By Chris Dokish
With Tom Herrion being named the new head coach of Marshall this weekend, a very valuable coaching position is suddenly available on Jamie Dixon's staff. With only 28-year old Brandon Knight, who has only two years of experience, the other top assistant, look for Dixon to hire an established veteran with a good pedigree. With that in mind, here are some names to think about it.
Jeff Battle, Wake Forest assistant- The 48-year old Battle nearly got the Wake Forest job over Dino Gaudio, but he had to take himself out of the running because his wife had cancer. Sadly, Battle's wife eventually lost her battle and now he is raising his son alone. For that reason, he does not want to uproot his family, but with a new coach coming in, he may be forced out. That would be foolish of the new coach since the Philadelphia native is one of the best recruiters, and assistants, in the country. Battle is credited with developing stars Josh Howard, Chris Paul, and Jeff Teague, as well as James Posey at Xavier, where Battle also coached under Skip Prosser. If he becomes a free agent, many top programs will be interested. As of now, he is still on the staff waiting to see what happens.
Tracy Dildy, Illinois-Chicago assistant- Don't be fooled by where he's at now. The 42-year old is currently at his alma mater, but he is considered one of the better young assistants in the country. He has also made stops at Ball State, where he recruited Bonzi Wells, and DePaul where he orchestrated the top recruiting class in the country in 2001 and the second ranked class in 1999. He also had stints at Auburn, Ole Miss, and UAB.
Mike Dunlap, Oregon assistant- Best known as the guy who turned down the interim job at Arizona after Lute Olson left because he wanted a long term contract. He did stay at Arizona that season and was the associate head coach for the man who did get the interim job (and then was dumped for Sean Miller), Russ Pennell. Dunlap eventually ended up coaching for the Ducks and is currently manning the fort until a replacement is found for fired Ernie Kent. Dunlap has interviewed for the job, but appears to be a fallback option, even though he is considered to be a great X's and O's coach who will eventually be a major head coach somewhere. It's also been reported that Steve Lavin has hired him to be his top assistant at St. John's, but Dunlap has been quoted as saying that is not official. Apparently he wants to wait to see if he gets the Oregon job, so if he desires, Dixon has a chance to scoop him up before Lavin gets him.
Pat Duquette, Boston College assistant- The 39-year old Boston native was Al Skinner's right hand man this past season, and has spent the last 13 years with him. Now with Skinner fired, Duquette is still at BC until a new coach is named. If Skinner gets a new job, he may call on Duquette, but as of now, he would be available. His forte is recruiting since he was basically the only one in the program who did it.
Dino Gaudio, former Wake Forest head coach- Despite an excellent overall record at Wake Forest, including being No.1 at one point last season, the 53-year old Ohio native was fired recently due to a poor postseason record. But if he doesn't get a head coaching job this season, it won't be long before he gets another, even if it's not at a major program. For that reason, Dixon may not want to take a chance on him.
Sean Kearney, former Holy Cross head coach- The 50-year old Kearney was a longtime assistant for Mike Brey at Delaware and Notre Dame, and finally got his chance to be a head coach last season. Inexplicably, he got fired after just one season. A friend of Dixon as well as a native of the Philadelphia area. Responsible for recruiting Luke Harangody, Chris Quinn, and Rob Kurz.
Billy Garret, Sr., DePaul assistant- Oliver Purnell has replaced Jerry Wainwright as coach, and he has not yet decided if he wants to keep Garrett. He would be wise to do so. The Indianapolis native started out as a Chicago high school coach and is still very well thought of in the area. So much so that some local AAU coaches have said that if Garrett is not retained, they are shutting off DePaul from their players. Before coming back to Chicago, Garrett was the top assistant at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, and previously assisted Steve Alford at Iowa and Louis Orr at Siena and Seton Hall. As an added bonus, his son, Billy, Jr., is considered a top 2013 prospect.
Dave Leitao, former Virginia head coach- The 50-year old Massachusetts native was recently fired by Virginia after four seasons. Before that, he was a success as a head coach at DePaul, as well as a top assistant for Jim Calhoun at UConn. He has been out of basketball for a year, but has been mentioned often for both head coaching and assistant jobs. For that reason, like Gaudio, Dixon may feel he won't be around for long.
Rob Moxley, Charlotte assistant- The 41-year old native of Maryland has been an assistant for the recently fired Bobby Lutz for 12 of the last the 13 seasons, with the one year absence spent with Gary Williams at Maryland. One of the top up and comers in the country, he is considered an excellent recruiter and was responsible for recruiting former National Freshman of the Year, and lottery pick, Roddy White. He has recently interviewed for the head coaching job at Gardner-Webb, where he once coached, and also expressed interest in the head coaching job at The Citadel.
Fred Quartlebaum, St. John's assistant- A native of the Bronx, the 42-year old has much experience, not only with Norm Roberts at St. John's, but also with Matt Doherty at Notre Dame, where he helped recruit Chris Thomas, at North Carolina, where he helped recruit Sean May, Raymond Felton, and Rashad McCants, and Iowa State where he recruited Big 12 Freshman of the Year, Curtis Stinson.
Book Richardson, Arizona assistant- A Pitt-Johnstown alum, the 37-year old is one of the fastest risers in the country. A former Director of Basketball for the vaunted New York Gauchos AAU program, he has spent three years as an assistant under Sean Miller, the first two at Xavier. Was offered a position by Steve Lavin to coach at St. John's, but his loyalty kept him with Miller. On the negative side, Brandin Knight is not nearly ready to be the associate head coach and neither is Richardson so it doesn't look like a good fit. All you will have are two young recruiters with little big time game experience.
Scott Rigot, Duquesne assistant- A Duquesne assistant doesn't sound like a sexy pick, but the 47-year old is a Pittsburgh native who was an assistant at Kentucky under Tubby Smith, as well as former Hawaii head coach Riley Wallace, a great friend of Dixon. His best recruit was Boston Celtics star Rajon Rondo.
Norm Roberts, former St. John's head coach- The 44-year old from Queens did a solid job at St. John's but was recently fired. Impressively, he also coached at Tulsa, Illinois, and Kansas, all under Bill Self. Like some others on this list, he will not be an unemployed head coach for long and that may work against him.
Pat Skerry, Providence assistant- A native of Massachusetts with strong New England ties, the 40-year old just completed his second year under Keno Davis. Previously, he coached at the College of Charleston (under Tom Herrion) and Rhode Island. One of the rising stars in the business.
Pete Strickland, NC State assistant- Former Pitt player, class of 1979, the 52-year old is a Washington, DC native, who was the head coach of Coastal Carolina for seven years, and also served as an assistant at Old Dominion and Dayton under Oliver Purnell.
Tracy Webster, DePaul assistant- Like the other DePaul coach on the list, Billy Garrett, Sr., the 37-year old Webster was brought in by Jerry Wainright to recruit Chicago prior to the season. After Wainright was fired, Webster took over as interim coach. Like Garrett, the AAU coaches want Webster at DePaul, but if Purnell decides to hire others, Webster will be free. He has also coached at Purdue, Illinois, and Kentucky.