Covering University of Colorado sports, mostly basketball, since 2010

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Coaching Search Breakdown

Apparently, we're announcing our search committee today.  At least the process is visibly moving along.  Some people have complained about the pace; that, while they never expected to have a new coach in place right away, they are frustrated with the lack of information.  With games still to be played, you can't have the AD publicly running through candidates; that would cheapen the rest of the season.  The players have plenty left to play for, and they showed last week they still cared enough to try and make a bowl; Bohn is doing the right thing by executing a measured and silent (so far) search.  I expect the search to heat up, both in reality and what the press reports, after the Nebraska game is over.

In the meantime, here is my view of the coaching candidates.  These are the names I hear the most, and what I think of them.  In the end, while I would accept a few candidates, there is only one guy I think should be the next coach of the Colorado Buffaloes.  Who?  Well, you'll just have to jump through to find out

Never in a million years, and not even worth a phone call -

Les Miles - LSU Head Coach - He'd be a spectacular get, with his Mac connection and CU roots, but he's not leaving LSU, and even if he were to look elsewhere, we couldn't afford him.

Jon Gruden - Retired NFL Coach - Nope, just no.  Money's an issue, and he's been out of college coaching longer than Mac.  He's going to the Cowboys.

Bill Cowher - Retired NFL Coach - HAHAHAHAHA... no.  Carolina?

Mike Leach - Fired Texas Tech Coach - I'd love the pirate, but apparently he has "too much baggage" for us to consider.

They won't do it, but they would be a good enough fit to still pursue to see $2mil lightning strikes -

Gus Malzhan - Auburn OC - He's a sexy name to throw out, but I think, in the end, we couldn't match his price.  Even if we did, he'd leave within 3 years if successful.  He's a brilliant offensive mind, and would be interesting to watch, however...

Kevin Sumlin - Houston Head Coach - Some football powerhouse is going to back up a Brinks truck for this guy.  $2mil probably won't do it.

Pat Fitzgerald - Northwestern Head Coach - My personal favorite young coaching name; he has a light CU tie (coached under Barnett at CU in '99), but he's entrenched at NW.  What some may not realize is that he got the job there because the former coach died, and the university turned to it's favorite son to save it from a return to football purgatory.  That's a powerful emotional tie, and he ain't leaving; certainly not for a university who shit-canned his former mentor (Barnett).

Brady Hoke - San Diego St Head Coach - Bohn might have an in with this guy, but his $1.5 mil buyout from SDSU will make him an impossible get.

Troy Calhoun - Air Force Head Coach - I'm thinking he's not all that interested.  A Zoomie from back in his college days, I think it would take a program with a stronger foundation to lure him from his alma mater.  However, I've heard he's on Bohn's short list, and Mike has a good track record of stealing coaching talent from the Academy...

They'd do it, but they're not the answer -

Mike Bellotti - Retired Oregon Legend - His comments don't make it sound like he's overjoyed about the thought of coaching CU football.  He strikes me as just wanting to coach somewhere, not necessarily CU, and I want the next CU coach to want to coach here.  Let him go somewhere else.

Jim McElwain - Alabama OC - I get the gut feeling that he is just piggybacking on the overall program's success.  He's not worth the risk that he's another Hawk-esque flash in the pan.

Dave Logan - Mullen High School Head Coach - 40-something natives love to bring him up.  Listen, just because you can rule the high school world of an average football state doesn't mean you can jump up to the collegiate ranks. (Additionally, is locking down the borders in recruiting really going to be that beneficial?) It's common knowledge that the leap from college to the NFL can be rough on coaches; it's even worse for high school guys.  Gus Malzahn made the jump from high school to college by paying his dues as a coordinator. I know Logan doesn't want that, but that's the only way I'd accept him on the east sideline of Folsom.  If Coach Logan really wants the CU job he needs to swallow his pride (and the hole in his wallet) and become a coordinator; then we can talk again in 5 or so years.  If not, then he needs to stick with endorsing plumbers.

John Embree - Redskins Tight Ends Coach - Never been impressed with his resume.  Maybe for a coordinator spot, but he just doesn't do anything for me as head coach.  Would be cheap-ish, and is definitely a Buff....

Brian Cabral - CU LB Coach - A sentimental pick, and I think he deserves a promotion.  He's essentially come with the keys to Dal Ward for the past 20 years, and knows through osmosis what it takes to win here.  He needs to get a serious look at D-coordinator, but I'm a little wary about him in the big chair.  I love the guy; he is the poster-boy for being a Buff, and he is an asset to the program. His players run through walls for him.  However, I'm not sold he's the guy to get us where we want to be.  Maybe the final 2 games will change my mind, but, for now, I'm looking elsewhere.  He does look great in a lava lava, however....

