Texas coach candidates: Chris Beard, Rick Pitino among possible options to replace Shaka Smart

The Red River rivalry that is rarely without drama on the court or on the field of play got much more interesting with a surprising twist when Texas basketball coach Shaka Smart, less than 24 hours after the basketball coach Oklahoma’s Lon Kruger will retire, he was hired on Friday. to become Marquette’s next coach.

It is the first time since 1967 that both Texas and Oklahoma have sought a basketball head coach in the same offseason.

Smart leaves the Longhorns program after six seasons in which he led them to three NCAA Tournament appearances in five possible seasons, finishing 109-86 overall and 52-56 in Big 12. The clean split comes less than one. week after Texas bounced back in Round 1 as the No. 3 seed by 14 seed Abilene Christian.

Texas invested heavily in Smart and his staff to ensure he would find similar success in the regular season and postseason in Austin as he did at VCU, where his “raging” defense helped lead the Rams to two conference tournament titles. , five NCAA tournament appearances and a magical Final Four run in 2011 as an 11th seed. But Smart never won a tournament in his tenure in Texas. Instead, his six-season journey was littered with impressive first-round starts such as a last-second loss to northern Iowa in 2016, an overtime loss to Nevada in 2018 despite a double-digit lead in the league. second half and a loss last week to Abilene. Christian after a late foul gave the Wildcats a chance to score game-safe free throws in the closing seconds.

With the resources available to Texas and the program’s proximity to talent-rich star recruits in Texas, this vacancy must be considered one of the best in the country. As such, the Longhorns administration will have the opportunity to hunt down big names during their search for coaches in an effort to attract someone to the city who can find success the size of Texas.

Here’s a quick list of names to watch as Texas begins that journey.

After a brilliant season at Little Rock in 2015-16 as head coach, where Beard led them to the second round of the NCAA Tournament and won 30 games, his success and coaching star has only risen to Texas Tech. In five seasons with the Red Raiders is 112-55 overall with three NCAA Tournament appearances in four possible seasons and two Elite Eights and one Final Four to his credit. A tricky part can be your purchase: iReportedly only $ 2 million if a team were from the Big 12 hired him, but twice as much as if a team from the Big 12 went into a tailspin, as of April 1. Another downside may be his salary: USA Today data lists him as one of the top five highest-paid coaches in the sport. But since Smart and Texas got a clean break (and because we’re talking Texas here), that money is there if Beard is willing to leave Lubbock.

Porter Moser, Loyola Chicago coach

If there’s a mid-level coach ready to jump to this level, it’s Moser, who has Loyola Chicago in the Sweet 16 for the second time after a 2018 race ended in the Final Four. Moser was disappointed in Little Rock and was fired from his next job coaching Illinois State, but he’s 63-18 against league opponents since 2017-18 and in line to be a worthy candidate when Loyola’s season rolls around. to its end.

Musselman had a wildly successful four-season stint in Nevada that included three regular-season conference championships and a 110-34 record before Arkansas pulled him out of the West in 2019. Since then, Musselman has performed well revitalizing the Razorbacks behind. of an improvement. tempo play style. His experience, and success, both at the college and NBA levels, would make him a leading candidate if he left Fayetteville after two seasons. But Arkansas is still fighting in the NCAA Tournament, which could ultimately mean that as long as its team keeps rolling, the price of Texas could continue to rise and the lure of leaving a good gig for one under an intense microscope with higher expectations. in Austin. decidedly less.

Joe Golding, Abilene Christian

From taking down Texas to training Texas? That would be Golding’s path after his Abilene Christian team toppled the Smart Longhorns on March 20 in a first-round stunner. It would be more than a funny narrative. Golding has the credentials to be a high-level candidate after taking the show to its first NCAA Tournament appearance at the Division I level (2019, 2021) in history and securing a Big Dance victory for tear. Oh, and here’s a fun little quote he had last week after the win:

“Maximum respect for the University of Texas and Coach Smart. We had an incredible year this year. A very talented team. We have the utmost respect for them. I just want to say that.”

He is 134-114 since taking over the show in 2013, but 67-23 in his last three seasons.

Grant McCasland, North Texas coach

McCasland is a longtime Scott Drew disciple who has been the head coach at North Texas since 2017, where he recently guided Mean Green to his fourth NCAA Tournament appearance and for the first time Won the NCAA tournament by defeating No. 4 seed Purdue in Round 1. He is 79-51 overall with a regular season and postseason conference title and knows the terrain in the region after playing at Baylor and having Coach at Baylor, Arkansas State and North Texas.

Royal Ivey, assistant coach of the Brooklyn Nets

A former Texas player in the early 2000s, Ivey spent a decade as a professional before beginning work as an assistant coach with the Oklahoma City Blue, Oklahoma City Thunder, New York Knicks and now the Brooklyn Nets. It’s hard to imagine Texas prioritizing Ivey with no head coaching experience, but it’s also easy to see why he would be an attractive option with Juwan Howard’s recent success at Michigan on a similar trajectory.

Rick Pitino, Iona

If this search for coaches were based solely on the skills of the coaches, Rick Pitino would be number one on this list. He is a member of the Hall of Fame and a two-time national champion. But Pitino does come with some luggage, that’s why he’s on Iona to begin with. His alleged misdeeds in Louisville are still under NCAA scrutiny and there were multiple scandals during his time coaching the Cardinals that Texas would have to get more clarity or, frankly, overlook. Still, a 782-277 career record and a bulletproof resume on the court are attractive even if the rest of what Pitino comes with isn’t.

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