Maryland AD Anderson wasting no time in pursuit of Williams' successor

May 07, 2011|Peter Schmuck

Faced with his second major coaching search in his first year as University of Maryland athletic director, Kevin Anderson has proven to be pretty quick on his feet.

Barely 24 hours after Gary Williams officially announced the end of his impressive 22-year tenure as the Terps' iconic basketball coach, the internet was abuzz with reports — since confirmed — that Anderson was headed to Las Vegas to meet with highly regarded Arizona coach Sean Miller and, presumably, to offer him one of the most desirable jobs in college basketball.

Never mind that Miller already has one of the better coaching gigs in the sport. He just took the Arizona Wildcats to the Elite Eight and was named Pac-10 Coach of the Year in his second season in Tucson. The word on the street is that he isn't really settled in there yet and he's really an East Coast guy at heart.

He reportedly is not the only candidate under consideration — and he's not a lock to accept the job if offered — but Miller is exactly the kind of coach that Maryland must hire to build on Williams' legacy and upgrade a program that not only missed the NCAA tournament and was snubbed by the NIT in Williams' final season, but just lost its best player — center Jordan Williams — to the NBA draft.

Miller is credited with putting the Arizona program back on a firm footing after a tumultuous period during which coaching legend Lute Olson missed a season on personal leave and the Wildcats played under a pair of interim coaches. He already had built his national reputation during a very successful five-year run at Xavier, which featured four NCAA tournament appearances and 2008 Atlantic-10 Coach of the Year honors.

In other words, the guy is a sure thing. He is a terrific recruiter who is tied closely into the AAU system that yields many of the nation's top college basketball stars and also is well-connected in the Baltimore/Washington area. If Anderson can pry him out of the desert, it's probably not unreasonable to look at his 30-8 record at Arizona last year and project the Terps as a top-10 program in relatively short order.

Anderson obviously understands how important this hire is to Maryland's overall athletic reputation, and he clearly has a more heightened sense of urgency than he displayed during the search that brought well-regarded Connecticut coach Randy Edsall to College Park to replace Ralph Friedgen.

Of course, the circumstances surrounding the football search were dramatically different. Anderson was able to set his own timetable because he was the one who decided that it was time to replace Friedgen. He hired a search firm and assembled a search committee and settled on Edsall 13 days after officially announcing that Friedgen would not be returning for the final year of his contract.

Anderson, who had only been in place for a matter of months, took some heat for flip-flopping on Friedgen's status after announcing in November that he would return in 2011, but the ultimate decision made sense and Edsall was a solid, low-risk hire.

The football succession was certainly a big deal, but Friedgen never attained the stature that Williams gained coaching 22 seasons at his alma mater. The Terps made 14 NCAA tournament appearances, reached the Final Four twice and won the 2002 national title, so it should not be a huge matter for debate that basketball is king at Maryland.

This time, Anderson had a few days of advance notice from Williams of his pending decision — time he apparently used to brainstorm some candidates and lay some groundwork. Williams offered some suggestions, but Anderson appears to have taken a more single-handed approach to his second major coaching search.

He doesn't have to have someone in place by Monday, but he probably learned from the football search that the longer it takes, the more intervening variables — media speculation, internal debate, competing offers — come into play.

No matter how this dalliance with Miller works out, Anderson deserves a lot of credit for identifying the best options quickly and moving very aggressively to bring home the best possible replacement for an all but irreplaceable men's basketball coach.

peter.schmuck@baltsun.com

Listen to Peter Schmuck on "The Week in Review" on Friday's at noon on WBAL (1090AM) and WBAL.com.

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