Legend who's thrown a monkey wrench into the process - 

Coach Mac - Retired CU Legend - When I first started considering coaches I thought Mac would be the front runner.  Cheap-ish, program Godfather, beloved by donor base, openly wants the job; lots of good things. He's got a 50 point plan, for Christ's Sake!  However, Mac brings with him the burden of hiring a staff to basically run the team.  (along with the baggage of 16 years hippie exile for being extremely religious) Mac would essentially be a "motivator-in-chief;" I want a head coach to be the guy. Couldn't he be just as involved in the program as an Assistant AD?  In addition there would be a fair assumption by both parents and their prospective students that this would be a temporary thing.  If parents and kids don't want to go somewhere were a coach might be fired in a year or two, why would they go somewhere where the coach might retire in a year or two?  His name isn't enough to cover that gap; he's not JoePa or Bobby Bowden.  He's not the answer.

It's hard because he's openly campaigned for the job,and it becomes a "thing" if we turn him down and look "outside the family."   Mac's head-fake toward coaching again has backed us into a corner, and the only acceptable answer is to gravitate towards "CU" Guys.  And that means there's only option:

The Guy - 

Eric Bienemy - Vikings RB and Assistant Head Offensive Coach - He's got it all: the CU pedigree, the recruiting background, Pac-12 footprint experience from his UCLA days, coaching experience at all levels, NFL gravitas from playing and coaching in the league, the Mac-father's blessing, the donor backing, and, most of all, a cheap-ish price.  Bienemy wouldn't come in here looking for an exit after 2-5 years, he'd be here for the long haul.  Some may question his problems with the community during his playing days, but that was in the past.  He's a proven recruiter, and he can lead the program with the passion of a "True Buff."

It even lines up; with the impending implosion of the Vikings staff, he'll soon be available.  Sure, we'll look elsewhere, and maybe Les Miles will shock the world and come here for a massive pay-cut, but, in all reality, Coach Bienemy is the only option that makes sense.  With the Vikings missing the playoffs for sure after this season, he can be installed no later than Jan 3rd (the day after their season ends).  While a little on the late side, I'm sure he'd hit the ground running; if Brad Childress gets fired before the season ends, we might even be able to get him sooner.

Message to Mike Bohn: you gotta make this happen!


aaron.jordan said...

I am curious what Cabral would do to change your mind about him being the guy? Would winning against K-State, and loosing competitively to Nebraska be enough?

RumblinBuff said...

I want to repeat, I love Cabral. At the end of the day, if Mike announced his hiring tomorrow I'd essentially be fine with it.


It's not just wins and losses (although it is important), it's also demeanor and passion of the team as a whole. One of my biggest problems with the program under Hawk is that the team often played flat, almost lifeless at times. I loved the energy and passion the team (especially the defense) showed Saturday. Win or lose that needs to continue, no matter who the next coach is.

I noted in Tuesday's post that the 4 wins this year came in circumstances of great pre-fabricated emotion. Was Saturday just another isolated incident based on the circumstances of the moment, or is it a sign that Coach Cabral's inspiration and passion have truly filtered down to the guys? I need more time to know. I need to see that same motivated team I saw against ISU again, win or lose.

We could lose both games and still show that passion and energy enough for me to warm to the idea of head coach Brian Cabral. We could also win both games and have me stay skeptical.

As it is, I think I'd be happy with Cabral stepping up to the permanent gig; I just want more evidence to be sure. To be sure there will always be doubts, since he's never run a program at any level. Can he recruit? How will he approach academic issues? What offensive style will he try to install through his OC? Can he motivate donors the way a Bienemy or Mac would? I just wish he had gotten that Northern Colorado job a few years back; that would've given us a great idea what we're looking at.

Regardless, Bienemy is still my guy.

Rico said...

I love Bienemy. I really do - and I would totally support him as head coach. However, I believe Malzahn is the guy we're looking for. He's been a program hopper for a while (Tulsa and Arkansas), but hopefully we could keep him around for a bit as he gets credentials for coordinator gigs in the NFL.

I've been debating with myself whether or not it's better to have a sort of 'dynasty' type coach (Bowden, JoePa) or a 'bottle rocket' coach (Saban, Meyer) who show up with a bang and leave suddenly.

I would rather have a 'bottle rocket' coach where we could actually win and be glorious for a little while - get the program up to shape and able to sustain success - then get a long term solution like Bienemy.

Again, Bienemy would be great, but I'm cool with a bottle rocket.

RumblinBuff said...

