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Maryland Terrapins Coach Search Part Two: Top Candidates

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: DEC 12 Hall of Fame Invitational - Florida v Maryland Photo by John Jones/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

A short while back, I did a part one looking at job appeal for the Maryland Terrapins opening of head coach of the men’s basketball program. UMD was the first Power Six program in the country to be looking for a head coach in the 2021-22 cycle after former head coach Mark Turgeon and Maryland mutually agreed to part ways on Dec. 3.

The overwhelming consensus of voters in the poll offered at the bottom of part one was that Maryland is a top-25 coaching opening, with the second largest category being a fringe top-25, clear top-30 job opening. That was roughly what my own conclusion based on the job appeal factors I had laid out working for and against Maryland. With that in mind, I now offer a suggested list of candidates based on a few categories from “must call” to “safety offer” ranges.

Must Call

This category is mostly a who’s who in the coaching market right now without regard to whether a candidate is truly a viable get for the Terps. In fact, it is incredibly unlikely any of these even have their agent bother returning a call. However, Maryland would be smart to make an effort if nothing else than at least to appease donors.

  • Nate Oats: Oats is one of the hottest names on the market. He is having a great ride in Tuscaloosa leading the Crimson Tide right now. However, he is a midwest guy born and bred who was hired away from Buffalo after starting his career in Wisconsin and Michigan prior to the MAC job. While he is doing great at Alabama, if Maryland could somehow find a way to cut a check for his $10 million buyout, would the temptation of a basketball first school in a fertile recruiting round be enough to get him to move?
  • Eric Musselman: Yet another successful SEC head coach who is both too expensive in his buyout and unlikely to leave if offered given his popularity at his current job.
  • Leonard Hamilton: Hamilton has had good runs at Oklahoma State and Miami, but he has become an established figure in Tallahassee. Could a big, fat check suddenly make him decide to move out of one swampy capitol city in the Florida panhandle to America’s swampy capitol city (or rather an adjacent suburb of it)?

Quality Hires

This category is coaches that Maryland can definitely both target and likely get if the athletic department and search committee decide it is a good fit.

  • Mark Pope: Pope is doing great things at BYU in a short period of time, going 58-17 since assuming the helm in 2019. The Cougars move soon to the Big XII, but Maryland is an immediate upgrade compared to BYU in terms of recruiting and finances right now.
  • Andy Enfield: The current head coach of USC, Enfield is already a popular name nationally in connection to the Terps head coach job. The Trojans quickly leaked the news he signed a contract extension with increased buyout last year shortly after Turgeon departed. Enfield had a great run at Florida Gulf Coast and in rebuilding a messy USC program while getting little interest from the fanbase even when ranked. The sunny metro Los Angeles region may be appealing, but Enfield is also from nearby Pennsylvania and played college basketball at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore.
  • Mike Brey: While Brey has not had the greatest run of late at Notre Dame, the Bethesda, Maryland native has deep roots in the DMV region and coached at a prep school in the region at one time. With a freedom from academic and social life constrains brought on by Notre Dame combined with the local recruiting talent, Brey may prove to have more steady and elevated success at Maryland than his previous job and that of Mark Turgeon at Maryland.

Out of the Box Alternatives

These are coaches that, while unlikely to be offered or interested if approached, aren’t absolute no’s that could make a splash in terms of either success or quick but thrilling burnouts depending on which angle you are going for. Some may have a short shelf life due to health or age, others may end their tenure because of NCAA investigations but with a thrilling run of success before the curtain falls.

  • John Beilein: No idea is too crazy. Beilein was one of the top coaches at Michigan during his tenure there and he could last at least a few more years as head of a program like Maryland bringing similar success and setting the school up for better positioning at his replacement in five or so years.
  • Thad Matta: Similar to a hire like Beilein, Matta had a great run at Ohio State before being forced out for health reasons. Could he figure out another run of success with the talent in the DMV region if he was offered and accepted?
  • Richard Pitino: Pitino would bring almost instant success with the recruiting rich DMV region, but it would be an incredibly controversial hire and one at great risk of future sanctions.
  • Will Wade: Similar to Pitino, Will Wade would likely bring a splash in recruiting and wins before potential bad habits at his current job at LSU caught up with him in a new role at Maryland.
  • Bruce Pearl: Yet again another example of a coach who has had great success, but with constant NCAA investigations and probation following him.
  • Dwane Casey: This one is definitely an out of the box suggestion. Casey had a great run of success with the Toronto Raptors from 2011-2018, but is hitting hard times with the Pistons right now with his name popular on the next fired betting odds last month. He hasn’t coached in college since 1989 as an assistant at Kentucky, but could his NBA resume appeal to recruits at Maryland?
  • Dane Fife: Fife left Michigan State this past offseason where he had been an assistant under Tom Izzo for the past decade to become an assistant at his alma mater Indiana. He is one of the names tossed out as a potential replacement someday for hall of famer Tom Izzo. The resources and recruiting Maryland offer could be more than enticing for his start as a head coach of his own program, but is it in either’s best interest that he start at a Power Six level this high up?

Safety Offers

This is the list of coaches that would likely make the jump to College Park if offered, but have no clear indication they would achieve the success fans demand or excite the fanbase at their hire.

  • Ed Cooley: The current head coach at Providence, Cooley has a .603 career win percentage at the helm and a decent floor. However, his ceiling doesn’t appear to most to be any higher than departed Mark Turgeon.
  • Kevin Willard: Much the same as Cooley, the head coach of Seton Hall is much the same though his win percentage is lower at .586.
  • Tim Miles: The former Nebraska head coach was successful at Colorado State and is doing well at San Jose State. His tenure in Lincoln even saw the team make the NCAA tournament for the first time in 16 years. Would a program that isn’t a proverbial doormat of the NCAA in hoops offer him the ability to draw in talent and succeed at the Power Six level? Could he at least go better than .500?
  • Chris Collins: Another long time Big Ten head coach, Collins has managed to find what can best be called some of Northwestern’s best seasons in program history despite the handicap of the program’s recruiting limits and historical struggles. Would he jump to Maryland if offered for the chance at better resources and recruits and would success follow suit?
  • Stan Heath: Another coaching hire that would likely be less than exciting for the fan base, Heath had a respectable run at Arkansas that ended with two straight NCAA tournament bids. If the Terrapins are running short on options, there are far worse calls to make than the Eastern Michigan head coach.
  • Drew Valentine: The youngest head coach in Division I men’s basketball would be quite the risk. However, Valentine has an impressive resume of teachers to date and could be an exciting dark horse candidate to pursue that might truly surprise if the fan base can accept some growing pains in the process.

There you have it for some of the targets and some of the wild card “why not” options Maryland could pursue, and even a few “what if” crazy scenarios to ponder for fun.

Who do you think Maryland should target off that list, or who do you think I should have included?