A front-runner seems to have emerged in the search for a basketball coach at the University of Utah.
Ball State Coach Rick Majerus looks to be the top choice for the open Utah job, according to several local sources. And on Tuesday afternoon more than one source in the Midwest indicated that Majerus could take the Utah job if it was offered.
However, University of Utah Athletic Director Chris Hill said later Tuesday that Majerus "had not been offered the job" and that he (Hill) was "still planning to go to Seattle" this weekend to talk to possible candidates.Hill had said Monday that he "might" name a new coach by Thursday, but he wasn't saying that Tuesday. Of course that doesn't mean he still couldn't name a new coach before he leaves for the Final Four on Friday.
A sports writer in Muncie, Ind., where Ball State is located, said Wednesday that Majerus had told him Wednesday morning that Utah was "just one of many situations he was looking at" and indicated he wasn't on the verge of making a decision. Majerus was scheduled to have lunch with Ball State Athletic Director Don Purvis Wednesday, possibly to discuss his other coaching opportunities.
Apparently the 40-year-old Majerus is strongly in the running for another job comparable to the Utah position, which could complicate things for everyone. Sources say he has already turned down two jobs, at Cincinnati and Duquesne and officals at Ball State are apparently not encouraged about their chances of keeping Majerus. The question - is he headed to Utah or somewhere else?
On Monday night, Dave Coplan of the Windy City Roundball Review in Chicago called a union between Utah and Majerus, "a done deal."
Tuesday afternoon Majerus was scheduled to be on an afternoon sports talk show on WNDE in Indianapolis, but canceled at the last minute. The reason given was "an unexpected recruiting trip." Speculation in Indiana was that he was the one being recruited and Utah was doing the recruiting.
However, Hill said Tuesday that it "was not true" Majerus would soon be named the new Ute coach and he indicated that Majerus had another offer he was considering. "He's a pretty sought-after coach," said Hill.
Perhaps Majerus is suddenly in the running somewhere like Tennessee or Michigan, a couple of jobs that would be more lucrative and prestigious than the Utah job. He has told reporters in Indiana in the past that he would like to move West, if he decided to move.
From reports, Majerus seems to come from the Frank Layden mold. He's large, about 5-11 and 285 pounds, and he's known as an entertaining person who doesn't mind poking fun at himself. "Everyone I've ever talked to, loves the guy," said one source in Indiana.
Besides Majerus, another top candidate at Utah is purported to be St. Mary's Coach Lynn Nance, who is still considered one of the top candidates for the open job at the University of Washington, where he once played and coached.
According to a writer in Seattle, the Washington job apparently won't be filled until after the Final Four is played in Seattle this weekend. A search committee has just been formed and Nance is going to talk to Washington officials Thursday.
Southwest Missouri State Coach Charlie Spoonhour could still be on the Utah's short list of candidates, but he was quoted Tuesday as saying he had never been contacted by Utah.
Other possible candidates Utah officials could still be considering are Evansville Coach Jim Crews and Boise State Coach Boby Dye.