There's not much new to report in the search for a new basketball coach at the University of Utah - except that the U. has a lot of competition around the country.
There are at least 20 Division I jobs open right now and several are of top-of-the-line variety, including openings at Michigan, Kentucky, Washington, Vanderbilt, Tennessee, Auburn, Dayton and Marquette.What that means is that Utah athletic director Chris Hill's job of finding a new coach is getting tougher because the coaches he is eyeing have more and more possibilities to consider.
"It makes it hard to see who's serious about the job," he said. "I want to see who has a sincere interest in us. Some coaches could say they're interested in Utah, when they're really interested in Kentucky."
About the only thing Hill is saying right now is that he would prefer someone with head coaching experience. "That will be the first layer of coaches we'll look at," he said.
Several head coaches at successful programs a notch below that of Utah are in the running for jobs at the aforementioned schools and perhaps at Utah.
Some of the "hot" coaches right now include Pete Gillen of Xavier, Charlie Spoonhour of Southwest Missouri State, Mike Newell of Arkansas-Little Rock, Eddie Fogler of Wichita State, and Jim Crews of Evansville.
All of those coaches have amassed fine records in a short period of time and most are still in their 30s. Newell, 37, has a 113-50 record in five years. Fogler, 39, is 61-32 in three years. Crews, 35, is 68-46 in four years. Gillen, 42, is 91-32 in four years. Spoonhour, the oldest at 50, has a 130-54 record in six years.
Calls to the athletic departments where these coaches work confirms that each is rumored to be in the running for several jobs. But the coaches, like Hill, are all keeping mum.
The coach that seems most unlikely to leave is Spoonhour, who has turned down jobs at Wyoming and Kansas the past two years. Spoonhour is a native of nearby Rigers, Arkansas and according to an official at SWMSU he likes where he is. "I would be surprised to see him leave at this point. If he's going to make a move, it'll be much closer to this part of the country."
Other coaches with good credentials who could be looked at by Utah include Lynn Nance of St. Mary's, Tim Floyd of New Orleans, Rick Majerus of Ball State, Paul Westhead of Loyola Marymount and Bobby Dye of Boise State. Dye is reported to have expressed interest in both the Utah and Washington jobs, according to a source in Idaho, but won't say so publicly.
Hill said he could look to the pro ranks for a coach, but it's unlikely someone like Frank Layden would be a candidate or he could have already been named as the coach. Hill wouldn't say if Dick Motta was a candidate, but did say he hadn't talked to him about the job.
If Utah does dip into the ranks of college assistants, some of the top candidates could be Bob Bender of Duke, Kevin O'Neill of Arizona and former Weber State assistant Dick Hunsaker, now with Ball State.
"We're not going to sign an assistant by next week," said Hill. "Those kind can wait until later."
Hill said it still may be a couple of weeks before a new coach is chosen, but did leave open the possibility of it being sooner.
"If someone great comes along, we could name a coach right away," said Hill, who joked, "If Dean Smith calls and says he's interested, we could have a press conference tomorrow."