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Tennessee Basketball Coaching Candidates

Who's next? We've got a dozen names from Wichita to Chattanooga.

Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

Tennessee was paying Cuonzo Martin $1.3 million per year, 11th best in the SEC.  In the press conference today Dave Hart said the Vols were going to up his pay into the neighborhood of $1.8 million per year, which would've put Cuonzo Martin in the Mark Fox/Anthony Grant range in the SEC in the top half of the league and a Top 30 coach nationally.

How much will Tennessee pay its new coach?  As Hart also said, that depends on who the Vols hire, whether they get a proven name or and up-and-comer.  Here are some of the names you'll be hearing in the coming days - we welcome your thoughts on any of these coaches or other names we may have left out:


Gregg Marshall, Wichita State

I think it's safe to say Marshall is the top name for this or any fanbase with an opening right now.  Marshall is a South Carolina native and a mid-major lifer, nine years at Winthrop and now seven at Wichita State.  At Winthrop he went dancing seven times, including a near miss against the Vols in 2006, before finally breaking through with a win in 2007.  That got him to Wichita, where the Shockers won the NIT in 2011, made the Final Four in 2013, and went undefeated in the regular season in 2014.  Marshall has been tied to the Tennessee job before and was the first name that came up when Cuonzo Martin flirted with Marquette.  There are rumors he acquired a "difficult to work with" label somewhere along the way, but with these kind of results in the last two years you can be a little prickly or coach angry or whatever you like.  Marshall is 51 and wouldn't be cheap, but would represent a bold movement toward winning basketball - similar to the ones made by football schools Virginia Tech and Auburn on this round of the carousel - and would be a home run with the fanbase.  Remember, Butch Jones was more like a walk than a home run when he was hired, and I don't think any of us would trade him right now, so you never know how these things are going to work out.  But Gregg Marshall is a proven winner who would certainly be viewed as an upgrade in this process.

Shaka Smart, VCU

With Brad Stevens in the NBA Smart has the first parking spot at the young successful college coaches' office.  A Florida assistant when he took over for Anthony Grant at VCU in 2009, Smart has made four straight NCAA Tournaments including the 2011 Final Four out of the play-in game in Dayton.  The Rams have been alarmingly consistent, winning between 26-29 games in each of Smart's five years.  I_S points out VCU has never won a conference title (CAA 2010-12, Atlantic 10 2013-14) under Smart, and the Rams have failed to make the Sweet 16 in the last three years.  The 2011 Final Four run was sparked by incredible three point shooting, where a team hitting 37% on the year shot 44 of 98 (44.8%) from the arc in four games.  Smart's team would play a brand of basketball fans would certainly enjoy, whatever that's worth.  But he also turned down UCLA last year, so he would be a very tough get.


Lawrence Frank, Brooklyn Nets assistant

Frank's name always comes up because he was an assistant on Kevin O'Neill's staff from 1994-97 before becoming an NBA assistant in Vancouver.  He would serve two stints as an NBA head coach, with the Nets from 2004-10 and then the Pistons from 2011-13.  He made the playoffs his first four years in New Jersey but never advanced past the second round.  Frank currently serves as an "assistant" with Jason Kidd in Brooklyn, though after a falling out in December he doesn't sit on the team's bench anymore.  So maybe he's looking to get out of that situation even though the Nets have surged recently and will be in the playoffs?  Frank hasn't been in the college game since leaving Knoxville, but is still just 47 years old, and his NBA connections certainly don't hurt him.

Ben Howland, ex-UCLA coach

Howland, turning 57 next month, was 20 games over .500 in five years at Northern Arizona, which landed him the Pittsburgh job in 1999.  Four years there produced two Big East titles and a pair of Sweet 16s, which got him the UCLA job in 2003.  Coming off their first losing season in 50 years, it took Howland just two years to get the Bruins back in the NCAA Tournament, and in year three he made it all the way to the title game before falling to Florida.  UCLA made the Final Four in each of the next two seasons as well, losing again to the Gators in 2007 then to the Memphis squad we beat in 2008 (this UCLA team had Kevin Love, Russell Westbrook, and Darren Collison.  Holy cow.).  After that, it got rocky:  a second round exit in 2009 was followed by missing the tournament in 2010; the Bruins bounced back in 2011 but lost in the round of 32 again, then missed the dance again in 2012. A Pac 12 title in 2013 wasn't enough to save Howland's job when UCLA lost in the first round of the tournament.  Another big factor was this Sports Illustrated story from 2012 portraying discipline and cultural issues in the UCLA program.  Though UCLA certainly slipped at the end, this guy has more wins than any other candidate we might consider.  The issues surrounding his UCLA departure must be considered, and the Vols would certainly have to pay more to get a three-time Final Four coach.


