I found JazzyUte's "Giac'd Up" post interesting and it got me thinking about the hiring of Giacoletti as Utah's basketball coach almost 4 years ago. I want to do a bit of speculating on the hiring. I want to clarify again that most of this post is pure speculation. I have absolutely no inside information into the Utah basketball program. I am simply throwing some ideas down that I think might have some truth but I have absolutely nothing to back it up.
Majerus left Utah mid-way through is final year due to health reasons. I heard rumors at the time that Utah did not plan to renew Majerus' contract at the end of the year and that he left the program because he did not want to go through the process of being let go by the university. I heard that Utah was not willing to put up with Majerus' bad image in the local media, harshness with players, etc. any longer and wanted to move in a different direction. Even though the team was winning year after year, players were transferring regularly from the program and Majerus' image in the community was getting worse every day.
It seems like this may have very well been the case. Majerus and the university did not seem to part on good terms. The university has not said much of anything about Majerus since he left. You think he would have been honored some how if he left on good terms. He was only the greatest basketball coach Utah has seen and led them to a Final Four in 1998; something that put them on the national map for years to come.
Anyway, I'm wondering if Majerus gave Utah a bad image in the college basketball coaching community when he left. If what I just described is true, he probably felt extremely under appreciated for what he did for the program and might have talked to potential replacements about it when he left Utah. I personally have not heard Majerus talk about Utah since he left; even though he is an analyst on ESPN now. However, he did publicly criticize the Milwaukee Bucks for drafting Andrew Bogut with the NBA's #1 draft pick in 2005. He recruited Bogut to Utah.
I was one of those that was perplexed by the hiring of Giacoletti when it occurred and I was immediately concerned as a long time Ute fan. I was very much a disciple of Rick Majerus and was sad to see him go. Nonetheless, I trusted Chris Hill at the time based on his track record.
Before the hiring of Giacoletti, there was a lot of speculation in the media about who the new coach would be. The media thought Utah might be able to bring in an experienced and some what of a big name coach. However, a big name never really appeared as a candidate.
Chris Hill's apparent first choice for the job was Trent Johnson who at the time was at Nevada. Johnson had just led Nevada to the Sweet 16 as a #10 seed. Johnson rejected the Utah job to stay at Nevada. However, only a few weeks later he bolted for Stanford after Mike Montgomery left for the NBA. Chris Hill then turned to Giacoletti from Eastern Washington.
Giacoletti was different than any other hire made by Chris Hill. Hill has made a living by hiring coaches from smaller schools. However, all his previous hires were much more successful than Giacoletti. Hill hired Majerus from Ball State. Majerus had a 43-17 record at Ball State; a winning percentage of 71.6%. Hill also hired Meyer from Bowling Green in football. Meyer was 17-6 at Bowling Green. Giacoletti had a record of 69-50 at Eastern Washington; a winning percentage of only 57.9% and not one 20 win season. The rationale at the time of his hiring for Giacoletti's somewhat par record was because his teams played such tough schedules and he did extremely well in conference play. Nonetheless, he did not have the success of previous Chris Hill hires.
I think it is evident that Giacoletti was not the #1 choice to replace Majerus; he was a backup plan. I just wonder how far down the line he was when the search started for Majerus' replacement. I wonder if the apparent #1 choice (Trent Johnson) was a backup plan. I wonder if Hill pursued others that declined interest; possibly because of Majerus. A less radical idea is that other coaches declined interest because they did not want to replace the legendary Majerus and have the problem that Giacoletti is having now of living up to expectations at Utah.
The sorry thing is it doesn't matter at this point. Giacoletti is here and we're stuck with him. I think by now it is apparent that he was a mistake. Hopefully a month from now we'll be speculating about his replacement rather than talking about why we hired him in the first place.