CBS Sports college basketball insider Jon Rothstein dropped by CBS Sports Radio on Monday to discuss numerous March Madness topics, including the head-coaching carousel.
We’ll start with Indiana, which fired Tom Crean last Thursday after nine seasons. The Hoosiers are in the midst of a coaching search, and athletic director Frank Glass isn’t exactly operating with a poker face.
“I think it’s pretty clear (that Glass) is waiting for Steve Alford,” Rothstein said on Tiki and Tierney. “If you come out and say, ‘We want people that are coaching in the NCAA Tournament, we’re going to be patient, and it’ll be important if they have Indiana ties,’ you’re waiting for Steve Alford.”
Alford, who has guided UCLA to three Sweet 16s in four years, played at Indiana and led the Hoosiers to the national championship in 1987. Alford seems like a no-brainer hire for Indiana, but there are financials to consider.
“Indiana just paid Tom Crean $4 million to buy him out,” Rothstein said. “Steve Alford’s buy-out at UCLA is $7.8 million. That’s not counting a potential salary. So if the buy-out was not reduced for Steve Alford, you’re looking at $8 million to get him out of the contract, $4 million to pay him and then another $4 million to pay Crean. So you’re talking about $16 million in one year for a men’s basketball coach, which doesn’t obviously include at least $1 million for three assistants.”
Indiana wouldn’t invest that much for one season, would it?
“I think it would all depend on what UCLA would be willing to do with the buy-out,” Rothstein said in an anything-is-possible voice, adding that Alford would have no problem being in the fish bowl that is Bloomington. Heck, he’s had no problem with the fish bowl that is Westwood, where expectations are sky-high.
“There are no banners up for any Final Four appearances,” Rothstein said. “Ben Howland went to three Final Fours from 2006-08. There is no proof that that ever happened inside the walls of Pauley Pavilion.”
There’s also the Bob Knight factor.
“Steve Alford is a prized pupil of Bob Knight,” Rothstein said. “That’s another dynamic that would play into this. Not that I don’t think Steve wouldn’t take the Indiana job because of his relationship with Coach Knight, but it’s obviously well-documented that Coach Knight and Indiana are not on the best of terms. . . . I would be beyond shocked if Indiana named a head coach before UCLA was done playing.”
Syracuse, meanwhile, lost top assistant Mike Hopkins to Washington this weekend. Hopkins had been at Syracuse since 1996.
“The opportunity to build his own legacy is something that was too hard to turn down at a place like Washington with a rich recruiting base,” Rothstein said. “Now all of a sudden, Syracuse is in a different type of situation because Mike Hopkins, as everybody knows, was the head coach designate for the Orange. That changed obviously with this news, and now Syracuse has to hire a key assistant coach to help with spring recruiting.”
Syracuse responded by offering 72-year-old Jim Boeheim an extension beyond the 2017-18 season.
“It is very important for Jim Boeheim that his successor stays in the Syracuse family,” Rothstein said. “Now nothing is imminent. There’s nothing (that’s) going to be announced. But from everybody I’ve spoken with, I would think that the leader in the clubhouse to eventually be his successor would be Gerry McNamara. . . . McNamara, as everybody knows, was like a son to Coach Boeheim.”
McNamara, 33, played for Syracuse from 2002-06. He helped the Orange win a national title in 2003 and led them to a Big East title in 2006, winning four games in four days.
In other news, Wichita State is reeling from another down-to-the-wire loss to Kentucky in the Round of 32. The Shockers, seeded tenth, fell to the No. 2 Cats, 65-62, on Sunday.
In recent years, Wichita State has been penalized by the committee for playing in the Missouri Valley Conference. That could change if the Shockers move to the AAC, as rumored.
“That’s the type of thing that could alter whether or not Gregg Marshall would entertain taking another job,” Rothstein said. “Now here’s the thing that you have to look at with Gregg Marshall. He has, in my opinion, done with Wichita State what Mark Few has done to Gonzaga. He has told people close to him that he is not going to leave for anything other than a blue-blood. But people need to understand what he would be giving up: He’s making $3.5 million a year in Wichita, Kansas. So you’re going to have to pay him in excess of $4 million for him to leave his current post. And also, everybody of significance on that team is coming back next year. That’s a top-10 team.”
Rothstein also weighed in on Lonzo Ball, who had 18 points, nine assists – all in the second half – seven rebounds and two steals in a 79-67 win over Cincinnati on Sunday.
“When you watch what goes on when UCLA plays, I think we’re looking at somebody right now who is going to be a once every two- or three-decade type player,” Rothstein said. “If he was drafted by the Knicks, he would have the same impact at point guard that Patrick Ewing had at center. He might be in a once-in-a-generation point guard. Think about how he shoots the ball compared to how Jason Kidd shot the ball.”
Ball shot 7-of-10 from the floor against the Bearcats, including 4-of-7 from three. His form isn’t pretty, but the result often is.
“He makes them,” said Rothstein, who watched the game with former NBA All-Star Danny Granger. What Granger said was, ‘He’s not a good shooter, but he can make shots.’”