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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

ESPN: Two famous coaches, two strange turns

March 30, 2010
By Eamonn Brennan

Tim Floyd is going to be UTEP's next coach. It appears Steve Lavin is going to be doing something similar at St. John's. Two coaches, two jobs, two situations that take a decent amount of noodling before they begin to make sense.

It's easier to wrap one's head around Lavin, but it's still surprising. Lavin's name has appeared as a fringe coaching candidate for job after job since the former UCLA coach ceded his gig to Ben Howland in 2003, but the ESPN TV analyst has always cited his cushy broadcast gig and its built-in low expectations -- at least compared to coaching; irritated bloggers have nothing on irritated boosters -- as a reason to forgo a return to the sidelines. But every coach has that itch, and in St. John's, Lavin has found a place where the expectations won't remotely resemble what he faced at UCLA. He'll have a clean slate.

St. John's, meanwhile, can boast landing a "name" coach with a huge national profile. The downside: That coach doesn't have many ties to the New York City or its myriad recruiting connections. No matter. Lavin would be a buzzworthy hire, the kind of coach and personality that will immediately boost a basketball program that has turned into a Big East also-ran in the last 10 years.

Still, Lavin to St. John's. Huh. I did not see that coming.

More surprising is UTEP's decision to take a chance on hiring former USC coach Tim Floyd, who left that program amid allegations he had committed a recruiting violation in giving cash to Rodney Guillory, O.J. Mayo's handler during the star's short college career. The coach denies the allegations; Floyd and USC are still awaiting the NCAA's ruling on the matter. So why would UTEP take a chance on hiring a guy that might have a show-case penalty around his neck as soon as this summer? Andy Katz's story on the matter has the answer:

Multiple sources told that UTEP was assured before hiring Floyd that he would not be individually penalized in connection with the USC allegations. UTEP would not be prohibited from hiring Floyd, even if he were to receive a show-cause penalty from the NCAA -- in which any school hiring him would have to make its case for hiring him to the NCAA. But UTEP would only have to appear before the Committee on Infractions to see if any other sanctions will be placed upon him.

The question is, assured by who? By the NCAA? Is that even legal? And if not the NCAA, then who? Tim Floyd? Let's say the NCAA does find USC guilty of the charges it's currently considering. How would Tim Floyd -- who, again, allegedly handed O.J. Mayo's handler $1,000 in cash -- not be individually penalized in connection with the situation? How does that work? So Floyd would be able to skate away scot-free, take another job at another school, and coach again like nothing happened? What?

And before those of you starting bringing up the John Calipari-Memphis-Kentucky thing, remember that Calipari was never individually named or implicated in any of the Derrick Rose SAT stuff from last offseason. To the NCAA's lights, Calipari had nothing to do with that, and his move to Kentucky was treated accordingly. Floyd's situation seems far more specific.

In any case, we have time to see how all of this shakes out. Which is good, because I'd be lying if I said I understood either hiring completely, Floyd especially. In the meantime, those of us that will miss Lavin's unique brand of good-natured college hoops analysis can begin our funereal mourning. That era, it seems, is nearly over.

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