The Daily Targum sports correspondent and Rutgers men’s basketball beat writer Garrett Stepien weighs the pros and cons of each candidate reportedly left for athletic director Patrick Hobbs as the coaching search for Eddie Jordan’s replacement continues.
NEW BRUNSWICK — Following the dismissal of Eddie Jordan last Thursday after three years, Rutgers fans had to be feeling about athletic director Patrick Hobbs leading the search for the 19th head men’s basketball coach.
After all, Hobbs did land an impressive hire in Chris Ash. While the 30th head football coach at Rutgers still has much to prove, the track record and energy instilled by the former Ohio State co-defensive coordinator in his first few months on the job have shown why Barchi and Hobbs spoke so highly of their top target from the get-go.
As for the men’s hoops coaching search, well, that’s another story.
The top two targets for the vacancy each removed their names from the running when Rhode Island’s Dan Hurley and George Washington’s Mike Lonergan both reportedly dropped themselves out of the search in the past week.
Talks with the wild card candidate of the bunch, current ESPN college basketball analyst and former Duke star guard Jay Williams, broke off after the former No. 2 overall pick of the NBA Draft withdrew his name from the hat on Thursday morning.
Calling all remaining candidates potentially interested in the gig.
Don’t all raise your hands at once.
From what’s left, Hobbs has to move on and sift through the pool of what’s left for Rutgers to pursue as Jordan’s replacement. And although the list has thinned, there is a short few of reported targets in the mix.
Let’s take a look at those, while adding on a pair of coaches who should still find their way on the end of a phone call from Hobbs in some way, shape or form as Rutgers tries to wrap up its search.
Tim Cluess, Iona head coach
Iona’s head coach for the past six seasons is at the top of Hobbs’s wish list at the moment, according to SNY’s Adam Zagoria. Despite the 13-seed Gaels’ year ending in a first round exit, Tim Cluess led Iona to its second automatic NCAA Tournament bid by surging through the MAAC Tournament and its third overall Big Dance appearance during his tenure with the inclusion of an at-large berth in 2011-12. With two NIT entrances sprinkled in between, there’s no doubt Cluess has been able to create a winning culture up in New Rochelle. But for as much firepower as his Iona teams have had — the Gaels averaged 79.6 points per game in 2015-16 — their downfall has normally come on an inability to slow down opposing offenses. Cluess is a 57-year-old who would have to lead an uphill battle of a recruiting rebuild at Rutgers, which just got done experimenting with Jordan when he returned to the Banks from the NBA at the age of 57. At the end of it all, Cluess is a guy who helped grow a local mid-major immediately and effectively on his way to success at Iona. But is he the guy Rutgers wants directing this rebranding when local coaches, like the legendary St. Anthony High School’s (Jersey City) Bob Hurley Sr., have stressed how bad the Knights need someone young, energetic and optimistic to lead that culture change?
Steve Pikiell, Stony Brook head coach
Wrapping up his 11th season at the helm with Stony Brook, Steve Pikiell led the Seawolves to their first March Madness appearance in his lengthy tenure on Long Island. The 48-year-old fits the build of a younger candidate Rutgers needs, building Stony Brook from the bottom up into a contender among mid-majors in the America East with 22 wins or more in seven of the past eight seasons and compiling a 190-155 mark overall. That all came just years after the program transitioned to Division I in 1999. Before that, he played under Jim Calhoun at UConn for four years before staying on as an assistant in 1991-92, clearly soaking in valuable knowledge of the game on his way to branching out to his next stops along the way. Pikiell isn’t exactly the A1 hire Rutgers initially looked for when it began its coaching search last week — and it didn’t help when the Seawolves dropped in the first round to Kentucky in a 28-point blowout — but his overall body of work still keeps him in the serious mix. And in this current pool of candidates, he could wind up the safest in building a respectable program run the right way.
As much of a wild card as Kevin Boyle initially appears on the surface, it really isn’t that crazy at all when you take a closer look. Boyle, who built St. Patrick’s High School (Elizabeth) into a state powerhouse and national name, proved that his tenure in New Jersey wasn’t a fluke when he went down to Monteverde Academy (Florida). After growing the likes of Kyri Irving and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist up at St. Pat’s, Boyle recruited young athletes from all over the world to the high school academy in the suburbs of Orlando. Look no further than LSU forward and likely No. 1 overall pick of the 2016 NBA Draft Ben Simmons, whom Boyle brought in — to play high school basketball — from Melbourne, Australia. Boyle, who received an endorsement as a college coach from Simmons last week, clearly doesn’t have the experience yet at the next level. But isn’t there something to be said about what this guy has done? And it’s not like he hasn’t expressed interest in taking that next step before. On top of that, coaches of local high school powerhouses that breed the top talent in Rutgers’ home state have publicly and loudly expressed the desire for the Knights to bring Boyle home and rebuild the state’s college hoops brand.
At this point, with who’s left, it’s a dice throw predicting who Hobbs might tap as the next head men’s basketball coach at Rutgers. And it’s unclear who even wants the job. But Boyle has sought making that jump to the next level at Monmouth in 2011, and has expressed previous interest in the gig at Rutgers when he ironically spoke about how the Knights needed to mend the right relationships with New Jersey’s high school coaches and pick from the pile of local talent to build an eventual contender.
Only question is this: Is Hobbs ready to roll the dice?