Search Firms Help Schools Land Coaches

The Washington Post Sunday - - Spring Training -

Maybe the only per­son who wasn’t shocked when Tubby Smith left Ken­tucky for Min­nesota was Dan Parker.

The pres­i­dent of Parker Ex­ec­u­tive Search helped Min­nesota land the long­time Wild­cats coach, work­ing be­hind the scenes for sev­eral weeks to aid the Golden Go­phers in mak­ing the kind of buzz- build­ing hire that can bol­ster a pro­gram.

It was a hire that might not have been pos­si­ble with­out the use of a group such as Parker’s. The firm laid out so much of the ground­work for Smith’s tran­si­tion that by the time the story broke, Smith was on a plane to Min­nesota to start his new job.

“ Our dream is we’d love to walk some­body to the podium and have peo­ple say, ‘ Wow,’ ” Parker said. “ You can’t do that [ with coaches] be­cause they have to tell their play­ers. But if we can keep [ the spec­u­la­tion] down to the last 12 hours, we’re suc­cess­ful.”

The man­ner in which Parker helped orches­trate Smith’s de­par­ture so qui­etly is one of the main rea­sons more schools are turn­ing to search firms to as­sist in the hir­ing process.

Just ask Ken­tucky. A few days af­ter Smith’s de­par­ture, the univer­sity con­tacted Parker’s firm to help find Smith’s re­place­ment.

While Parker’s job this time is more dif­fi­cult — it’s been widely spec­u­lated that Florida Coach Billy Dono­van is a lead­ing can­di­date — he views the lack of any ac­tual news on the search as proof the process is work­ing.

“ We pro­tect the coach, we pro­tect ath­letic direc­tors,” Parker said. “ Con­fi­den­tial­ity is num­ber one.”

Ken­tucky Ath­letic Di­rec­tor Mitch Barn­hart has de­clined to com­ment on the search un­til a new coach is in place. And while Dono­van has skirted around ques­tions about whether he’s in­ter­ested in the job, he prob­a­bly is not the only can­di­date.

Parker said six to 12 can­di­dates usu­ally make the fi­nal list, and that the typ­i­cal search takes about two weeks. Ask him if that means Ken­tucky’s next coach will be hired by Thurs­day — ex­actly two weeks af­ter Smith left — and he just says, “ It’ll end soon, I prom­ise.”

Arkansas Eyes Cali­pari

Arkansas has been granted per­mis­sion to talk to Mem­phis Coach John Cali­pari about re­plac­ing Stan Heath, who was fired Mon­day.

Mem­phis spokesman La­mar Chance said on Satur­day he didn’t know whether Arkansas had con­tacted Cali­pari yet, but that per­mis­sion had been granted.

Cali­pari guided Mem­phis to an NCAA re­gion fi­nal for the sec­ond straight sea­son. He re­ceived a con­tract ex­ten­sion through 2012 on Mon­day. Cali­pari is 181- 63 in seven sea­sons at Mem­phis. Be­fore that, he coached the New Jer­sey Nets and Mas­sachusetts. He took UMass. to the 1996 Fi­nal Four.

Arkansas had been eye­ing Texas A& M Coach Billy Gil­lispie, but the Ag­gies an­nounced Fri­day they had agreed with Gil­lispie on a new con­tract.

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