It's said that nothing galvanizes a community like a disaster. Well, if yesterday proved anything, it's that. I said that now I truly know what it means to be a Coug, and while I primarily meant that in the jilted-coach sense, I also meant it in the community sense. We more or less tripled our one-day high for page views, and I'm so thankful that you chose to come here -- it gave me a place to vent and share my feelings.
In fact, it was such an efficient place to process my emotions that I'm fully ready to move forward today.
If you want even more insight into what Bennett's potential thought process was, you can visit Grippi's morning post at SportsLink. I won't poach all his stuff out of respect for the tremendous amount of work he did yesterday, and because I'm just ready to move ahead. Bennett's still not talking, but the short version is that a lot of things were wearing on Bennett, from travel to the enormity of the rebuilding task. Trust me, reading it won't make you feel any better. He also rounds up a ton of links from both perspectives.
So, let's look forward. AD Jim Sterk has already started to move quickly, and has said he wants to have a new coach hired between seven and 14 days from now. He's also set some parameters, noting that the assistants will not be candidates and that he's looking for someone with Division I head coaching experience. That won't make the players happy, but don't let that get you down -- it's natural that 18- and 19-year-old would desire a level of comfort right now, and if you hire the right guy, the players will want to play for him.
So who are we looking at to replace Bennett? Here are the candidates as I see them, in my order of preference.
Ken Bone, Portland State head coach
Without a doubt, Bone is my top candidate, and he pretty clearly is near or at the top of Sterk's list as well. When Oregon State was looking for a coach last year, I couldn't believe they didn't give Bone more of a look. This guy is a coach's coach. Some will probably naively call him a flash-in-the-pan as he's only been at PSU for three years, but that would be ignoring the 12 years he spent turning Seattle Pacific University into a Division II powerhouse.
The guy can flat coach, and he's proven that at PSU. He also was Lorenzo Romar's top tactician while an assistant at UW from 2002-2005, and some have gone so far as to say that UW's down swing from 2006-2008 had at least something to do with Romar losing Bone from his bench.
Some might wonder if he's a fit at WSU, especially after watching his team jack up a lot of 3's and run run run in their tournament opener against Xavier. But closer inspection reveals the fit might be better than you initially think. His defensive numbers won't blow you away at first glance -- his adusted defensive efficiencies have been ranked (in order) 205, 169 and 221 nationally. But if you look at the Big Sky, they've ranked third, second and fourth in the conference.
He also has shown a tremendous ability to adapt to his personnel offensively. We mentioned the 3's this year; the Vikings were 39th nationally in 3-point attempts per field goal attempt. But two years ago, they were 171st nationally. Additionally, their tempo wasn't as fast this year as you might think. They played at an average of 65.7 possessions, which, while not WSU slow, is still slightly below avearage. Compare that to two years ago, when they played at 72 possessions -- 24th nationally. Like I said, a coach's coach, and if anyone can adapt quickly to the talent that's already in place here, it's Bone.
Last, and perhaps most importantly, is that the guy has shown an ability to find talent wherever it might be hiding. It's a craft he honed at SPU, where finding diamonds in the rough is imperative. He continued that resourcefulness at PSU, taking on a number of transfers to build the program.
If we can land Bone, I'll be extremely happy.
Ray Giacoletti, Gonzaga asssistant coach
If Sterk is looking for a guy with a Division I track record, Giacoletti's the guy. He's got seven years of D-I experience -- four at Eastern Washington and three at Utah.
He built a solid Big Sky program at EWU, culminating with an NCAA appearance. After convincing Andrew Bogut to stay on campus for one more year, he led the Utes to 29 wins, a Mountain West championship and Sweet 16 appearance in his first season. But two consecutive sub-.500 rebuilding seasons followed that, and Giacoletti was being shown the door. (Technically he resigned, but when you receive an $800,000 buyout for "resigning," you know what really happened.)
It's unfortunate that the Utah administration didn't allow Giacoletti to see the rebuilding job through, because guess whose players were the core of a team that earned a No. 5 seed in this year's tournament?
What makes Giacoletti a good fit? He's got experience building a program, as he did at Eastern, and this is a rebuilding job that's mid-stream. Also, he's got deep, deep Northwest recruiting ties. The downside, of course, is that this is a guy who was essentially fired from his last job.
I'll be happy if we end up with Giacoletti, who is highly -- highly -- respected in the coaching community.
Bill Grier, San Diego head coach
Grier was widely considered to be the heir apparent at Gonzaga whenever Mark Few decided to move on to bigger and better things. Only Few never did. So after 16 years at Gonzaga -- the last eight as Few's top assistant -- Grier finally decided to move on, taking the job at San Diego.
Grier's star was at it's peak after last season, his first at USD, when the Toreros won the WCC tournament then went on to upset No. 4 seed UConn in the NCAA Tournament. Returning all five starters, San Diego was expected to be a force to be reckoned with this year, but it didn't pan out as the Toreros stumbled mightily thanks to injuries and discipline problems.
The things Grier has going for him is that he's was Few's top recruiter at Gonzaga and also Few's "defensive coordinator." That last statement shouldn't be laughed at too hard; the Toreros were ranked 90th and 68th in adjusted defensive efficiency in Grier's two years, up from 223rd in the previous coach's final year.
Some of the luster has worn off after last season's surprise, but a solid argument can be made that Grier just went through the growing pains that every coach goes through. I'd be tentatively optimistic, but hardly sold, if Grier is the hire.
Dan Monson, Long Beach State head coach
Coug fans know Monson well, so I won't rehash a ton of stuff here. Monson was an assistant at Gonzaga before finally getting the head gig after longtime coach Dan Fitzgerald's retirement in 1994. After leading the Zags on that magical Elite Eight run in 1996, Monson bolted for Minnesota.
Cleaning up Clem Haskins' mess proved to be a lot harder than Monson realized, and he largely floundered for his seven-plus seasons there, reaching just one NCAA Tournament. He was fired just seven games into his eighth season, but was hired the following season to coach at Long Beach State, where he took the 49ers from eighth in the Big West his first year to second this year.
The upside to Monson is that he presumably still knows the Northwest well, knows what he'd be getting into with this job, and is unlikely to bolt for greener pastures at the first possible opportunity if he's successful. The downside is that he was given a lot of time to sort through the scandals and Minnesota and was less than successful. It would be a solid hire, but hardly one that would inspire a lot of excitement.
Randy Bennett, St. Mary's head coach
The reason I have Bennett at the bottom of this list isn't because I don't think he's a good coach; it's just that I don't see it happening. I think he's got his sights set much higher than WSU after blowing off a lot of inquiries last year, most of them jobs he didn't see as enough of a jump from St. Mary's. And even if he did want the WSU job now, we'd be repeating this process again in three years. Not that it can't happen with these other guys, but I think it stands a much higher chance of happening with Bennett.
Other guys' whose names have been floated in various places (some credible, some not so much) include Steve Lavin, Billy Gillispie, Larry Krystkowiak and Bob Knight. I really don't see any of those guys being serious candidates.