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Among those contacted about the vexingly vacant Carolina coaching position are Middle Tennessee State coach Randy Wiel and Tennessee Tech coach Jeff Lebo.
Dean Smith’s coaching legacy has some very young branches.
Wiel’s record in five years at Middle (Of Nowhere) Tennessee is 65 53. Lebo’s record in two years at Tennessee Tech is 28 27. Neither has yet to conquer the Ohio Valley Conference, much less throw a scare into Duke.
But both have Smith in their background: Wiel as a player and assistant coach, and Lebo as a player who later assisted Smith disciple Eddie Fogler. They are family, so they are apparently candidates.
And that is taking the family thing too far. Like, to the point of incest.
Aren’t there a few former Dean Smith players coaching high school ball somewhere? Maybe in a rec league? Don’t they merit consideration as well?
It appears that if you have a whistle around your neck and Dean Smith somewhere in your past, you are a candidate for one of the three most elite coaching positions in college basketball.
The inclusion of Wiel and Lebo in the coaching pool is as Classic Dean as holding up a fist when you need a blow.
Relentless egalitarian Smith is the same guy who insisted on putting every senior on the cover of the team media guide, even the human victory cigar types at the end of the bench. Apparently he wants everyone included in the coaching search as well.
Neither Wiel nor Lebo figures to get the job, of course. What appeared to be a three way wrestle off between Matt Doherty of Notre Dame, Larry Brown of the Philadelphia 76ers and George Karl of the Milwaukee Bucks thinned dramatically Monday when Brown and Karl removed their names from consideration. Roy Williams of Kansas and South Carolina’s Fogler also disqualified themselves from consideration Williams after having an offer on the table.
“Coach Smith is so caring and has that feeling of loyalty with people,” Williams said Saturday, where his appearance at the Nike All American Camp less than 48 hours after turning down the Tar Heels created quite a stir. “Everyone thinks there’s something phony to it, but his loyalty is very real.”
That’s a great thing, even if Smith’s lessons in loyalty wound up costing the school Williams,
who couldn’t turn his back on Kansas. But this coaching search could be as much an exercise in classic Carolina arrogance as it is in loyalty.
Williams was the automatic choice to follow retiring Bill Guthridge, but the basic assumption that he simply could not turn down Dean might have worked against Carolina in the end. You get the feeling that Heels were as surprised as the rest of us that they were told no.
And after Williams, the picture blurs a bit:
Fogler, a proven coach but coming off consecutive losing seasons and toting a woeful March record. He might have saved everyone the trouble of an awkward situation by bailing out early.
Doherty, coming off a splendid debut season at Notre Dame but
alarmingly green by Carolina standards. He’d also be facing serious heat for ditching the Fighting Irish and NBA prospect Troy Murphy in a year’s time.
“I’ve talked to Matt, and he’s got a tough position,” Williams said. “He talked Troy Murphy into coming back, but he’s also got tremendous loyalty to Carolina and coach Smith.”
Brown, an undeniable winner but a career vagabond getting up in age (59). He could put an incredible line on his r taking UCLA, Kansas and North Carolina to Final Fours but he’d have to take a huge salary reduction from $6 million a year in Philly.
Karl, another winner but a nonconformist whose beard and lack of
recruiting experience make people nervous.
Add to that group Wiel and Lebo, happier to be on the list than a pair of gate crashers at the Academy Awards.
So you have to wonder: are even the thinnest limbs of the Smith coaching tree better than sturdy trunks elsewhere in the forest? Are you better off with Jeff Lebo than Rick Pitino or Randy Wiel than Rick Majerus, to name a couple of star coaches who might be persuaded to move? Just because they run the same half court trap that Dean did?