Hoge: Ten Possible Illini Head Coaching Candidates
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By Adam Hoge-
INDIANAPOLIS (CBS) — Well, we’ve already been talking about this for a month, but now that Bruce Weber is officially out at Illinois, it’s time to take a serious look at possible replacements.
Many names have been thrown out there. Some are legit, some are not. One thing is for sure though: The search for a head coach has already begun. It started well before Weber was actually fired Friday morning.
Among the factors that will affect the coaching search, two really stick out for me: 1) The cry from trustees to hire a minority head coach and 2) the need to repair the relationship with the Chicago Public League.
With that in mind, here are ten possible Illini head coaching candidates in no particular order:
Shaka Smart – The VCU head coach had an offer from North Carolina State last season after taking the Rams to the Final Four. VCU ponied up a raise around $900,000, however, and Smart decided to stay put. The Illinois job is likely his to turn down. The Madison, Wis. native has Midwest ties and a reputation of relating well to college players. He appears to have the tools to recruit Chicago well, but does he have the established relationships? The former Oliver Purnell assistant would also fulfill the cries for a minority head coach.
Reggie Theus – The former Chicago Bulls player is out of coaching this season after serving as an assistant for the Minnesota Timberwolves for three years. He turned around the New Mexico State basketball program from 2005-07 before taking the Sacramento Kings head coaching position. He also got an interview for the DePaul job before the Blue Demons hired Purnell. Theus is very much in the mix, but if he’s the No. 1 choice, then Illinois has problems.
Frank Martin – The Kansas State head coach has possibly taken that program as far as it can go — four NCAA Tournaments in five years — and might be looking for other opportunities. He was linked to the Miami (Fla.) job a year ago, but nothing ever materialized. He’s recruited pretty well in Manhattan, Kansas, but he doesn’t have any obvious ties to the Chicago area.
Brad Stevens – The Butler head coach is one of the hottest names in the coaching business, but doesn’t appear to want to leave Indianapolis. After reaching the NCAA Championship Game the last two years, Butler will miss the tournament this year and it will be interesting to see if that changes anything. At this point, however, Stevens appears to be long-shot at best.
Anthony Grant – The Alabama head coach was Shaka Smart’s predecessor at VCU where he made the NCAA Tournament in two of his three seasons. Grant then moved on to Alabama where he made the NIT last year and is headed for the NCAA Tournament this year. Grant is well respected for his 10 years as an assistant at Florida under Billy Donovan. He doesn’t have any obvious Chicago ties, but he figures to be in the mix.
Robert Smith – Most will probably laugh at the idea of hiring a high school basketball coach, but the truth is that the relationship between the Chicago Public League and the University of Illinois hasn’t been good for years. And it definitely didn’t help Bruce Weber in recruiting. The Simeon head coach would not only fix that relationship immediately, but it would also put the Illini in the driver’s seat for the services of Simeon junior guard Jabari Parker. Smith is 227-37 in eight years at Simeon and he should get his fifth state championship later this month. If there was ever one high school coach that could successfully be pitched to the Illini fan base, Smith is it.
Chris Collins – The top Duke assistant has been ready for a head coaching job for quite some time, but how long will he wait for Mike Krzyzewski to retire? Collins is from Northbrook and considered playing at Illinois before eventually choosing Duke. He has recruited the area well for Duke, most notably getting Jon Scheyer to go to Durham instead of Illinois. Illini athletic director Mike Thomas says he prefers candidates with head coaching experience, but he didn’t completely close the door on hiring an assistant. Collins has to be the No. 1 choice on the list of possible assistants.
Gregg Marshall – The Wichita State head coach made a name for himself at Winthrop where he led the Eagles to the NCAA Tournament in seven of his nine seasons there. In 2007, he moved on to Wichita State and after a slow start, he has won at least 25 games in each of the last three seasons. The Shockers will make the NCAA Tournament as an at-large team this season and Marshall will be in position to make himself a lot of money with a deep run.
Scott Drew – In his ninth year at Baylor, Drew has made the program relevant. He took over a program in disarray in 2003 and has now won at least 21 games in four of the last five seasons. Drew, of course, is the son of Homer Drew, the longtime Valparaiso head coach. Both of his parents are battling cancer and one has to wonder if a return to the area would be appealing to Scott.
Ray McCallum – McCallum just clinched a berth to the NCAA Tournament by winning the Horizon League Tournament. The Detroit head coach is in his fourth year on the job after serving as an assistant at Indiana. He’s also spent time as an assistant at Michigan and Wisconsin, so he’s no stranger to the Big Ten. McCallum was also the head coach of Ball State (1993-2000) and Houston (2000-04). His son Ray Jr. is the best player on Detroit and it would be interesting to see if he would make the jump to Illinois as well.
Adam is the Sports Content Producer for CBSChicago.com and specializes in coverage of the White Sox, Blackhawks and college sports. He was born and raised in Lincoln Park and attended St. Ignatius College Prep before going off to the University of Wisconsin-Madison where he earned a Journalism degree. Follow him on Twitter @AdamHogeCBS and read more of his columns here.