Bumped from the Fanposts:
All at once now, let the mass hysteria commence.
Okay people, get mad at Livengood all you want but two things have become apparent.
1. The market changed. Have you noticed that, other than Kentucky, nobody has made a splash this offseason with a coaching hire? Fox to Georgia? Meh. Bennett to Virginia. Vaguely interesting. Anthony Grant to Alabama. Pretty interesting. But let's not pretend that the Wildcat faithful would have been energized by any of those coaches, save maybe Grant. This offseason the market for coaches looks like the market for everything else. People are hanging on to what they have and playing things conservatively. It's just a tough time to be on the market for coaching talent. People in the top tier aren't moving, unless they get a mega-deal that removes all their risk. So, although Livengood, has made some mistakes in this search (every AD does unless he has unlimited resources), he is operating in a market that is fundamentally more difficult than the one he anticipated just a couple months ago.
2. Arizona is a massive rebuild. There comes a point when you have to be clear about who you are right now, and what kind of shape you are in right now. Not terribly unlike Notre Dame football, Arizona's brand name still has some cache. And cache gets coaching candidates to come to the table -- that's important; don't underestimate that. But, that doesn't mean they're rip-roaring to sign on the dotted line once they see what's facing them. The next coach will starts the job three recruiting classes in arrears in a league that should be much better going forward than it was last year. The next coach will be recruiting to a place with essentially no natural recruiting advantages. The state produces little D-I talent and throughout the entire region even some of the mid majors are competitive for top talent. (The higher caliber mid majors makes rebuilding a high major out West much harder than in the other regions.) Don't get me wrong. U of A is still a great job. Even though football is on the upswing it doesn't dominate basketball the way it does in the SEC (save at Kentucky). A coach can still sell Arizona's tradition of winning and of developing NBA talent. In hoops all you need is a couple recruits to get the ball rolling again. But, this job is a gamble, and people aren't much for leaving sure things for a gamble right now. Realistically, who can blame them?
So, who is Arizona right now? It's safe to say that Arizona is not a destination for top-tier coaching talent, certainly not without paying "Kentucky" money. For some perspective though, neither is a post-Cal Memphis. You would think NCAA sanctions were forthcoming the way recruits are fleeing that program. That's not schadenfraude. It's just an illustration of the environment we're living in right now. The time for a sense of entitlement has come and gone.
Livengood would do well to simply say, "screw it" and start over from scratch. We're down into the 2nd or 3rd tier of coaching talent, depending on how you define the tiers. Just like free agent classes are thin, this coaching class is thin because people aren't moving. Acknowledge that fact and reajust your goals. I'm not saying I'd really know how to proceed if I were in Livengood's shoes, but here are the things I'd keep in mind.
- Gamble on upside not on retreads. The "experience" card is the most overplayed in all of sports. Just say no to the Seth Greenburgs of the world. That guy has a big enough body of work for us to conclude that he's mediocre. There's no upside to that hire. I'm not suggesting that Livengood ignore experience. Experience is important, but all experience is not created equal. For instance, Josh Pastner is too inexperienced. (I do not understand why people are so insistent on ruining this kid's career before it even gets started.) He hasn't made critical decisions yet. But, many other assistant coaches have.
- A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds. Once you get down into the 2nd or 3rd tier of coaching talent you're no longer trying to win any press conferences. You're trying to find the diamond in the rough. You don't do that necessarily by following convention. The diamond in the rough may already be a head coach. He may be a lead assistant who is basically a co-head coach the way Mike Dunlap was this season. I want a guy who has won consistently on his level and who has recruited some of the top players at that level. That is, I want to see a class of players come through on a guy's watch that competes for conference championships, and see that players are recognized for their talents. As a for instance, consider Fran McCaffrey, the coach of the Siena Saints. I'm not endorsing him per se, but this is the kind of resume I want to see. McCaffrey has taken three different schools from one bid leagues to the dance, all-conference teams are filled with his players. If you didn't see Sienna play Louisville down to the last 3-4 minutes of their 2nd round game, his kids didn't look as outclassed athletically or intellectually against the Cardinals as we did. McCaffrey was the lead recruiter at Notre Dame going back to the days of LaPhonso Ellis, through Pat Garrity, and Troy Murphy.