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My buddy Benny and I were talking about the Tennessee Men's Basketball coaching vacancy yesterday. We are both a little upset about the way that Buzz was handled, but this does seem like UT's chance to bring in a great coach. I emailed Benny yesterday about some of the prospects, and this is what we came up with. You know, because everyone wants to know what we think.

Bobby Lutz - UNCC

Why we'll get him: Bigger school, better conference, more money, and a chance to turn an underacheiver into a national contender - be the savior of UT.

Why we won't: He's a UNCC man - graduate, asst. and head coach. He has a contract that runs through 2009, and he's entrenched in the community. He calls UNCC his dream job, and he was named the Carolinas' Father of the year in 2002...meaning he wants to stay put for family's sake.

Jeff Lebo - Auburn

Why we'll get him: UT is where he wanted to be four years ago, and he could prove that he was the better choice all along. He's been working his way to Knoxville for a while (Tennessee Tech, UTC). And, of course, we'll give more money.

Why we won't: We snubbed him four years ago, and he's just in the first year of a contract at a big-time school. And the students love him - Lebo's Lunatics.

Mike Anderson - UAB

Why we'll get him: He's poised to take over a bigger program in a bigger conference, and coming to Knoxville wouldn't put him out of recruiting territory where he's already very effective. Oh yeah, and money.

Why we won't: Like Lutz, Anderson is back at home. He's from Birmingham, and he's been very successfull since returning three years ago. He is only 44 and has a pretty young family, including a grandchild, in Birmingham. Plus, I think there would be resistance among some alum and boosters about hiring an African-American coach.

Tom Crean - Marquette

Why we'll get him: We're probably going to move on to another college hoops "family," now that we've burned our bridges with the Dean Smith clan. Crean is Tom Izzo/Jud Heathcote, and that's almost as good. He's an X's and O's guy who needs a big-time school like UT to be able to bring in the best talent to run it. Playing Kentucky and Florida twice a year is the kind of challenge he wants.

Why we won't: More like why we shouldn't. Didn't we already hire this guy with a worse haircut a few years ago? Kevin O'Neill, is that you? He will not fit into the culture of Knoxville or the culture of being 3rd or even 4th priority on an AD's list.

Jamie Dixon - Pitt

Why we'll get him: It will have to be mostly money on this one. Knoxville has been compared favorably with Pittsburgh in the past, and college sports aren't forced to compete with MLB, NFL, and NHL (well, usually) teams here as they are in Pittsburgh.

Why we won't: He's got less than two years of head coaching experience, and Pitt is far and away the biggest program he's ever been at. Pitt just opened a brand new 12,000 seat arena that is custom-built for home-court advantage. They are 51-2 there with Dixon as coach. Also, this guy looks younger than me.

Gregg Marshall - Winthrop

Why we'll get him: He's from SC, so he won't have to move very far into a bigger school, conference and paycheck. He can still recruit the area he knows, and he can be "the" guy for UT for the next twenty years.

Why we won't: He's seen the revolving door at UT, and he won't be in any hurry to up and move a family with young children to Knoxville, just to move them again in four or five years. He is the hottest coach on the small-major market (4 trips to the dance and a 19+ win per season average), and he can write his ticket just about anywhere. I would expect him to move into a Penn State/Virginia position before UT.

Those are the top ones as listed by Chris Low of the Tennessean. He also mentions Dan Monsoon (Minn - why would he leave there for here?) and Frank Haith (Miami - 1st year at an ACC school), neither of whom I think are serious candidates.

And what about the others we could only dream about?

Phil Jackson - retired

Pro: Could recruit like no one's business. Can you imagine the allure of nine NBA championship rings to a McDonald's All-American who is unsure of whether to enter the draft? Plus, it would be a thing of beauty to see the zen-master's triangle run by his hand-selected few.

Con: There is no way in hell we will be able to lure that man from retirement. If we could (by some act of God), we would have to pay him in the ballpark of $5 million+, and you never know when he's going to decide he wants to retire back into full-time meditation.

Maurice Cheeks - Unemployed

Pro: Another former NBA coach with infinite appeal to blue-chip recruits. Mo is known as a player's coach, and would surely love the opportunity to coach a more civilized bunch than those he had in Portland.

Con: Again, with the money. He won't have to wait around too long for another NBA job to open up, and he'd probably be glad for the break and laying around-ness of a studio job with ESPN or TNT in the interim.

Jay Bilas - ESPN

Pro: He's got good pedigree as a Duke alum and protege of Coach K. He has been very visible as the ESPN college hoops guru, and would probably be a strong recruiter.

Con: He's been in a studio for five or more years. He may know the X's and O's of college hoops as well as anyone in the country, but he does not have a drop of college head coaching experience.

Steve Lavin - ESPN

Pro: He has run a big-time program at UCLA, and he is an extraordinary recruiter. After the way he was run out of LA on a rail, you know he's just been lying awake in bed at night, scheming up the perfect program for when he has a chance.

Con: He was run out of LA for a reason - unbelievable mediocrity. He got nothing out of amazing talent. Also, he always strikes me as somebody who spent the previous night drinking a little too hard. I don't know what it is - maybe it's the hair, or the way he just looks and sounds like a used car salesman.

Matt Doherty - Part-Time Game Commentator

Pro: He is an even more impressive recruiter than Lavin, and he has won at the very highest level of college hoops. He was unfairly treated at UNC, and the fruits of his labor are being enjoyed by Roy Williams and the baby blue nation right now.

Con: There were obviously personality issues that drove him away from Chapel Hill. Like Peterson, he enjoyed success at a few places, but never stayed more than three years to prove his system would work in the long run. He would probably see UT as a stepping-stone back into a bigger program like Wake Forest, Kansas, Kentucky or the like. Also, he is still loved by the Dean Smith faithful, and is likely not pleased with Buzz' treatment here.

Pat Summit - UTK Women

Pro: Quite possibly the best coach to ever roam the sidelines, men or women. She is already here, and you know that she's got to be hurting for the men's program. No one would command as much respect from the community or the rest of the university as PHS would.

Con: The obvious - she's a woman. How many true blue-chippers, no matter how oepn-minded our society has become, will choose to play their college ball for a woman? The men's and women's games are also still seen largely as different sports, and Pat has never coached men or against men before.

Rick Pitino - Louisville

Pro: Maybe the most dynamic college coach we've ever seen. He has been successful everywhere but with the Celtics. Also an unbelievable recruiter.

Con: He is in league with Satan - if he is not the unholy demon himself. Seriously, he eats babies. Would cost us approximately 11 gazillion dollars a year. And our immortal souls.

So that's the list as I see it now. There are a few others that seem like possibilities to me, but none as likely as the first group mentioned. We'll probably know who the next coach will be in about five weeks, and it will be someone mentioned here. The most important thing we can do is not make fools of ourselves and not get the guy everyone thinks we want to get. We have to keep guys like Lofton and Patterson around, and there are incoming guys to think about. Also, I think that hiring another four-and-out coach will be the end of Hamilton as well. It was the biggest blemish on Dickey's tenure here, and the natives are becoming a little tired of it - in case you couldn't tell by the outspoken support for Buzz by the holy triumvirate of UT's most successful - Pat Summit, Todd Helton, and Peyton Manning.
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