Tad Boyle, Colorado

Another name with a 90s connection to UT, Boyle was the Director of Basketball Operations under Jerry Green in 1997-98 after following him from Oregon.  He then became an assistant at Jacksonville State and Wichita State before taking the head coaching job at Northern Colorado in 2006.  His first team went 4-24, but in year four they were 25-8.  He took the Colorado job in 2010 and has won 21-24 games every year, with three NCAA Tournament appearances but no Sweet 16s.  The Buffaloes finished tied for third in the Pac 12 this year, their highest finish under Boyle.  He is also a Colorado native, which should certainly make it more difficult if the Vols want to go this route.

Chris Mack, Xavier

The 44 year old Mack is a Xavier lifer, playing there in the early 90s, serving as an assistant for four years, and then taking the head coaching gig in 2009.  Under his watch Xavier has made the NCAA Tournament four times in five years with a pair of Sweet 16s, the sort of winning we want to point to around here.  This means nothing, but the two previous Xavier coaches were Thad Matta and Sean Miller, so there's some strong history of guys leaving Cincinnati and finding greener pastures.  Xavier is in the new Big East, but perhaps to them it's not the diminished Big East, so I don't know if the Vols would have any significant pull here.

Tim Miles, Nebraska

Just finished his second year in Lincoln, putting the Cornhuskers in their first NCAA Tournament since 1998.  Nebraska also just got a brand new arena, whatever that's worth.  Before Nebraska, Miles was at Colorado State five years and put the Rams on the dance floor in his final season after a nine year absence.  He's definitely got a strong resume for building programs up and has found success at a football school.  You'd have to wonder if he'd leave Lincoln, where any success in March would be groundbreaking.


Archie Miller, Dayton

If you like young, Sean's younger brother is 35 and just took Dayton to the Elite Eight.  It is his only head coaching stop; in three years the Flyers have played .624 basketball, though this was their first tournament appearance.  Before Dayton Archie Miller was an assistant at Arizona and Ohio State.  He just signed a huge extension and was apparently not in play for other openings, so we'll see if the Vols could change his mind if Dave Hart chooses to go in this direction.

Donnie Tyndall, Southern Miss

This guy seems to lead the early chatter if the Vols strike out on the biggest names.  Tyndall served six years at Morehead State with two tournament appearances, including an upset of Louisville in the first round in 2011.  He then took the job at Southern Miss in 2012, which has led to 27 and 29 win seasons but two trips to the NIT after stumbling in the Conference USA Tournament and being passed over by the selection committee.  The Golden Eagles are 25-7 in conference play in two years and 56-17 overall; Tyndall is a career .654 coach with only one losing season at Morehead.  He was also the associate head coach at MTSU from 2002-06 and is only 43 years old.

Michael White, Louisiana Tech

Insert Derek Dooley joke here.  Even younger, the 37 year old White played at Ole Miss in the late 90s then returned as an assistant from 2004-11 before taking the LaTech job.  The Bulldogs are 74-31 in three years under his watch with two trips to the NIT, giving him a very similar resume to Tyndall (and Cuonzo Martin pre-UT) with no NCAA Tournament appearances but plenty of regular season winning.


Rick Byrd, Belmont

The Knoxville native has been at Belmont since 1986.  His teams have made the NCAA Tournament six of the last nine years out of the Atlantic Sun and Ohio Valley Conferences.  Byrd usually becomes the safety net, but now at age 60 some will question even that.

Will Wade, Chattanooga

The 31 year old Nashville native served as an assistant under Shaka Smart at VCU from 2009-13, then took the Chattanooga job last year.  The Mocs made the NCAA Tournament in 2009 under John Shulman, but he was 55-74 in his final four years and had a losing record in the SoCon three of those years.  Shulman immediately gave Chattanooga its best record since 2008 by going 18-15 and its best ever winning percentage in conference play at 12-4.  This is a name to keep an eye on if the Vols have trouble gaining traction with higher-profile options, and seems very well liked and well respected among his peers.