The Commercial Appeal
Panel says fan support, resources, recruiting base appeal to coaches
National sports writers agree: Memphis hoops job is a big one.
When the University of Memphis hires its next men’s basketball head coach, he’ll take over a program that offers a rich recruiting base, plenty of national television exposure and a deep pool of resources that helped make former Tigers coach Josh Pastner one of the top-paid coaches in the country.
But where does the Memphis job rank nationally in the eyes of college basketball experts? Is it top 15? Top 25? Has it been tarnished at all by the Tigers’ inability to make a deep postseason run under Pastner or their 5-26 record against The Associated Press Top 25 since John Calipari went to Kentucky in 2009?
After Pastner took the head job at Georgia Tech on Friday, Bleacher Report senior writer Jason King told a Kansas City, Missouri, sports talk radio show that he believes Memphis remains a top-15 type job. And while he amended that ranking on Twitter on Monday, concluding after a closer look that it’s more in the 18-25 range, King and other national experts believe it’s still a job most college coaches would covet.
“I think in Memphis, much like places like Kansas and other basketball blue bloods — I’ll stop short of calling them a blue blood — the college basketball coach is the No. 1 guy on campus and certainly in the athletic department,” King said on the radio show.
“I mean, you’re talking about a fan base that when (the Tigers) are good and even when they’re not, a lot of times are going to sell out their arena — 16,000, 17,000 people at the FedExForum every night. There’s tons of recruits in that area to pick from.”
With U of M officials keeping a tight lid on where things stand in their search for a new coach, The Commercial Appeal reached out to several college basketball experts Monday, including a pair of former Tigers basketball beat writers, to ask their opinions on whether Memphis is a top-15 job, as King originally suggested.
Below are excerpts from their answers (for the full version, go to commercialappeal.com and our digital apps):
Gary Parrish, CBS Sports college basketball columnist, former Tigers basketball beat writer for The CA:
“I think the Memphis job is a top-25 job — but only if the university is committed to treating it that way. And that doesn’t mean just paying a head coach. It means making his assistants among the highest paid in the
country. And chartering every road trip. And giving him private planes for recruiting. And giving him a huge recruiting budget. And giving him the freedom to schedule how he wants. And basically just putting all of the bells and whistles on the program the way other top-25 programs do.”
Mike DeCourcy, Sporting News college basketball writer, former Tigers basketball beat writer for The CA:
“I would not go that high. I know too much! I would say it is toward the back of the top 20. The advantages are that it can pay very well, and there is access to local talent and great community support. The disadvantage is the persistent peculiarity of that local talent, plus the iffy conference situation and the presence of the Grizzlies. I do believe the stature of the job has slipped from the Metro/ Great Midwest/early C-USA days, as well as the arrival of the Grizzlies. The Tigers no longer can claim to be the only game in town.”
Jeff Goodman, ESPN basketball insider:
“I would have to look at it closely. It’s a real good job, though — especially now because you don’t have to follow Calipari. Great support, resources, they pay, arguably best job in (the American Athletic Conference), players in area.
“However, just because it’s a top-20ish job does not mean you are gonna get a great coach. So many factors come into play.”
Jon Rothstein, CBS Sports college basketball insider:
“Top 15-20 is fair. The best thing the next coach will have going is he won’t be the guy that followed John Calipari.”