UK Basketball: Searching for the Home Run Ball

Now that it has become official, and Billy Gillispie has (rightly or wrongly) been told to hit the proverbial pavement, the search team of UK Athletic Director Mitch Barnhart, Wildcat great Mike Pratt, and UK President Dr. Lee Todd will embark on a job-saving journey to find a home run hire for the nations most prestigious college basketball program. 

I've gathered information on several potential candidates, but I have not included those who I feel pose a zero probability of accepting the position (Read: Billy Donovan and Rick Pitino).  So without any further wasting of time, here we go, and IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER:

TRAVIS FORD

Date of Birth: December 29, 1969 (39 years old)

Birthplace: Madisonville, KY

Currently -- Head coach at Oklahoma State.

Head Coaching Experience

1997-2000 Campbellsville - 67 - 31 (25 - 11 in the Mid-South Conference - NAIA) 

2000-2005 Eastern Kentucky - 61 - 80 (28 - 52 in the OVC)

2005-2008 Massachusetts - 62 - 35 (31 - 17 in the Atlantic 10) 

2008-Present Oklahoma St. - 23 - 12 (9 - 7 in the Big 12)

Career Totals --- Division I -146 - 127 (.535)

                               NAIA         - 67- 31 (.684)

Overall                                    - 213 - 158 (.574)

NCAA Tournament Experience 

2005 with EKU - 0 - 1 

2009 with Okl. State - 1 - 1

Totals - 1 - 2

NIT Experience 

2007 with UMass - 1 - 1

2008 with UMass - 4 - 1

Totals - 5 - 2

Championships Won

2005 with EKU -- OVC Tournament Champion

2007 with UMass - Atlantic 10 Regular Season Champion

Coaching Accolades

None

Double-digit loss Seasons

Seven of nine seasons.

Playing Career

Missouri - 1989 - 1990

Kentucky - 1992 - 1994

Positives -- Kentucky native, and former star UK player ... He coaches an up-tempo style of play ... More than any other serious candidate, he knows what the job entails, and he knows what UK basketball means to the fan base ... His relative youth.

Negatives -- His relative youth ... Very little NCAA Tournament experience ... Only one year of experience at a non-mid-major.

Probability of accepting the job, if offered: 99%

JOHN CALIPARI

Date of Birth: February 10, 1959 (50 years old)

Birthplace: Moon Township, PA

Currently -- Head coach at Memphis.

Head Coaching Experience

1988 - 1996 Massachusetts 193 - 71 (91 - 41 in the Atlantic 10)

2001 - Present Memphis 252 - 69 (117 - 25 in C-USA)

Career Totals -- 445 - 140 (.761)

*Calipari also coached the New Jersey Nets from 1996-1999.  He compiled a record of 72-112.  He also served as Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations with the Nets.   

NCAA Tournament Experience

UMass -- 11 - 5

Memphis -- 14 - 6

Career Total -- 25 - 11 (.694)

Final Four -- '96, '08

Elite Eight -- '95, '06, '07

Sweet 16 -- '09

NIT Experience

UMass -- 3 - 3

Memphis -- 12 - 2

Career Totals -- 15 - 5 (.750)

Championships Won 

A-10 Tournament Champion -- '92-'96

A-10 Regular Season Champion -- '92-'96

C-USA Tournament Champion -- '06-'09 

C-USA Regular Season Champion -- '04, '06-'09

NIT Champion -- '02

Coaching Accolades 

Naismith College Coach of the Year -- '96, '08

NABC Coach of the Year -- '96

Basketball Times Coach of the Year -- '96

Sports Illustrated Coach of the Year -- '09

A-10 Coach of the Year -- '93-'96

C-USA Coach of the Year -- '06, '08, '09

Double-Digit Loss Seasons 

Five of 17 seasons.

Playing Career

UNC-Wilmington -- 1978 - 1980

Clarion State -- 1980 - 1982

Positives -- Great recruiter ... NCAA Tournament success ... Final Four experience ... Media savvy ... Perceived to be fan friendly, but has been known to be surly at times ... Mastered the dribble-drive motion offense ... Comes from the Larry Brown coaching tree ... Coaches an up-tempo offense ... One of only four coaches to lead two different teams to #1 seeds in the NCAA Tournament ... He wins.

Negatives -- Calipari had a run-in with the NCAA while at UMass ... Star player Marcus Camby was found to have accepted money from a sports agent while still competing collegiately ... The NCAA found that neither the University, nor Calipari was culpable, in any sense, for Camby's actions ... But UMass was forced to vacate their 1996 Final Four appearance ... Calipari has had a few player arrests while at Memphis.

