head coach for six years -—the last four at Rhode Island — and has yet to get a team to the NCAA tournament.
Darner has only been at Green Bay for one year and was a candidate in the Central Florida search, which was filled by former Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins. But he has 13 years of experience at the Division II level and led Florida Southern to the 2015 Division II national title.
Lonegran is a little bit older, 50, and has a lot more experience than most of the other candidates, serving as a head coach for 23 years, the last five at George Washington.
And Beard, 43, is another up-and-comer and led Arkansas Little Rock to a 30-5 record and an NCAA tournament first round upset of Purdue last week. He was the Sun Belt Coach of the Year.
Sendek is from Penn Hills and has 22 years of experience at Miami (Ohio), N.C. State and Arizona State. The Sun Devils let him go after last season.
Willard is the son of former Pitt coach Ralph Willard, and Kevin Willard played for the Panthers from 1994-97. His Pirates were 25-9 and won the Big East tournament this year, but this was the first season in nine as a head coach that he led his team to the NCAA tournament.
These are the known coaches whom Pitt has initially contacted (or will contact) to gauge interest and gather facts before athletic director Scott Barnes begins the formal interview process.
One coach who will get an interview, perhaps as soon as the end of this week, is Brandin Knight, who was Jamie Dixon’s top assistant and has been on the staff since 2006.
Knight, a former Panthers point guard and one of the school’s all-time best players, is a favored choice of team members. He has also been endorsed publicly and on Twitter by a number of former Panthers — including Dixon — and he is the choice of a number of key alumni.
But Barnes made it clear he favors a coach with head coaching experience, and the fact that Knight doesn’t could hurt his candidacy.
Two other coaches who have expressed interest in the job are former Virginia Tech coach Seth Greenberg and Knicks assistant Jim Cleamons.
Paul Zeise: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1720 and Twitter @paulzeise
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