OSU search takes bad turn
Uh-oh. The OSU basketball search appears in trouble. The Cowboys apparently have been turned down by Southern Illinois’ Chris Lowery, who announced Tuesday he was staying at SIU. When a guy pulls out of a job, it means one of two things: he pulled out or the suitor school is ready to hire another. And it sure doesn’t look like OSU is ready to hire another.
Lowery is an excellent young coach, but if you can’t hire away someone from the Missouri Valley, then there are trouble spots in the process. What could be turning off coaches?
Can’t be money, I wouldn’t think. So there are only a few possibilities. The owner/GM management model, which is unorthodox with Boone Pickens and Mike Holder. The Sean Sutton firing backlash. The overall quality of the OSU job.
I would discount the latter two. The OSU job is not an elite job but it’s a very good job and one that should not scare off coaches. It’s not Nebraska, for instance, which never has won an NCAA Tournament game. And as for the Sutton backlash, I don’t put a lot of stock in that one, either. Yes, many coaches were no doubt alarmed that Sean was fired after just 21/2 seasons. But just as many coaches had to feel like Sean’s ascension to the job, bequeathed by his father, was dubious in the first place. Coaches work hard to get where they get and I would assume don’t have a lot of respect for sons whose paths are cleared by a big-name dad.
So that leaves the Pickens/Holder model. Now I believe that the truth is, Pickens doesn’t meddle much in anything, other than wanting to win. I think he just wants to be part of the inner circle, not to throw around weight but so that he can be informed and feel like he’s a part of something for all the money he’s invested. Just like a major-league owner who doesn’t run the day-to-day operations of a franchise. But I think some coaches fear that, because it’s so different from the way college athletic departments have been run for decades. Remember back in the day when regents were heavily involved in athletic departments? Well, Pickens is a one-man regents committee, and that might scare some coaches.
So who’s next? I said yesterday that if I had to guess, I would say Chris Lowery would be the next OSU coach. By dark thirty, Lowery was saying he was staying at Southern Illinois. So my next guess: Travis Ford of UMass, a former Kentucky (and Missouri) point guard. Ford was a Rick Pitino point guard at UK, then became a head coach almost immediately, at Campbellsville (Ky.) in the NAIA, then Eastern Kentucky and finally UMass. He plays uptempo basketball and would be a very good choice. But if the Cowboys don’t get Ford, and can’t even go to the always-stocked Missouri Valley for a coach, I don’t know where Mike Holder turns.
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