Probability of accepting the job, if offered: 40%            

JAMIE DIXON

Date of Birth: November 10, 1965 (43 years old)

Birthplace: North Hollwood, CA

Currently -- Head coach at Pittsburgh

Head Coaching Experience

2003 - Present  Pittsburgh 163 - 44 (.787) 70 - 30 in the Big East

NCAA Tournament Experience

Pitt -- 9 - 5 (.643)

Elite Eight -- '09 (Pitt still playing)

Sweet 16 --  '04, '07  

NIT Experience 

None

Championships Won 

Big East Tournament Champion -- '08

Big East Regular Season Champion -- '04

Coaching Accolades

Big East Coach of the Year -- '04

Double-Digit Loss Seasons 

One in six seasons.

Playing Career 

Texas Christian -- 1984 - 1987

Positives -- Worked under UCLA's Ben Howland for nine seasons at Northern Arizona, and Pittsburgh ... Holds coach's record for most wins in first six seasons ... 8-3 record over last four years in the NCAA Tournament ... Excellent defensive coach ... Tremendous winning percentage ... Very solid recruiter ... Media friendly ... All of his coaching experience is at the high major level.

Negatives -- Only six years as a head coach.

Probability of accepting the job, if offered -- 60%  

RICK BARNES

Date of Birth: July 17, 1954 (54 years old)

Birthplace: Hickory, NC

Currently -- Head coach at Texas

Head Coaching Experience

1987 - 1988 George Mason 20 - 10 (9 - 5 in the Colonial Athletic)

1988 - 1994 Providence 108 - 76 (47 - 55 in the Big East)

1994 - 1998 Clemson 74 - 48 (28 - 36 in the ACC)

1998 - Present Texas 270 - 105 (129 - 47 in the Big 12)

Career Totals -- 472 - 239 (.664)

NCAA Tournament Experience

George Mason - None

Providence - 0 - 3

Clemson - 2 - 3

Texas - 17 - 11

Career Totals -- 19 - 17 (.528)

Final Four - '03

Elite Eight - '06, '08

Sweet 16 - '97, '02, '04

NIT Experience

Providence - 5-2

Clemson - 0 - 1 

Career Totals -- 5 - 3

Championships Won

Big 12 Regular Season Championship - '99, '06, '08

Big East Tournament Championship - '94

Coaching Accolades

Colonial Athletic Conference Coach of the Year - '87

Big 12 Coach of the Year - '99, '03, '08

Double-Digit Loss Seasons

Sixteen of 22 seasons.

Playing Career

Lenoir-Rhyne College - 1974 - 1977

Positives -- Great recruiter ... Very good with the media ... 8 - 4 record in the NCAA's over the last four years ... Final Four experience ... Fan friendly ... 21 years of "big time" experience ... Mentored former WKU coach Dennis Felton, and current head Topper Ken McDonald.

Negatives -- Nearly .500 record in NCAA's ... 72.7% of his seasons coached have resulted in double-digit losses.

Probability of accepting the job, if offered: 30%

TOM IZZO

Date of Birth: January 30, 1955 (54 years old)

Birthplace: Iron Mountain, MI

Currently -- Head coach at Michigan State

Head Coaching Experience

1995 - Present Michigan State - 334 - 136 (.711) 160 - 72 in the Big Ten

NCAA Tournament Experience

Michigan State - 29 - 10 (.744)

National Championship - '00

Final Four - '99, '01, '05

Elite Eight - '03, '09 (MSU still playing)

Sweet 16 - '98, '08

NIT Experience

Michigan State - 2 - 2 

Championships Won

National Title - '00

Big Ten Tournament Champion - '99, '00

Big Ten Regular Season Champion - '98, '99, '00, '01, '09

Coaching Accolades

Big Ten Coach of the Year - '98, '09

AP National Coach of the Year - '98

Henry Iba Award - '98

Double-Digit Loss Seasons

Seven of 14 seasons.

Playing Career

Northern Michigan - 1973 - 1977

Division II All-America in '77

Positives - Bountiful NCAA Tournament success ... National Title to his credit ... Master strategist ... Good recruiter ... Fan and media friendly ... Four Final Fours in a seven season period ('99 - '05).

Negatives - Sometimes coaches a deliberate style.

Probability of accepting the job, if offered: 50%

Editor's Note -- This obviously is not an all-inclusive list of possible candidates.  Thad Matta, Jay Wright, and Mark Few are just a sampling of the college coaches not included on my list.  As the search progresses (and based on the length of the search) I will continue to offer-up in-depth information on possible candidates for the job.

Final Thought 

I thought the best thing to come out of yesterday's press conference was the naming of former Wildcat Mike Pratt to assist in the search for UK's next coach.  Pratt brings to the table a unique perspective, and an intimate knowledge of what it takes to succeed at Kentucky.  His insight and advice will be invaluable to the impending search.

For a look into Pratt's way of thinking, here is an interview I conducted with him back in November of '08.

 

Good look to the trio.  A restless Big Blue Nation anxiously awaits what the "chicks" dig: The long ball!

 

Thanks for reading, and Go 'Cats!

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