That's an interesting perspective and debate topic, Rico. It's akin to the debate over weather or not to recruit basketball players who will leave after only 1 year. Are the short term gains worth the potential long-term problems?

On the surface I would agree with you; that a short term "win now" approach is the best. However, when you consider that we're not Alabama or Florida, with their deep pockets and strong talent foundations, I think it would be hard to not only lure that type of candidate (money), but to utilize them properly as well.

Iowa State tried that route a few years back with Gene Chizik. He came, went 1-11 and left after one season. While we're not Iowa State (we're better, damnit!) I fear something like that, where the potential gains may get undercut by the realities of the situation.

The reason I want someone who's going to be around for the long haul is that I think there are systemic issues with the program (current talent levels, donor base, facilities, etc) that will continue to stunt program growth into the future without a steady guiding hand. Having the revolving door at head coach, even a revolving door of successful ones, would only exacerbate some of those problems in 5-10 years.

Hey, coaches are hired to be fired, and there's no guarantee that a "long-term" candidate like Bienemy would end up staying any longer than a "short-term" hire like Malzahn, so the argument may be mute. Strike while the irons hot and all...

Either way, we need to end up winning sooner rather than later.

BTW, you're in SD. What's the hubub about Brady Hoke?

Rico said...

They're pretty sure that Hoke is the guy here in SD. Everyone is excited that they're going bowling for the first time in over 10 years. Not to mention that they gave TCU a scare last week.

College football coverage in the U-T (as they call the local rag here) is pretty thin, but the things they do mention are how they're pretty sure Hoke is going to bolt for a bigger program come new years.

RumblinBuff said...

quickly on malzahn... does the Cam Newton thing taint him a bit? we're still crazy paranoid about scandal (We reported, and took penalties for, under charging at the training table a few years back)

aaron.jordan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
aaron.jordan said...

Kind of on the table with this new coach talk, Barnett mentioned in an interview a while back that the expectations at CU are beyond the funding. First, do you agree with this statement? And Second, do you think CU has the fan base, the alumni and the donors to ever compete (in terms of financial/otherwise support for the program) with some of the other powerhouses. I don't think we could ever get the support say Nebraska or Texas has (there is just too much to do in this state besides football), but could we at least become like an Oklahoma State or UCLA in terms of support (albeit from more than 1 person like Oky State)?

RumblinBuff said...

1st - Yes, to a point. There are some serious systemic issues, and I do think people tend to look past them when they consider the program. We sometimes perceive ourselves to be a top-10 or 15 all-time program, when in reality we’re probably top-20 or 25. But I don’t think our ceiling is set in stone, and neither does the AD. We're Gary's arguments valid? Sure, but I think his motives can be questioned (I think he's still steamed about how his firing went down) and I think his arguments are a little dated. He would’ve killed to have the financial and departmental support that Hawk got. Night and day compared to the athletic department’s situation under Dick Tharp.
2nd – Sure we have enough. If Colorado has proven anything, it’s that this state will support you if you win. We just have to get past some initial difficulties to get this thing running. The base is there, we just need to spark it to life.
When I talk difficulties and systemic issues this is that I’m talking about: The university as a whole doesn't get enough state-wide funding or political support (TABOR and the whole "Boulder-Liberal" crap hurts us), many of our facilities are on the small/old side for a big time program, state laws prohibit handing out more than 6 multi-year athletics contracts, we don't have a phys ed degree so JuCo transfers can be difficult to push through, and we can sometimes lag behind in donations.
These are neither insurmountable nor are we just letting them fester, which I think was Gary’s insinuation. We've made a huge effort over the past year getting laws passed through the CU legislature to relax funding restrictions and boost overall university spending (which helps athletics). We've made some great leaps over the past 5 years (cough, Mike Bohn, cough) to improve the facilities for our non-football sports (renovations to soccer complex and track complex, MASSIVE upgrades to volleyball and basketball facilities, and even the addition of the football practice bubble.), and I've heard that effort will now shift to improving more football specific facilities. Mike Bohn announced this year that they're going to reserve 3 of the 6 total multi-year contracts for football. While they haven't been able to get a phys ed classes back into the curriculum, I've heard musings from the department about taking that issue on as well. Speaking to funding, we’ve got a guy on the search committee (Solich) who’s dedicated to a $50 million donor plan. That’s something only a few programs can match. The move to the Pac-10/12 was made specifically to boost revenue both from television and donations.
You don’t just snap your finger and change years of neglect. The Athletic Department is trying, and trying damn hard to overcome the systemic issues and spark the fan base. (BTW, this is why I still support Mike Bohn.) We’ll get there eventually…