With a late-season collapse that has burst Penn State’s NCAA Tournament bubble, the program is almost certain to be naming a new head coach at the conclusion of the campaign.
Interim head coach Jim Ferry has done a nice job keeping the team competitive, but Penn State is 8-13 overall and 5-12 in the Big Ten. The Nittany Lions just haven’t won enough games for Ferry to get the job on a permanent basis.
The informative site HoopDirt.com has come out with a good list of candidates and even has put odds on the coaches’ chances of getting the PSU job.
Now, before I give you the list and the odds, let me tell you this very frustrating news first: John Beilein is not among the candidates listed for the Penn State job.
OK, so maybe that wouldn’t be such a big deal if we’re just looking at the PSU situation. But … Beilein is listed as the frontrunner for the job at Boston College, with 12-1 odds.
Beilein would be a grand slam hire for Penn State, but he’s not even listed among the candidates. And it is highly, highly debatable that BC is a better job than PSU. The last Boston College coach who was recently fired, Jim Christian, made about $1.4 million a year, which isn’t a ton more than the $1 million Penn State was reportedly paying Patrick Chambers.
Boston College hasn’t been to the NCAA Tournament since 2009. Since 2009, Penn State has been to two NCAA Tournaments and won two NIT titles. Sure, BC has a much better basketball tradition than PSU, but that program has really struggled for a long time, with only a lone NIT appearance in 2018 (19-16 record) to boast of recently.
Now, looking at all possible facets of this, Beilein did leave his NBA job as head coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers amidst controversy, including referencing his players as “a bunch of thugs.” Given that Chambers was forced out in part because of using the word “noose” with former player Rasir Bolton, it could be that the Penn State administration may be wary of hiring Beilein, for fear of being criticized over Beilein’s langauge with the Cavs.
Still, Beilein is an incredible coach and I believe would do a great job at Penn State. But if Sandy Barbour and the school either don’t want him or can’t convince him to come to Happy Valley over Boston College, well, that’s just a gigantic missed opportunity. If Beilein wants way too much money that PSU can’t afford him, then so be it. But if Boston College can afford him, this question must be asked: Why can’t Penn State afford him?
Alright, already … on to the Penn State candidates.
There are some good and intriguing names in this list, including a name I’ve heard mentioned by a couple of friends recently — John Thompson III.
The Hoop Dirt coaching candidates:
John Becker: Vermont head coach — 15 to 1 odds
Mark Schmidt: St. Bonaventure head coach — 18 to 1
Dennis Gates: Cleveland State head coach — 20 to 1
John Thompson III: Former Georgetown head coach — 20 to 1
Keith Dambrot: Duquesne head coach — 22 to 1
James Jones: Yale head coach — 25 to 1
Steve Donahue: Penn head coach — 26 to 1
Phil Martelli: Michigan assistant, former longtime St. Joe’s head coach — 28 to 1
Mike Rhoades: VCU head coach — 30 to 1
Ryan Odom: UMBC head coach — 30 to 1
Chris Mooney: Richmond head coach — 32 to 1
Andy Toole: Robert Morris head coach — 38 to 1
Jim Ferry: PSU interim head coach — 42 to 1
Joe Crispin: Former PSU player, Rowan (Division III) head coach — 100 to 1
That’s a pretty good list, folks. I can absolutely see Penn State picking one of the guys from this list as the next head coach.
The No. 1 guy on the list, John Becker, may not be well known by PSU basketball fans, but he is an excellent coach. He’s 52 years old, has gone 229-95 in 10 seasons at Vermont in the America East Conference and has been to four NCAA Tournaments (likely to be five this season). He makes less than $400,000 a year, so he would love to get a bump to the Big Ten and make $1 million.
Schmidt is an alum of Boston College and also is on the list of potential candidates there. He was a PSU assistant from 1991-93 and has done an excellent job at St. Bonaventure since 2007.
As for John Thompson III, he would be the biggest and most successful name on the PSU list, since Beilein apparently isn’t a candidate. JT3 took Georgetown to the Final Four in 2007 but was fired in 2017 after going 14-18. He made more than $3 million a year at G’town, so coming to PSU would be a big drop from what he was used to, although it would get him back into coaching.