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Tennessee Basketball Coaching Candidates

Ten guys who might be Tennessee's next coach and two who definitely won't.

Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

I mentioned on Sports 180 today that this all feels like a reflex action:  get the hot board, fire up FlightAware!  The next guy will be Tennessee's eighth coach in football and men's basketball in the last eight years, four each.  Seriously, we should offer a seminar to opposing fanbases.

Who is the next guy?  Let's start with the other question:

Who Won't Be Tennessee's Next Coach:

Bruce Pearl

For every single reason he wasn't Tennessee's coach the last time, plus five million dollars.  End of discussion.  And the more fans try to restart this discussion, petition signers or no, the worse it will be for Tennessee Basketball.  It isn't healthy for anyone and it only makes things worse.  When people try to sell this, they are either pushing their own agenda and/or refusing to deal with reality.  Let it go.  We're moving forward.

Gregg Marshall

Cuonzo Martin made $1.3 million at UT.  Donnie Tyndall made $1.6 million.  Gregg Marshall already makes $1.75 million at Wichita State.  And even if you think Tennessee would break the bank to get him, fix thine eyes on Tuscaloosa:  the Crimson Tide are in the market for a basketball coach, and they've got BCS Championship cash in their dump truck.  Butch Jones makes a hair under $3 million per year.  There is simply no way Tennessee is going to pay its basketball coach more than its football coach.  But there's plenty of breathing room between $3 million and Nick Saban's salary at Alabama.  The Texas job coming open adds another set of deep pockets to the equation.  This is just not an ideal year for Tennessee to be looking for a basketball coach; even if the Vols have more basketball tradition and recent success than their counterparts at Alabama, Texas, and even Mississippi State, they're not flush with football cash just yet to get in the deeper waters.  Even if Marshall and the Vols had mutual interest, they'll get outbid easily.

Who Might Be Tennessee's Next Coach (in alphabetical order):

Tad Boyle, Colorado

  • 108-67 - .617 (46-42 Pac 12 - .523) in five years at Colorado
  • Average KenPom Last Four Years:  73.75
  • Current Salary:  $1.4 million
Boyle is a former Tennessee assistant under Jerry Green, but a Colorado native who has spent his entire coaching career in-state, four years building Northern Colorado from 4-24 to 25-8, and the last five in Boulder.  The Buffaloes were just bounced in the CBI Quarterfinals to complete a 16-18 season on the heels of three consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances, which were the program's first since 2003.

Rick Byrd, Belmont

  • 619-312 (.664) in 29 years at Belmont
  • Average KenPom Last Four Years:  77.25
  • Salary:  $728,000
The safety net of every Tennessee coaching search since Bruce Pearl.  Byrd is a Knoxville native and has spent his entire career in the Volunteer State, coaching at Maryville College and LMU before spending the last three decades in Nashville, including an NAIA National Championship before leading the transition to NCAA play.  The Bruins have made seven NCAA Tournaments in the last ten years from both the Atlantic Sun and now Ohio Valley Conferences.  Byrd is 61 years old and this is one of the few jobs he's ever tied to, he's so clearly content at Belmont.  Would be seen as a clean, sentimental pick by some but not a long term solution by others.

Ron Hunter, Georgia State

  • 87-46 (.654) in four years at Georgia State
  • Average KenPom Last Four Years:  96.5
  • Salary:  $425,000
Speaking of sentimental favorites, Ron Hunter won the hearts of many on the tournament's first weekend by falling off his stool as Georgia State took down Baylor and being brought to tears two days later in discussing his son RJ.  Hunter would definitely place in the personality contest portion of this event.  He spent 17 years at IUPUI before moving on to Georgia State.  IUPUI vacated 18 wins in 2003-04 due to an eligibility scandal across multiple sports, but no coaches were found to have knowledge of the situation and Hunter remained there another seven seasons.  Georgia State's NCAA Tournament appearance this year was their first since 2001.

Archie Miller, Dayton
  • 90-47 - .657 (39-27 A10 - .591) in four years at Dayton
  • Average KenPom Last Four Years:  53.25
  • Salary:  $335,000, just signed extension with undisclosed terms
Sean's brother is probably the most sought-after name on this list, which means the Vols could easily get outbid here by the Alabamas and Texases of the world too.  Miller took the Flyers to the Elite Eight last season and won two games this year coming out of the play-in.  He's only 36 years old, but the results (and the family name at this point) speak for themselves.  But he's also been unwilling to leave Dayton, staying after the hot run last season and signing another extension this week.  Tennessee and others could obviously increase his salary at least five or sixfold if he's still making somewhere in that range.  Would he leave a good situation in Dayton, and would it be for Tennessee right now?  I'm not sure, but this is the name I'd have at the top of my realistic list and sell the job and its long-term benefits to a coach who doesn't seem jumpy.

