I'm receiving strongly mixed signals about the identity of Bryce Drew's next employer. A look at what might lie ahead.
Staying at Valparaiso – He’s waiting for something better. Consider how many overtures Brad Stevens listened to at Butler before the Boston Celtics came calling. Or Shaka Smart staying at VCU until Texas offered its job to him. I think Drew would have to do a whole lot more at Valparaiso for a job like Texas to avail itself, but perhaps he believes he can do it.
Tech is attractive for a lot of reasons. It’s in the ACC, there is a past with stretches of consistent NCAA tournament appearances, it’s in a great recruiting area and the school’s academic might speaks for itself.
However, he’s from Indiana and has been there most of his life, so maybe the ACC isn’t any more alluring than the Big Ten (or is maybe even less so). It could be that simple. Maybe he’s waiting for a Big Ten job – or maybe just a particular one or two – to open up. Maybe he's heard about the pollen. (This is sarcasm.)
Going to Vanderbilt – A story I read this week suggested that Vanderbilt intrigued Drew because his brother Scott had gone on from Valparaiso (where he was head coach for one season, replacing his father Homer, before going off to Baylor, at which point Homer came out of retirement, coaching until Bryce took the reins in 2011) to considerable success at Baylor, like Vanderbilt a private school in a power conference.
I’m going to guess Vanderbilt can offer more money than Tech could – possibly a lot more – and the route to the top might be more navigable there than at Tech. Three SEC schools made the NCAA tournament compared to seven for the ACC – and the last one in, Syracuse, made the Final Four – and Louisville would have made it eight if not for its self-imposed postseason ban.
An ACC defender might say that Syracuse’s run points strongly to why Tech is a better job – if he can just get the Yellow Jackets to the middle of the ACC, NCAA tournament success is possible. But building a consistent contender at Vanderbilt might be more manageable. (I think I'd disagree, but it's debatable.)
Going to Georgia Tech – As noted above, a job in arguably the premier conference in the country, in a large city with great talent within the metropolitan area. It's been demonstrated that it's possible to win at the highest level. With an athletic director who came from a basketball school, there's an extra level of comfort.
I don't know that Bryce going elsewhere would be a judgment of athletic director Mike Bobinski. I think fans or alumni sometimes view jobs at their own school in a more favorable light than others. And, beyond that, the reasons that make a school such a great landing spot to fans (or athletic directors) may not be as meaningful to the coach.
I would contend that the Tech job is a pretty good one, but you'll remember Richmond's Chris Mooney elected to stay in 2011 rather than come to Tech, leading to Brian Gregory's hire. Before Paul Hewitt was hired in 2000, Mike Brey (then at Delaware) turned Tech down.
On the other hand, of course, landing Drew would be a considerable prize. With the possible exception of Duke assistant coach Jeff Capel, who removed his name from consideration Sunday, and possibly including him, Drew was the most eligible mid-major/assistant coaching candidate in this hiring cycle.
Next steps:If Drew is hired, then a news release and conference sometime this week and the attempt to keep the Jackets' three signees in the fold.
If Drew goes elsewhere, that would leave Boston Celtics assistant coach Jay Larranaga as the only known candidate, which does not mean he is the only candidate. Bobinski is thorough, and I’m sure his list is long, and his phone calls have been many. Should the Drew candidacy go elsewhere, I imagine more names may bubble up in coming days.
As mentioned in my story posted earlier Sunday night, Winthrop’s Pat Kelsey, who was an associate head coach at Xavier during Bobinski’s tenure before going on to build Winthrop, is a possibility. Another is Butler’s Chris Holtmann, who is 45-22 at the school and previously coached at Gardner-Webb, giving him some regional familiarity. Undoubtedly, many Tech alumni would pull for New Mexico coach Craig Neal.