The Louisville basketball job is open, and it is a question of considerable uncertainty just how desirable a job that is at this particular moment in history. The NCAA seems likely to be on the verge of smacking Louisville basketball about as hard as it’s ever smacked anything, and it’s certain there are coaches who would have loved to have the Louisville job when they woke up Tuesday morning who now would not even consider it.
That all said, Louisville has been a strong program for decades, and in recent memory has been a powerhouse. A 2013 championship banner hangs in the rafters (for now).
The next Louisville coach will have enjoyed a lot of negotiating leverage, and will enjoy a longer-than-normal opportunity to turn things around. It could still be a good job for a young coach looking to make a lot of money, an old coach looking to give it one last try, a coach who feels his own seat getting warm, or a coach who sees it as a rare opportunity to jump two steps up in one stride.
So here are five coaches who would be a good fit for Louisville, or could at least use Louisville as leverage for a raise.
Scott Drew, Baylor
People are very snarky about Scott Drew and the overall cleanliness of his program and his Osteenian veneer. But in 14 years at Baylor, the worst trouble he’s gotten into with the NCAA concerned making too many phone calls to recruits. He also is frequently the subject of mockery on Twitter for his management of games, but you look at the books and the guy wins and wins and wins.
Besides, he has experience pulling a program out of utter despair, having taken over for Dave Bliss after one of the sorriest episodes ever to unfold in college sports.
He is perfectly prepared to ride the Ultralight Beam from Waco to Louisville to rescue another lowly program.
Gregg Marshall, Wichita State
I don’t envy Wichita State fans, who have to deal with this every time a halfway decent job comes open, but, like, is Gregg Marshall just going to stay at Wichita State forever, or …
All in all, it’s not a bad plan. He has proven it is possible to compete for national championships there, and have year-over-year success with strong continuity and veteran guard play. Louisville would give Marshall access to more coveted high school players, and it could be tempting to get to start from zero at a marquee program.
Then again, Gregg Marshall makes $3 million a year and plays in the NCAA Tournament every March. He’s not exactly on his heels.
Tom Crean, Unemployed
Look, things didn’t work out for Tom Crean at Indiana, but pull back and look at his career from above. He’s won two Big Ten championships, he’s been to the Final Four, he’s 11-8 in the NCAA Tournament, and he’s been a head coach since 1999.
He’s a veteran with some name recognition, and no job.
Billy Donovan, Oklahoma City Thunder
Billy Donovan is an NBA coach, and you know how that is. If things don’t go great for the Oklahoma City Thunder this year, odds are good he’ll be available. This idea depends upon Louisville hiring someone on an interim basis for the 2017-18 season, and making the real hire next year. And it depends on Russell Westbrook and Carmelo Anthony having issues, which seems safely within the realm of possibility.
Donovan played and worked for Rick Pitino, so you can see that working for or against him on this. But his track record as a coach is unassailable. Four Final Fours, two national championships, six SEC championships, a .622 winning percentage in the NBA. This would be a best-case scenario for Louisville.
Bryce Drew, Vanderbilt
OK, so you’re not into Scott Drew. Well, let me introduce you to a newer Drew model, the Bryce Drew.
The Bryce Drew is updated to include a better reputation, and a built-in One Shining Moment.
This would be great for a number of reasons. Bryce would be taking on a challenge really similar to the one Scott took on at Baylor in 2003, which would make a good story, and in times like these it’s important to keep in mind the needs of sportswriters.
But also, Bryce Drew is at Vanderbilt and … it’s gonna be tough there, man. Vanderbilt has never made the Final Four. On the other hand, Vanderbilt never seems too put out by that. Kevin Stallings made the NCAA Tournament seven times, and stuck around 17 seasons, so there is some job security.
Drew is already competing in a major conference, so there’s no extra draw for Louisville there. But depending on your calculus about the damage that’s about to come from this scandal, Louisville might offer the more realistic path to a national championship-caliber team.
All of these names depend on their continued absence from FBI charging documents. It is fair to say we don’t know how far and wide this investigation will stretch, or even what the FBI’s goal is for all this. So this will probably not be the last such list you see from us.