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Sunday, April 05, 2009

Baylor's Drew withdraws as Tigers' coach candidate

Baylor's Drew withdraws as Tigers' coach candidate

By Dan Wolken (Contact), Memphis Commercial Appeal
Saturday, April 4, 2009

The University of Memphis has gone five days without a basketball coach, but its search for a replacement didn’t seem to be much closer to conclusion than it was Tuesday when John Calipari left for Kentucky.

Indeed, by Saturday night, the process appeared to be completely off the rails as the school’s No. 1 target — Baylor coach Scott Drew — pulled his name out of consideration. According to sources close to the negotiations, however, it wasn’t because Drew didn’t want the job. Rather, it was because he grew frustrated as the day went on with a chaotic process that left him unsure whether he was really Memphis’ top choice.

After an initial phone conversation with athletic director R.C. Johnson on Friday night, Drew had been in contact with FedEx vice president Alan Graf throughout the day, according to a source. Though rough terms of a contract were discussed, none was officially offered. Graf had indicated to Drew, the source said, that he was the No. 1 choice and that Memphis was ready to close in on a deal.

As the day went on, Drew and his staff were besieged with phone calls from recruits and players wondering whether he was headed to Memphis. But without any indication of whether Johnson was ready to pull the trigger — “hemming and hawing,” one source described — Drew finally ended his involvement with Memphis and released a statement that he was staying at Baylor.
The search could now move toward 60-year old Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton. In a 20-year career as a college head coach, including stops at Oklahoma State and Miami, Hamilton’s teams have advanced to the NCAA Tournament just four times. Reggie Theus, the former New Mexico State and Sacramento Kings’ coach, also has been mentioned prominently.

That’s perhaps the best Memphis can do now after getting rejected to some degree by Missouri’s Mike Anderson, USC’s Tim Floyd, Tennessee’s Bruce Pearl and now Drew.

Memphis has attempted — thus far, unsuccessfully — to shroud its coaching search in secrecy in hopes of avoiding the embarrassment of a public rejection. That’s hard to do in this day and age, however, especially when a search firm has not been hired to run the search. Johnson was emphatic Wednesday that Memphis would not be employing a search firm to help hire its next coach.

Memphis began this process with hopes of making a “Wow” hire — those were Graf’s words on Wednesday — but now may be forced to move into the second tier before the search drags on into a second week.

If Memphis chose to pursue more attainable candidates, it could look toward Ole Miss’ Andy Kennedy or UMass’ Derek Kellogg, both of whom would likely provide a quick fix in the recruitment of local high school players.

It also might be worthwhile to look at first-year Memphis assistant Josh Pastner, who could end up being a hot name for the Arizona job if more coaches turn it down. Pastner, one of the elite recruiting assistants in the country, worked at Arizona for seven years under Lute Olson.

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