The UCLA hoops gig is one of the most high-profile coaching jobs in the nation. As one of the six college basketball bluebloods (despite what silly national media members say), pretty much every coach in the nation is a possible candidate.
Of course, Butler head honcho Brad Stevens is likely a longshot, Shaka Smart is in the middle of contract negotiations with VCU, and Mark Gottfried freaking sucks. The field has been narrowed and coaching candidates have been identified. While UCLA likely hasn't been in contact with these coaches yet, it's important to note that it's still rather early in the coaching search.
After the jump, we'll look at some possible coaching candidates and grade them on their fit at UCLA.
Jay Wright, Villanova
Why? Your humble blogger is partial to Jay Wright, the 51-year-old head coach at Villanova for the past 12 years. In that time, Wright has amassed eight NCAA tournament appearances in the past nine seasons and has made two trips to the Sweet Sixteen, a trip to the Elite Eight and a trip to the Final Four. In those four appearances in which he gets to the Sweet Sixteen or beyond, his Villanova Wildcats lost to eventual national champions.
Why not? The past four years, Wright has struggled to keep his program among the nation's elite. He hasn't made it past the first round of the NCAA tourney since 2009 (Villanova's most recent Final Four appearance). That includes squandering elite talent in 2009-10, the year in which Villanova earned a highly-rated recruiting class (top-five material) and bounced out of the tournament in the first weekend.
Grade: A- … Wright isn't the perfect candidate (to be fair to him, Shaka Smart and Brad Stevens haven't had Final Four success in a couple of years either) but he's been successful in a highly-competitive basketball conference and when his teams are great, they only lose to eventual national champs. At UCLA, he'd be able to recruit higher-level talent and dominate a weaker Pac-12.
Gregg Marshall, Wichita State
Why? Wichita State is currently in the Sweet Sixteen under Gregg Marshall, and knocked off No. 1 seed Gonzaga to get there. This is also Wichita State's second NCAA tournament appearance; before this, the program had only been to the NCAA tournament once since 1989. It's safe to say it's rather difficult to win at Wichita State, or at least has been the past couple of decades, and Marshall has gotten Marshall a few games within the promised land.
Why not? Marshall's resume is rather thin at this point. UCLA likely needs a coach that can get the Bruins deep into the tournament and no one's sure if Marshall can do that consistently. Not only that, but Marshall seems to be the kind of coach you'd want for a major rebuilding job, and given the talent at UCLA's disposal next season, this might be too much for Marshall to jump into immediately.
Grade: C … There are too many uncertainties with Marshall and a bulk of his resume lies on Wichita State's current NCAA tournament run. His signature win, over one-seed Gonzaga, came against a Mark Few team that struggled with a 16-seed the round prior. Overall, Marshall wouldn't be an exciting hire and one that would get the fan-base riled up.
Billy Donovan, Florida
Why? He's won two national championships. He got Florida to the Final Four in his first four years. He's been to the Elite Eight two years running and is looking to make it a third with an impending beatdown of upstart Florida Gulf Coast. All while bringing in highly-touted talent and making them play up to potential. We don't need to go into detail here.
Why not? Really, there's no real reason as to why UCLA shouldn't want Donovan. Rather, everything lies in Donovan's court, and given that Florida is California East, he's not hurting to live in a prime location that's a recruiting hotbed. He may enjoy the tradition at UCLA — he's taken Florida as far as it can go and the Gators still aren't considered a college basketball blueblood — and could reach legend status in Westwood.
Grade: A+ … Again, it's unlikely that he heads west to a higher-pressure gig, but there's a chance. UCLA should reciprocate any feelings of interest that's portrayed by the Donovan camp, and then some.
Mike Brown, Ex-Lakers Coach
Why? Hahahahahahaha … oh, you wanted more analysis than this? OK, fine. Brown has done decently at the NBA level and he's currently out of a job. He knows what it's like to compete while holding a high-pressure gig as the Los Angeles Lakers' head coach and his firing came just five games into the 2012-13 season. Given that the team has struggled just as much (ore more) with head honcho Mike D'Antoni, it's fair to suggest that Brown was just dealt a bad hand.
Why not? Literally everything. Not only did he have issues managing major personalities, but he's never coached in college. Ever. While many will draw the comparison to UCLA football hiring Jim Mora, Mora's success is more the exception than the rule. Brown was a decent NBA coach but we don't know what kind of success he'll have as a recruiter, nor do we know if he is at all aware of the college game. (He played just two years of college hoops at the University of San Diego, hardly a basketball powerhouse). We're not sure why his name has come up but whatever.
Grade: D- … We didn't give Mike Brown an "F" because Jim Mora.
Brian Shaw, NBA Assistant Coach
Why? Shaw has never been given a fair shot in the NBA. He was once offered the Charlotte Bobcats head coaching gig but declined, a smart move considering that's likely the worst job in the NBA. He's been seen in many circles as a bright coach but has been wrongly shunned due to his ties with Phil Jackson and his possible implementation of the triangle offense, a complex offensive scheme.
Why not? Not only has Shaw never been head coach at the NBA level, but he's also never found himself coaching among college kids. No one's sure what kind of coach he'd be in the NBA, and even less so in college where the triangle offense wouldn't work. He also played ball at St. Mary's and transferred to UCSB, which means he's never even played hoops at a top-tier program.
Grade: D … Perhaps he should be considered a worse fit than Mike Brown, but given the fact that he's never been given a shot at an NBA head coaching gig, it's only fair to give him a better shot.
Lorenzo Romar, Washington
Why? This one's tough … er … OK, OK. He's the best coach in Washington history, and has done things no other college coach has done in Seattle. He's a damn good recruiter and he was a part of that 1995 UCLA team that won a national title.
Why not? He's arguably underachieved and his coaching style is terrible. Schematically, he's a terrible coach by national standards and the furthest he's ever gotten at Washington is a Sweet Sixteen. The last time he did that was in 2010, nearly three years ago. While he's won Pac-12 titles, he's done so in a terrifyingly weak conference.
Grade: D+ … He's got experience as a head coach and he's had some success, but it's nowhere near the level that UCLA hopes to return to and this is while being in the same conference as UCLA has.
Mark Gottfried, North Carolina State
Why? He made Alabama a national powerhouse for a very short period of time, and was one of Alabama's best coaches historically. At N.C. State, he's put together ridiculously competitive teams, making the Sweet Sixteen in his first year and earned a top-10 ranking in the preseason poll for 2012-13.
Why not? He's underachieved massively at every stop, flaming out at Alabama in his final few years, while also putting together a wildly disappointing season in 2012-13, finishing unranked in the AP poll and getting bounced by Temple in the Round of 64. He's a terrible coach that has had successes with recrutiing.
Grade: F+ … His hiring would earn a reaction akin to "eh… it could be worse."