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Saturday, March 27, 2010

UH eyeing pair of big names; Gillispie, Floyd top list for men’s basketball coach

UH eyeing pair of big names; Gillispie, Floyd top list for men’s basketball coach
Copyright 2010 Houston Chronicle
March 27, 2010, 7:21AM

The University of Houston is dialed in on two men’s head basketball coaching candidates with track records of turning have-nots into haves.

Among others.

Multiple people with knowledge of the search said Friday that UH athletic director Mack Rhoades had discussions with Billy Gillispie and Tim Floyd about the possibility of replacing Tom Penders, who resigned Monday after six seasons with the school.

Another person with knowledge of the search process said that while Gillispie and Floyd are “obvious choices,” at this point they’re among a pool of candidates and aren’t necessarily the front-runners.

Connections to Rhoades

Rhoades would not comment on the search Friday night, saying only that UH is “just beginning” the process of finding its next coach. Penders went 121-77 at UH, winning more games during his tenure than the school had in the 12 seasons before his arrival. UH is coming off a 19-16 season in which it reached the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1992.

“It’s a really hard job,” one UH insider said. “Either one will make this a better job.”

Like Floyd, Gillispie has taken three schools to the NCAAs. Like Floyd, Gillispie has a connection with Conference USA rival UTEP. Two people connected with the search said Rhoades, who worked at UTEP from 1999-2006, arranged exploratory meetings with Gillispie and Floyd on Friday.

Another candidate, Sam Houston State’s Bob Marlin, accepted the head coaching job at Louisiana-Lafayette on Friday. After a lengthy meeting with UH officials late Thursday night did not result in a job offer, Marlin withdrew from consideration.

Gillispie, 50, has a 140-85 record (.622) at UTEP, Texas A&M and Kentucky. He presided over a turnaround from 6-24 in 2002-03 to 24-8 the next season at UTEP, landing him the A&M job. A&M had one winning record in the 11 seasons before Gillispie’s arrival at College Station in 2004. Gillispie took his team to the NCAAs in his second season at A&M and the Sweet 16 in his third before taking off to Kentucky.

Though Gillispie went to the NCAAs and was the Southeastern Conference co-Coach of the Year in his first season at Kentucky, he fell out of favor quickly enough to lose his job one year later. He spent this past season out of coaching and entered the John Lucas After Care Program for alcohol rehabilitation.

Floyd, 56, is a New Orleans Hornets assistant who has a 327-181 record (.643) as a college head coach (not factoring in 21 victories the NCAA vacated when it ruled Southern California star guard O.J. Mayo was ineligible in 2007-08). He has taken New Orleans, Iowa State and USC to the NCAAs and reached the Sweet 16 twice.

Amid allegations he paid $1,000 to an associate of Mayo, Floyd resigned from USC last June. Floyd has asserted his innocence and is also considered a front-runner to become the next coach at UTEP, where he served as an assistant under Don Haskins from 1977-86. The El Paso Times quotes sources close to the UTEP program as saying the selection of Floyd is a “done deal.”

Lucas also in the mix

Los Angeles Clippers assistant John Lucas, who has had three NBA head coaching jobs, has publicly expressed his interest in the UH position. Another potential candidate with some backing from UH boosters is Texas Longhorns assistant Rodney Terry, an Angleton native who reportedly has interviewed for the Central Florida head coaching job. Others have taken up the cause of former Milby High star Chris Walker, a Villanova assistant who has worked at New Mexico.

One influential UH insider said Rhoades’ previous relationship with Gillispie could be the X factor in the decision-making process, adding that hiring Gillispie “would make a splash. To fire up people and get them to give money (to the program), you’ve got to get a big name.”

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