When fans think of the best coaching destinations in college basketball, few may name Texas as one of the top names.
True, the Longhorns are not Kentucky, Duke, North Carolina, Kansas, Indiana or UCLA. This is a school and a state where football rules. Basketball is a distant No. 2.
Yet that is part of the reason why Texas is so attractive. The Longhorns have all the resources of a blue blood program in terms of finances and facilities, plus a fertile recruiting base. Because of football, though, the Texas basketball job also brings less pressure.
Perhaps that’s an odd thing to say about a program that just let go of a coach who had made 16 of 17 NCAA Tournaments and a Final Four, but for several seasons Rick Barnes did not bring top-10 results to a top-10 job.
The next coach will be asked to do that, and there’s no reason why it can’t be done in Austin.
Gregg Marshall, Wichita State
Alabama is prepared to offer more than $3 million a year to Marshall, according to Gary Parrish of CBSSports.com, but Texas may end up being the more desirable spot. Marshall would be a home-run hire for either school. Marshall has turned Wichita State into one of the nation's premier programs, leading the Shockers to 30 wins in each of the last three seasons, including a Final Four in 2013 and a 35-1 season in 2013-14. Marshall also led Winthrop to seven NCAA Tournaments in nine seasons. He can be abrasive, but he's a proven winner who coaches with an edge. And after this year’s NCAA Tournament, he’s proven he can beat Kansas. That's no small factor for a contender for the Texas job.
Shaka Smart, VCU
Smart has turned down big-time jobs before, but Texas might be the powerhouse job to pull him away from a good situation at VCU. Smart became one of the hottest names in coaching when he took the Rams to the Final Four in 2011 with his havoc defense. The Rams are 2-4 in the Tournament since then, and they haven’t won a conference regular season title under Smart.
The Realistic Contenders
Archie Miller, Dayton
He’s one of the hottest coaching candidates out there after taking Dayton to the Elite Eight and NCAA round of 32 in the last two seasons. The 2014-15 season was especially impressive as the shorthanded and undersized Flyers finished 13-5 in the Atlantic 10 and defeated Boise State and Providence in the NCAA Tournament. Miller, however, just agreed a contract extension through 2022 at Dayton.
Buzz Williams, Virginia Tech
Williams might have been the ideal candidate had Texas made the move two seasons ago. Williams then would have been coming off two Sweet16s and an Elite Eight at Marquette. Since then, he missed the NCAA Tournament his final year at Marquette and then left abruptly for Virginia Tech where he went 11-22. Williams is a Texas native who spent time as an assistant at UT Arlington, Texas A&M-Kingsville and Texas A&M.
Larry Krystkowiak, Utah
Krystkowiak led a major rebuilding project at Utah, taking over a shell of a roster and going 6-25 in his first season. The Utes improved their Pac-12 record each season and reached the Sweet 16 in 2015. Krystkowiak also took Montana to the NCAA Tournament twice, leading an upset over fifth-seeded Nevada in 2006. He also has significant experience in the NBA, including more than a year as a head coach of the Milwaukee Bucks.
The Wild Cards
Kevin Ollie, UConn
If Barnes underachieved, then Texas should look at one of the nation’s best overachievers. Ollie led seventh-seeded UConn to the national title in his second season. He’s a UConn alum and the hand-picked successor to Jim Calhoun, so this may be a tough sell. If Texas athletic director Steve Patterson, a former NBA general manager, wants to look at a guy with pro credentials, Ollie would be near the top of the list.
Jamie Dixon, Pittsburgh
The star has dimmed at bit for Dixon during the last four seasons. His program was once one of the biggest overachievers in the Big East, reaching the NCAA Tournament in each of his first seven years. Pitt has missed the Tournament in two of the last four seasons and has won only three Tournament games since the heartbreaking loss to Villanova in the 2009 Elite Eight.
Chris Mack, Xavier
The last three Xavier coaches went to Wake Forest, Ohio State and Arizona with all enjoying success at the major conference level. Mack is just as capable with three Sweet 16 appearances in six seasons.
Jay Wright, Villanova
Two early exits from the NCAA Tournament probably won’t endear Wright to Texas, but Wright has built and rebuilt the Villanova program in 14 seasons.
Matt Painter, Purdue
Painter led Purdue to the NCAA Tournament six times in his first seven years at Purdue, a run that included the 2010 Big Ten title and two Sweet 16 appearances. After back-to-back losing seasons, Purdue was one of the surprises of the season with a 21-13 campaign last year.
Leon Rice, Boise State
The former Gonzaga assistant led Boise State to two NCAA Tournament bids in the last three seasons, notable for being the first at-large bids in school history.
Ben Jacobson, Northern Iowa
Jacobson has been at Northern Iowa since 2001 and as head coach since 2006. The entire run includes six NCAA appearances. Jacobson led the Panthers to the Sweet 16 with an upset of No. 1 seed Kansas in 2010, but this year’s squad (31-4) may have been his best team in Cedar Falls.