Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Is Tech's next coach in the Sweet 16?

The following column was first published in The Albany Journal
by Mike Flynn

If athletic director Dan Radakovich has a wish list, Butler head coach Brad Stevens must be at the very top. Increasing the balance in the Georgia Tech checking account by an amount sufficient to sign the rising coach would have to be number two.

Would Stevens leave the place where he is adored to come rebuild the Jacket program? Let's consider the positives.

He would be coaching in the ACC, still the premier basketball conference in the country despite the noise you are hearing from the Big Least. He would have access to a bevy of talent inside I-285. He is also well liked by Atlanta Journal Constitution columnist Mark Bradley, a huge point in his favor. Bradley's sharp pen laid the ground work to run Bobby Cremins and Paul Hewitt.

So it would seem Stevens would be a perfect match.

On the other hand, he has proven with good coaching and dedicated players, it is not the size of the institution in the fight, but the size of the fight in the institution that matters when traveling the Road to the Final Four. So why would he EVER leave Butler. He is a hero there for the rest of his life, and jumping into a deep pond with bigger fish can prove to be tricky.

If you were lucky enough to see Butler drop the Pitt Panthers, you surely noticed that the team with the best athletes did not win. The team with the players that hustled the most, boxed out and played with sound fundamentals, over came two freak fouls to advance. That is all about coaching and inspiring average athletes to perform at a level beyond that which they normally would.

Tech could use a dose of that medicine.

If Radakovich does decide to go after Stevens he had better be prepared for a street fight with Butler. After having to swallow Paul Hewitt's huge contract, the will to write big checks and make big deals may not exist at Georgia Tech, so who else could Tech get?

Mark Price? Yes, but that is not a good idea. You can not put the magic back in the bottle. Remember Mike Shula at Alabama? Hiring a star from the past is tempting, but so is eating ice cream for every meal.

Another hot name has been Richmond Spider coach, Chris Mooney who has compiled a 128-98 record in six seasons and led the Spiders to the A-10 championship this year. He also orchestrated a second round win over Vanderbilt, beat Moorehead State and is getting ready to face top seeded Kansas in the Sweet 16. If he upsets the Jayhawks, he can name his price too.

Mooney has an impressive resume. He played under Pete Carrill at Princeton and, before taking over at Richmond, was the head coach at Air Force. He has a record of recruiting good players who are also good students. In his first season with the Spiders he did a little house cleaning and played with only seven players.

From there he has built a solid team and has proven success recruiting in Georgia where he signed Kevin Anderson out of Peachtree Ridge and Darius Garrett out of McEachern.

Mooney will be a solid program builder, but is not the boy genius that Stevens is. He is however, more attainable. You have to think that N.C. State and now Tennessee will also be knocking on his door.

Then there is VCU's coach Shaka Smart. The 33 year old has his Rams rolling. The team barely made the tournament having to win a play in game last Wednesday before destroying Georgetown then Purdue to advance to the 16. His stock is rising fast now and a youth movement would help the Jackets.

By the way, have you noticed the Big Least started the tournament with 11 teams, but is down to only two. Meanwhile the ACC has three teams still in the running and the lowly SEC has two as does the Big 10. Can you say over rated?

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