Utah Utes' coaching search likely to include local candidates

Published: Saturday, March 12 2011 9:40 p.m. MST

SALT LAKE CITY — For the third time in seven years, the University of Utah is looking for a new basketball coach following Saturday's dismissal of coach Jim Boylen.

The Utes hired Boylen in March of 2007, three years after Ray Giacoletti was hired in April of 2004 to replace Rick Majerus.

Now U. athletics director Chris Hill is faced with the task of finding another head basketball coach.

As usual, Hill is being tight-lipped about his course of action, saying, "The process is not something I think is appropriate to go through and how everybody's involved."

Hill said there is no timeline and because the way recruiting has changed with most players signed in the fall rather than the spring, that there isn't the rush to sign a coach as there might have been in the past.

"There's not an arbitrary set qualifications or a timeline," Hill said. "We've just got to do our research and get the best person we can here. It's an attractive job, given our history, our facility and moving into the Pac-12. We feel we can do our research and find somebody good."

Hill wouldn't say if he has already identified possible candidates, except to say that he's always talking to people about possible coaches because you never know when a coach might leave on his own or need to be let go.

There has been chatter on Internet boards about the possibility of BYU's Dave Rose perhaps wanting to come to Utah and the Pac-12 rather than stay with a depleted BYU team, which will be going to the lesser West Coast Conference next year. Also Utah State's Stew Morrill is a name that has come up in the two previous Utah coaching searches.

Other names with local ties that came up in the previous coaching search are Weber State's Randy Rahe and Westminster's Tommy Connor. Also some folks believe longtime BYU assistant Dave Rice is ready to become a head coach.

Many experts figure the U. will be looking for a coach with major-college experience with ties to the West.

Some of those coaches could be St. Mary's Randy Bennett, Virginia's Tony Bennett, Old Dominion's Blaine Taylor, LSU's Trent Johnson or former Alabama coach Mark Gottfried.

St. Mary's Bennett has been at St. Mary's for 10 years, where he has compiled a 208-111 record. Viriginia's Bennett went 69-33 in three years at Washington State before moving to Virginia, where he has gone 31-31 the past two years.

Before going to Old Dominion where he has a record of 215-111, Taylor coached at Montana for seven years where he had seven winning seasons and a 141-66 mark.

Johnson, a former assistant at Utah in the late 1980s, was the apparent front-runner for the Ute job in 2004 before taking his name out of consideration and eventually getting the Stanford job. After going 80-48 in four years at Stanford, he left for LSU, where after a 27-8 first year, has since gone 11-20 twice.

The 47-year-old Gottfried may be the most intriguing candidate if he is interested. He compiled a .642 winning percentage in 14 seasons at Murray State and Alabama. Before becoming a head coach, Gottfried was an assistant for eight years at UCLA. He left in the middle of the 2008-09 season after a dispute with the athletic director.

Hill wouldn't say how many people would be involved in the coaching decision, although he says he won't be the only person.

"President Young and I will be involved in this," Hill said. "Ultimately, it's my responsibility to make a recommendation. It's always been a small group as long as I've been here."

Besides the 2004 and 2007 coaching searches, Hill was athletic director in 1989 when Majerus was hired to replace Lynn Archibald.

e-mail: sor@desnews.com

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