Gopher basketball: Remaining potential candidates for head coaching vacany


Sunday is Day 6 of the Gophers head coaching search led by freshman Athletic Director Norwood Teague.

In the past few days, we’ve learned that A) Minnesota is not as great of a destination as we try to make it seem, B) the gig and its proposed benefits are not enough to rip a current coach from his team and C) Teague is making himself look very, very bad.

Turned Down the Gophers:

Shaka Smart, current coach of VCU, Villa 7 alum and former hire of Teague

Mar 23, 2013; Auburn Hills, MI, USA; Virginia Commonwealth Rams head coach Shaka Smart reacts in the second half during the third round of the NCAA basketball tournament at The Palace. Michigan won 78-53. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Smart was the overwhelming favorite for the Gophers gig. Simply the talk of bringing him to Minneapolis led fans on a roller coaster of emotions as baseless rumors made it seem as if Smart was about to sign a deal before news broke that Smart didn’t want to leave the Rams. He signed an extension through 2023.

Fred Hoiberg, current coach of Iowa State and former Timberwolves player and front office

Mar 24, 2013; Dayton, OH, USA; Iowa State Cyclones head coach Fredrick Hoiberg talks to his team during a time out against the Ohio State Buckeyes in the second half during the third round of the 2013 NCAA tournament at University of Dayton Arena. Ohio State defeated Iowa State 78-75. Mandatory Credit: Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports

Hoiberg would have been a great hire by Minnesota as he’s young, talented, and his name is familiar with fans. But Hoiberg’s roots are grounded in Ames where he’s known as “The Mayor.”

As a former Cyclones player, coaching the team after your playing career ends is likely a dream come true and especially leading a program with bigger potential than the Gophers, luring Hoiberg from Iowa wasn’t going to happen. He signed a extension for 10 years worth $20 million.

Flip Saunders, Gopher alum and former Timberwolves head coach

January 4, 2012; Orlando FL, USA; Washington Wizards head coach Flip Saunders talks with small forward Rashard Lewis (9) during the second half against the Orlando Magic at Amway Center. The Magic won 103-85. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Despite being fired from his last three coaching jobs in the NBA, Flip would have been a good hire for the Gophers, given his familiarity with the recruiting landscape in Minnesota and his popularity among basketball fans in Minnesota.

But much to the surprise of fans, Saunders turned down an offer by the Gophers. Many thought Saunders was a fail-proof hire if the Gophers couldn’t land any of their top picks — he certainly sounded like he wanted the job even a week ago. But it’s likely Saunders wanted more control of the team than Teague was willing to afford and the offer made didn’t meet Saunders’ expectations.

There are also rumors that Saunders could replace David Kahn as President of Basketball Operations of the Timberwolves in the near future.

Possible Candidates:

Buzz Williams, current coach of Marquette

Mar 28, 2013; Washington, D.C., USA; Marquette Golden Eagles head coach Buzz Williams looks on in the second half against the Miami Hurricanes during the semifinals of the East regional of the 2013 NCAA tournament at the Verizon Center. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Landing Williams is a big stretch but would be a huge hire if the Gophers can pull it off. The Golden Eagles head coach took his team as far as to the Elite Eight this year before falling to Syracuse on Saturday.

Williams is being paid $2.8 million dollars a year at Marquette and is one of the highest paid coaches in college basketball. The Gophers would need to throw more than just money at Williams if they want a shot at bringing him to Williams Arena.

Andy Enfield, current coach of Florida Gulf Coast University,

future coach of USC

Mar 29, 2013; Arlington, TX, USA; Florida Gulf Coast Eagles head coach Andy Enfield during the first half of the semifinal game in the South regional of the 2013 NCAA Tournament at Cowboys Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Few had heard of FGCU before their run in the NCAA Tournament this season, and fewer had heard of Enfield before his team made the Cinderella run to the Sweet 16. While his team found success this year, the 43-year-old is still unproven as this season was just his second year as head coach. FGCU was 15-17 in his first year before they rocketed out to a 26-11 mark this season.

Enfield was paid around $150,000 this year, but the Pennsylvania native is a multi-millionaire who made his wealth in a company that supplied technology services to the health industry. Money will be less a factor as is stepping up into a major conference for Enfield if he decides to skip FGCU.

On Saturday, it was reported that the Gophers and USC both reached out to Enfield about their coaching vacancies.

UPDATE: Monday evening, USC announced Enfield will be the next head coach of the Trojans.

Gregg Marshall, current coach of Wichita State

Mar 30, 2013; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Wichita State Shockers head coach Gregg Marshall cuts down the net after winning the finals of the West regional of the 2013 NCAA tournament at the Staples Center. Wichita State beat Ohio State Buckeyes 70-66. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

Marshall is another mid-major coach who is the only coach on this list that is still in the NCAA tournament. The 50-year-old coached the Shockers to an upset over two-seeded Ohio State on Saturday to advance to the Final Four for the second time in school history.

Marshall has 15 years of experience as a head coach, including nine with the Winthrop Eagles, leading them to seven tournament appearances. As the coach of the Shockers, this is the second tournament appearance that Marshall has led Wichita State. His 333-152 career record is impressive, but not all mid-major coaches have had success in a conference like the Big Ten.

It won’t be easy to pry him away from the state of Kansas, as he’s made clear in previous interviews. But Marshall has not ruled out leaving Wichita State, perhaps waiting on a big offer. Surely the Gophers won’t be the only team interested in Marshall once his dream season is over.

Anthony Grant, current coach of Alabama, former head coach of VCU and Villa 7 alum

March 2, 2013; Gainesville, FL, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Anthony Grant shakes hands with Florida Gators forward Will Yeguete (15) after the game at the Stephen C. O

Aside from Flip Saunders, Grant is the only coach on this list who did not play in the NCAA Tournament. Perhaps the only reason his name is in the discussion is because of his connection with Teague and Villa 7.

While Alabama is damned good at football, the basketball program hasn’t been able to replicate the championship success. The Crimson Tide has had three straight 20-plus win seasons under Grant since he took over four years ago, but have only made the tournament once — last season. The Tide played in the NIT this season and made it to the quarterfinals.

Grant is 162-77 in his career that spans seven seasons, including the three at VCU. He has won 20-plus games in six of those seasons, but bringing him to Minnesota would provide its share of challenges as the Gopher fan base had only recently learned of his name. Not to mention, the recruiting scene in the Midwest would be new to him.

Reuniting Teague and Grant would be good, but not necessarily a good pick for the Gophers.


Media reports have also named Duke assistant Jeff Capel and Cincinnati head coach Mick Cronin as possible candidates.

Capel was another head coach at VCU from 2002-06 before he was head coach at Oklahoma from 2006-11. Capel led his Oklahoma team to the Elite Eight in 2009.

Cronin was the head coach at Murray State from 2003-06 and has been the coach in Cincinnati since 2006 where he has compiled a record of 135-99 and has made three straight NCAA Tournament appearances including a Sweet 16 run in 2012.

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