Search Firms Help Schools Land Coaches
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.