Jeff Neubauer, Eastern Kentucky

  • 188-134 (.584) in 10 years at Eastern Kentucky
  • Average KenPom Last Four Years:  155
  • Salary:  $270,000
So I had nine names on this list and wanted an even ten, so we added Neubauer from just south of Lexington at EKU.  The 44 year old was a three year assistant at West Virginia before taking the EKU job in 2005, where he's been ever since.  They've made a pair of NCAA Tournaments, including last season, and played in postseason tournaments in each of the last three years.  Probably not in the first or even second tier, but if the Vols get turned down repeatedly look for his name to move into the conversation.

Richard Pitino, Minnesota

  • 43-28 - .606 (14-22 - .389) in two years at Minnesota
  • Average KenPom Last Three Years (Minnesota & FIU):  98
  • Salary:  $1.2 million
We're still a little too close to the fire on the famous last name, and Pitino probably isn't as hot of a commodity as he was last year, going from the 2014 NIT title to an 18-15 (6-12) season this year.  But if he is a desirable candidate, Pitino might also fall in the Archie Miller range as the second most expensive name on this list.

Steve Prohm, Murray State

  • 104-29 (.780) in four years at Murray State
  • Average KenPom Last Four Years:  83.25
  • Salary:  $500,000
Archie Miller is the name on this list I'd most like to see in Knoxville, but I think Prohm is the name on this list most likely to end up here.  And that wouldn't be a bad thing considering what he's done in four years at Murray State following Billy Kennedy:  a 31-2 season his first year and a 16-0 run through the OVC this year before losing to Belmont in the tournament finals.  The knocks on Prohm:  he has no experience as a head or assistant coach in a major conference, and he's an Alabama grad, so if the Tide strike out on their big targets I'm sure they'll have an advantage here.  But I think Alabama's going to go higher and the Vols can land Prohm, despite a contract extension at Murray, due to his lower salary.

Brad Underwood, Stephen F. Austin

  • 61-8 (.884) in two years at Stephen F. Austin
  • Average KenPom Last Two Years:  48.5
  • Salary:  $400,000
Like Prohm, Underwood has torn up his conference by going 25-1 in the Southland in his only two seasons at the helm.  The Lumberjacks won an NCAA Tournament game last year and almost got another this year.  Underwood is 51 and spent seven years as an assistant with Frank Martin, including one season at South Carolina before moving to SFA.  He is from Kansas and would be considered a possibility at Wichita State should Gregg Marshall move.

Will Wade, Chattanooga

  • 40-25 (.615) in two years at Chattanooga
  • Average KenPom Last Two Years:  216
  • Salary:  $198,000
A local favorite among some, Wade is young but comes with four years experience as an assistant coach at VCU before making the transition to Chattanooga in 2013.  The Mocs finished 22-10 this year, missing the SOCON title by one game to Wofford before falling to an 11-22 Furman squad in the first game of the conference tournament.  Wade is from Nashville and has more ties to the mid-state than East Tennessee, so it's not as natural a fit as some might push but that doesn't mean it might not be a good one.  I don't think Wade will be in the top tier, but again, if the Vols start getting turned down look for his name.

Michael White, Louisiana Tech

  • 101-40 (.716) in four years at Louisiana Tech
  • Average KenPom Last Four Years:  93.75
  • Salary:  $600,000
And speaking of the Vols getting turned down...White and Tennessee went round and round last season but ultimately couldn't cross their t's and dot their i's, which sent Dave Hart in Donnie Tyndall's direction.  White was an Ole Miss assistant from 2004-2011 and some think he might have been waiting out Andy Kennedy, but the Rebels' run to the tournament this year should cool his seat and might bring White back to the table.  His overall record and KenPom numbers are even more impressive after an 18-16 (6-8 WAC) start:  Louisiana Tech is 83-24 (44-8 CUSA) in the last three years, missing the NCAA Tournament thanks to Memphis in 2013, Tulsa in the CUSA finals in 2014, and an overtime loss to UAB in 2015.  His teams love the three ball, which fans I'm sure would enjoy.  Will Hart have whatever it takes to look back in his direction?