Billy Kennedy went to the Sweet 16 in 2016 and again a year ago, but the administration made a move with him after a mass exodus following last season and then a disappointing 11th-place finish in the SEC this year.
Was it just performance, or also health-related? Kennedy has been battling Parkinson’s Disease for most of his time at Texas A&M, so it was likely a combination of the two. Now it’s time for Scott Woodward – who was brought on from Washington a couple years ago – to make his first men’s basketball hire.
I’ve come up with my list of coaching candidates as I put myself in the role of Woodward. We’ll do this for all the major job openings going forward.
Remember, check the bottom for who I WOULD HIRE and who I think Texas A&M will wind up hiring.
It’s all about football at A&M, but hoops has had its share of success – especially in the last 12 or so years. In fact, the Aggies have gone to the NCAA tourney eight times since 2006. Billy Gillispie went twice in three years, Mark Turgeon went in all four of his seasons, and Kennedy went twice in eight years. There’s no shortage of talent to recruit in the area, and the state. And they have resources, even if they would prefer to use most of them in football.
Scott Woodward – Hired in Jan. 2016, previously at Washington (2008-15)
Men’s Basketball Hires: None
LEADER IN THE CLUBHOUSE
Buzz Williams, Virginia Tech – There’s been no shortage of speculation that Williams will be A&M’s top target. He’s from Texas and was an assistant under Billy Gillispie in College Station from 2004-06. He’s been successful at Marquette (two Sweet 16s and five NCAAs in six years) and at Virginia Tech (three NCAA tourneys in five seasons). The questions will come down to money and whether he waits to see if he can land Texas or Arizona – if they open.
Chris Beard, Texas Tech – Just about six hours northwest of College Station, Beard has quickly built Texas Tech into a program that went to the Elite Eight last season and followed it up with a Big 12 regular season title this year. Beard is a program-builder and a grinder who knows the state and the surrounding area. Personally, I don’t see Beard making the move because it’s not enough of a step up.
Kelvin Sampson, Houston – Woodward and A&M could look even closer than Lubbock to find a qualified candidate. Sampson has done similar wonders at Houston, taking the program from irrelevance to one that made the NCAA tourney a year ago and has been in the top 10 nationally this season.
Gregg Marshall, Wichita State – He’s cooled off a bit this season because the Shockers were in rebuilding mode, but he took Wichita to the NCAA tourney each of the previous seven seasons – including a Final Four berth in 2013. Marshall has turned down several opportunities, and I’d expect him to turn this one down if it comes his way.
Eric Musselman, Nevada – He’s probably a notch behind those other guys – much due to geography – but he’s made Nevada relevant again. Muss will bring energy to the program; he’s almost the anti-Billy Kennedy in a sense – extremely fiery compared to the laid-back Kennedy.
SHOULDN’T GET THIS FAR
Steve Forbes, East Tennessee State – He worked with Buzz Williams at Texas A&M under Gillispie and has had success at ETSU, winning more than 100 games in his first four seasons. It would have to fall for it to get this far, which I don’t see happening.
T.J. Otzelberger, South Dakota State – He helped Fred Hoiberg win at Iowa State, and has had success at South Dakota State, going to a pair of NCAA tourneys in three seasons. Again, I’d be shocked if it got this far, but he should be on the “B” list of candidates.
Chris Jans, New Mexico State – He was a junior college guy and then had success at Bowling Green for a year before being fired for an off-court incident. Jans took New Mexico State to the NCAA tourney last year – his first with the program – and won the WAC regular-season title this year.
Craig Smith, Utah State – I know it doesn’t quite fit, but Smith did one of the best coaching jobs in the country this year, his first in Logan. He took a team expected to finish near the bottom of the Mountain West and has the Aggies likely headed to the NCAA tourney.
Chris Beard, Texas Tech – The results speak for themselves. He took Arkansas Little Rock to the NCAA tourney and upset Purdue in his lone year there – and has built Texas Tech into a nationally relevant program. He’s got ties all over, and is extremely well-liked in the industry. Beard can coach, evaluate and develop talent.
WHO I THINK THEY WILL WIND UP HIRING
Buzz Williams, Virginia Tech – Williams has done a ridiculously impressive job, but it may be tough for him to turn down a chance to get back to Texas. This really could depend on what happens with Shaka Smart at Texas and Sean Miller at Arizona.