Butler coaching candidates: With Chris Holtmann off to Ohio State, who will replace him?
Chances are good that one of these guys will be named the next coach of the Bulldogs
College basketball's coaching carousel is spinning in the middle of June, a fun boost in what's usually a slow month. However, Butler athletic director Barry Collier probably is not having fun after his coach, Chris Holtmann, agreed Friday to leave Butler and become the Ohio State coach (eight-year, $24 million deal), so now the Bulldogs need a replacement. And fast.
The July recruiting period is approaching, and Collier needs to move quickly to keep Butler's 2018 recruiting targets from wandering. Butler has a roster we think is NCAA Tournament team next season. So there figures to be a lot of interest in this job.and should be a clear-cut
In recent years, Butler has hired from within. Four of the past five Butler coaches (Thad Matta, Todd Lickliter, Brad Stevens, Holtmann) were Bulldogs assistants when they got the gig. Collier was an assistant at Stanford when he landed the Butler coaching job in 1989. It's not inconceivable someone outside the Butler tree gets the nod, but history suggests the next coach will have Bulldog roots.
In alphabetical order, here are nine candidates:
Former Indiana coach Tom Crean: His name will come up frequently for good openings. Crean, 51, is a solid coach, knows the region well and is interested in getting back into coaching. He would clearly have interest in a program with as much stability and culture as Butler. Collier should give him a call.
Michigan State assistant Dane Fife: Collier won't be too concerned with whether a guy is a head coach. So there are a few current assistants who deserve a look. Fife, 37, is played in-state at Indiana, was previously the coach at Fort Wayne and actually walked away from the Duquesne job in March.
South Alabama coach Matthew Graves: He played at Butler in the 1990s. Graves, 42, has a 51-78 record at South Alabama over four seasons. The relative low success rate could hurt, but the Butler situation is different from how a lot of other schools pick a coach.
Milwaukee coach LaVall Jordan: Nearly got the job four years ago when Brandon Miller was hired. Jordan, 38, is a former Butler assistant who just completed his first season as the coach at Milwaukee (11-24 record in 2016-17). Those in the business believe Jordan has a very realistic chance at being a true finalist for the job if he wants it (he should).
Butler assistant Terry Johnson: He is a very good recruiter, has loyalty from Butler players as a current assistant and been with the program since 2007. If you're going off Butler's pattern, Johnson should be considered the favorite. He will get an interview and like some others on this list would have a stamp of approval from his former boss, Brad Stevens.
Nebraska assistant Michael Lewis: Another coach with a viable endorsement from Stevens. Lewis, 39, was a Butler assistant from 2011-16. Collier should do his due diligence with this search, and Lewis is a potential dark horse finalist.
Illinois State coach Dan Muller: If you want to go outside the family and hire a current coach who would certainly take the job, this is your guy. Muller, 41, is 104-65 in four seasons at Illinois State. It's only a matter of time before Muller takes a bigger job. For Muller, who loves Illinois State, this would be an easier call than in previous situations, as the Redbirds will be good next season but losing big pieces from last season.
Boston Celtics assistant Micah Shrewsberry: This is my pick. Shrewsberry, 40, is a former Butler assistant and has been with Stevens in Boston since Stevens left Butler for the Celtics in 2013. He also got close to landing the Massachusetts job. A good fit and I have to believe he'll want the job, and if Collier believes in him and he gets Stevens' support (which should happen), then this is the guy who could be Butler's next coach.
Xavier assistant Travis Steele: The 33-year-old Butler alum has good recruiting ties in the Midwest and is going to be a coach within the next few years. Butler has hired young and talented before. It might be a long shot to consider Steele for the job, but his ties to the program make him a candidate. He's helped, in a big way, turn Xavier into a Big East power the past few years.
For Butler fans thinking of a curious twist, no, I don't believe Thad Matta should be considered a viable candidate. While I do believe he wanted to continue on as Ohio State's coach, now that he's not -- and that he mentioned needing to get fully healthy before coaching again -- he probably needs to do just that.
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