ESPN's Andy Katz has a lot to say on Utah's coaching search today and begins by essentially verifying what I reported here yesterday - that Randy Bennett interviewed for the job but will not be Utah's next head coach.
Saint Mary's coach Randy Bennett won't go to Utah after interviewing for the position. Whether that was his call is unknown.
Bennett was always going to be a tough one to land because he's very content coaching at St. Mary's. This isn't the first Pac-12 team to come at him and I'm sure it won't be the last. He's going to jump for exactly the right situation and maybe he feels Utah, in its current state, is not as attractive for him.
It's no biggie. Bennett was not the only candidate on Hill's list.
Katz also discussed Dave Rose, essentially saying he would not take the job. I don't think that is too much of a surprise to anyone because Rose has a good thing going and it would be tough for him to abandon BYU for Utah. You cannot downplay how demanding personally that could be on him to uproot his family and move them to the Cougars' hated rival. It rarely happens in sports for a reason, especially when you're dealing with two programs only 40-miles apart.
Rose would become Enemy #1 to half the state's population overnight. I'm not sure that fits his personality.
If Rose is going to leave BYU, I suspect it will be for a gig out of state.
Beyond Randy Bennett and the talk about Dave Rose, Katz also mentioned the following about Utah:
It's amazing how the Utah job has become such an afterthought in the coaching carousel. It should make Utes fans appreciate everything Rick Majerus did during his tenure as head coach. The Utes were a few possessions from winning the national championship in 1998, but Utah basketball pales in comparison to the level BYU is at right now. Utah's move from the MWC to the Pac-12 sounds much grander than BYU's move to the WCC next season, but it may not be as significant.
It's very blunt. But he's absolutely right. The Utah basketball program is not at the level we expect and that could scare off a lot of potential coaches. We need to accept that. Hopefully it won't hold us back in this search and I don't think it will, but it's not nearly the home run it once was. The good news is that with the right coach, we can begin the process of rebuilding and repositioning ourselves as one of the better college basketball teams in the west.
Katz ended his Utah discussion with this cautionary statement for Hill:
Utah athletic director Chris Hill has done an outstanding job of hiring football coaches, but he'd better get this college basketball hire right; the program is in dire need of an infusion of energy.
We gotta be honest here. Hill has done some great things at Utah and his legacy won't be ruined by another coaching failure. However, it will be severely damaged if he doesn't get this one right. I think he knows that. I think he realizes how important this next hire will be because it could define the next decade for Utah hoops.
It doesn't take much for a program to completely vanish into obscurity. Even one that has a history like Utah. Look at Houston.
The Houston Cougars were a very successful program from the 1950s into the 1980s. In that span, they saw ten Sweet Sixteens, five Elite Eights, five Final Fours and two national championship game berths (consecutive, 1983 and 1984).
They were an extremely good basketball program for nearly 30 years under Guy Lewis. Pat Foster, his replacement, kept things humming for a few years and when he left for Nevada, the entire program fell off the map. A series of bad hires, which included bringing in the inexperienced Clyde Drexler to coach, set the program back decades - if not longer.
The Cougars have made the NCAA Tournament only once since the Lewis-Foster era ended.
This was a program that played in the '67, '68, '82, '83 and '84 Final Fours and for the championship twice 27 and 28 years ago and they have not come close to that type of success again.
It can happen here.
I'm not saying it will happen here. But I think Houston is an example of how a storied program can quickly diminish into nothing more than an afterthought on the college level.
If Hill misses again and we have a third failed coach in three tries, people are going to wonder if it's more an institutional problem than a coaching problem.
So he needs for this one to pan out. This is it. Cliched as it may sound, we're in the bottom of the ninth of game seven of the World Series here and we need a couple runs to win this thing. Striking out means going home. We can't go home.
Now let's hope he can hit that home run.