Committee’s haste makes hiring a waste

Former men’s basketball coach Clem Haskins’ resignation has left the position of head coach vacant. While the University deliberates over the hiring of a new coach, it should choose a more appropriate alternative: hiring an interim coach.
Most coaches would be unwilling to sign a long-term contract not knowing what the consequences of the investigation and the NCAA’s decision will be. The University’s investigation will not be complete until September, when the findings will be submitted to the NCAA. The results could be disastrous for a new coach, as the allegations could incriminate many staff members of the men’s basketball program. The allegations could also be more serious than originally anticipated. In addition, the uncertainty is increased by the possibility of University President Mark Yudof imposing sanctions in an attempt to diminish those imposed by the NCAA. The NCAA will not render a decision until next spring, when the infractions committee could impose sanctions including prohibiting postseason involvement, eliminating scholarships and putting the program on probation.
It is also unlikely the University will be competitive with other schools in attracting top high school talent, as a coach with a nascent program and a team with an uncertain future are not going to be attractive to many players. The department will also have difficulties offering a competitive salary because of the buyout of Haskins’ contract. A brief search would not afford the time necessary to overcome these obstacles.
Given the short period of time available to hire a coach, an interim coach would be ideal. Haskins’ submitted his resignation on June 25 and the high school basketball recruiting season begins on July 8, which has made a comprehensive search almost impossible. Hiring an interim coach for a year or two would give the program more time to re-evaluate its mission and for more coaches to become available.
Since Haskins’ departure there have been few candidates with the credentials to coach a Big Ten team. After the elimination of Rick Majerus, the head coach of Utah’s team, from consideration, no candidates of Big Ten quality have expressed interest and availability. Majerus refused the offer last week because of a “personal reason … at the present.” The suggestion of Bernie Bickerstaff by seven Gophers players is imprudent because he lacks college experience and he was fired from the Washington Wizards this season. Another candidate, Mike Brey of the University of Delaware, decided to remain with Delaware because of the uncertainty surrounding the future of Minnesota’s program. An interim coach would give the University more time to explore more coaches who might become available, given more time and notice.
The University should exercise patience and recognize that it is unlikely a coach with enough credentials will be hired for the upcoming season. An interim coach would allow time to hire a more permanent coach, and for the scandal to be resolved. The basketball team cannot be healed in one year. To sign an underqualified coach to a long-term contract would delay the process for many years longer than necessary.