With news that Cuonzo Martin has left Tennessee for the Cal job, it’s time for Vols fans to look forward to their next head basketball coach. Here is a list of candidates whose names you can expect to be thrown around as a potential replacement. The group includes all current coaches (and no, Bruce Pearl isn’t listed). Considering UT’s recent trend of hiring incumbent coaches and the pressures faced by Martin in his short tenure, it’s unlikely that the school will seek out any top assistants.
Greg Marshall – Wichita State
Marshall absolutely tops the list. His team went undefeated during the 2014 regular season, and made the Final Four the year prior. Consider this: in the past two seasons Wichita State has lost 10 games total; Tennessee lost 13 in just this past year. Greg Marshall is on UT’s short list, and they don’t make a hire before calling his agent.
Archie Miller – Dayton
Miller’s Flyers were darlings of the 2014 tournament. With his team’s Cinderella run, and his wife becoming the belle of the big dance, Miller’s trajectory looks similar to that of Andy Enfield’s in 2013. By working under his brother Sean, Miller understands the pressures of a major program and succeeding a legend (let’s be honest, UT is still chasing the ghost of Bruce Pearl).
Shaka Smart – VCU
Smart has already turned down overtures from Marquette and Wake Forest this offseason, so it’s hard to picture him going to UT. He’s like the Chris Petersen of college basketball: the hot young coach whom everybody wants, and everybody calls, but he’s comfortable in his current position. Smart will likely leave VCU at some point, but it will only be for an absolutely perfect fit.
Fred Hoiberg – Iowa State
Like Smart, it’s unlikely that Hoiberg would leave for UT. He grew up in Ames, Iowa State is his alma mater, and he just received a raise from the university. Regardless, if you’re Tennessee, you call. The Cyclones won the 2014 Big 12 Tournament and made a run to the Sweet Sixteen. In four seasons at ISU, The Mayor has won fewer than 23 games only once. And more than anything else, the man can dance.
Richard Pitino – Minnesota
He’s wet behind the ears, but Pitino already has major conference experience and a title under his belt. In one year at FIU he led the Panthers to the most conference wins in program history. During his first year at Minnesota, Pitino won the most games in program history and also claimed the NIT Championship. As far as pedigree, he coached under both his father at Louisville and Billy Donovan at Florida. If Tennessee is looking to bet on a young coach who appears primed to be a star (and also has SEC experience), Pitino is the one.
Frank Martin – South Carolina
Martin hasn’t exactly hit it off with the top brass at South Carolina. His intensity and treatment of players has turned off some of the team’s fan base, and even led to a suspension at the end of the 2013-14 season. Tennessee has proven that it can handle a brash basketball coach, and it has deeper pockets than USC. Two subpar years in Columbia have hurt Martin’s brand, but it wouldn’t be a stretch to see him thrown into the mix – especially if UT administration feels his performance was more an indictment of location.
Larry Brown – SMU
He’s been at SMU for two years, so Brown is probably feeling itchy. SMU barely missed the NCAA Tournament this year, and lost to Pitino’s aforementioned Minnesota team in the NIT title game. Brown likes to build franchises/programs, and then move on. Maybe he feels that SMU is in a position to succeed without him. As long as he’s on the national radar, any open position is fair game.