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Thinking Big By Going Small

So where are we now?

Now that Billy Donovan has closed the door on a white knight return to Camelot, the Big Blue Nation is left wondering who the second choice is.

Various reports push names like Barnes, Izzo, Crean and Few out there. And most likely, some big name school will lose its coach to Kentucky in a few weeks.

But while Donovan was the clear 1 and 1A choice, now we're left with a lot of fine, if uninspiring choices. And because the UK fanbase cannot seem to go a day without convincing itself that what it wants is destined to happen, fans are already deflated.

So what's the answer? I'm a big proponent of thinking big by thinking small; in other words, looking close to see a long-term solution.

I've said before that my preferred way of handling the situation would be to find an older coach with ties to the program -- a Pat Riley or Dan Issel type -- and to put a young John Pelphrey or Travis Ford as his lead assistant, recruiting coordinator and de facto replacement.

Sure, it's a pipe dream, and probably impossible. But in retrospect, maybe so was getting a two-time defending national title-winning coach to leave his sunny Florida digs.

But realistically assuming that my "plan" is not gonna happen, what we're left with is one of two options: in the loop or out of the loop.

What I mean by this is that the Rick Barnes-Tom Izzo model puts a brand name on a brand name and hopes that the two meld. Think Kelvin Sampson at Indiana or Ben Howland at UNC. Both were established as BCS programs, quality coaches with definable results.

Clearly, it can work, as Howland has shown with back-to-back Final Fours. Sampson has already gotten a talent and toughness upgrade for the Hoosiers.

But the Kentucky job offers unique challenges: namely, the fans and the pressure. UCLA and Indiana were starved for a winner in a different way than UK fans are. They were ready for making the tournament, not simply unhappy with only making the second round.

So to give the job to an Izzo or Barnes may be fine, or it may lead to a loveless three-year marraige. No thanks.

To me, the other option -- the small option -- is now preferable. I'm jumping on the Pelphrey bandwagon with both feet. Why? I'll tell you.

Sure, the risks are big. He has yet to take a team anywhere in the NCAAs, and has no major recruiting  coups. But he has grit, Kentucky roots and his team plays fast and furious. Returning Kentucky hoops to a home-grown kid would reignite the passions (in a positive way) of the UK fans, and would leave the divisiveness of a Barnes, Crean or Few hiring behind.

Let's face it: UK basketball right now is broken. And lest ye think it's all Tubby's fault, he's gone, and we still act like the world owes us a big debt of gratitude for existing.

Returning UK hoops to a local flavor could make that pride work to our advantage instead of working as a divisive force against a new coach.

Hiring John Pelphrey (or, to a lesser extent in my view, Travis Ford) would help alleviate the sense of outsider antagonism that even a gracious guy like Tubby never quite mastered. Pelphrey's primed for a big job (Arkansas is, and West Virginia was interested), and depending on who takes the UK job, Pelphrey would be left out of the mix for some time, presumably.

So however simplistic it might be, I'm all for going outside the big business model of hiring a Fortune 500 CEO coach. Give it to the little guy and see if it flies. While we've seen the ceiling a Barnes or Few might have, we have no idea what a Pelphrey could bring.

Maybe, for a change, it's a perfect fit.