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Thursday, August 05, 2004

Even More on. . . the LaSalle Head Coaching Job

I've written a lot about this, perhaps for two reasons. One, it's the only open men's DI basketball coaching job in the country. Two, it's part of Philadelphia's famed Big Five, and LaSalle is school with a rich basketball tradition.

There's a new twist, as reported by Bob Cooney in today's Philadelphia Daily News. LaSalle hasn't asked Maine for permission to speak with the Black Bears' hoops coach, John Giannini. Why is this important? Because the news stories out of Philadelphia was that Giannini was getting a long look from the Explorers. So let's do the math together: Giannin is not a candidate for the job.

Which puts the focus right back on LaSalle alum and Penn head coach Fran Dunphy, who did not return the Daily News' phone calls. Which means that he's either on vacation, exhausted from the July recruiting season, or in the midst of talking about a deal with his alma mater. The Daily News is trying to imply that intrigue is transpiring because of Dunphy's lack of availability. For all we know, Dunphy is escorting four elderly members of Penn's Old Guard to the races at Saratoga. Still, it's a classic old-time journalism technique -- fuel the speculation.

It could well be that LaSalle is looking in another direction. I'm a relative Luddite as a blogger, so I'm not sure how to link to my prior posts, but if you look in late July and early August you'll find my speculation as to who LaSalle might be focusing on. Who should they be focusing on? Well, that's another matter entirely.

And then there's Penn, which, if Dunphy leaves, ironically will face a similar situation to what Princeton did five years ago. You'll recall that Kevin O'Neill, now the coach of the Toronto Raptors, left Northwestern, where he was head coach, for a job with either the Knicks or the Pistons. Northwestern President Henry Bienen, a former Princeton professor, recruited Carmody to go to the midwest (the money and three more years of having to face Ugonna Onyekwe at Penn were a good enough incentive to go), leaving Princeton in a late-summar quandry. Their top assistant, Joe Scott, had left for the Air Force head coaching job before Carmody left for Northwestern, leaving the Princeton job almost by default to John Thompson III, the team's second assistant (it was, admittedly, a pretty good default to have).

Were Dunphy to leave Penn, Penn would have to hustle to find its next coach. Perhaps the favorite, at least on an interim basis, would be top assistant Gil Jackson, who was a finalist for this year's Dartmouth job. There are many other excellent candidates among current DI head coaches, but it would be tough to see them leaving their jobs for another so late in the season. Then again, Bill Carmody made a good move by doing so, and the Penn job is a great one. So don't be surprised if there are a few more open seats in a coaching game of musical chairs.

Three sitting head coaches -- Steve Donahue, Fran O'Hanlon and Fran McCaffery, would be candidates for the Penn job under the right circumstances (yes, O'Hanlon, even if he just got a 10-year contract extension from Lafayette). If any of those coaches were to go to Penn, then one of the Cornell, Lafayette or UNC-Greensboro jobs would be open. And the musical chairs would begin anew.

Right now, of course, it's all speculation, and it's beginning to feel like the movie "Groundhog Day", as I've been writing about the same thing over and over again.

And it's been fun.


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