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Monday, March 7, 2011
Texas Tech begins the carousel in earnest

By Eamonn Brennan

And so the coaching carousel begins.

To be fair, the coaching carousel never really stops in the first place. Being a college basketball coach -- excluding those already managing successful high-major programs, or still in the first few years of a rebuilding process -- means spending all your non-coaching and non-recruiting time thinking about the next place you'll spend all your time coaching and recruiting. Everyone is always angling for a job, even when they're not.

Knight
Pat Knight seemed to have an idea he wouldn't be coaching Texas Tech beyond this season. The Red Raiders did not reach the NCAA tournament in his three seasons as coach.
And to be even more fair, technically, Wyoming got there first when it fired coach Heath Schroyer in early February.

Still, Monday's news -- that Texas Tech has fired coach Pat Knight after his third full year at the school -- marks the first high-major coaching vacancy of the season.

In addition to being first among high-major schools, Tech's firing of Knight is also one of the least surprising coaching moves in recent years. Knight himself had to expect the ax. He famously put himself on the line at Big 12 media day, saying 2010-11 was a "get fired or get an extension kind of year" for him and his program, and now that we know his Red Raiders are unlikely to make it to the NCAA tournament for the fourth straight season, it's no surprise Texas Tech chose the former.

The question is: Who fills the vacancy? The answer: I have no idea. But don't be surprised to hear a lot of talk about Billy Gillipsie in the coming weeks. Gillispie has been working on getting back into coaching since he was fired at Kentucky, and he still has ties in Texas -- not to mention experience winning at ostensibly football schools -- thanks to his pre-UK tenures at UTEP and Texas A&M. He may not be the eventual hire, but it'd be a shock not to see his name on Raider fan message boards in the days and weeks to come.

In any case, though Tech is the first high-major to announce a firing or resignation, it isn't the only new coaching vacancy in Division I hoops. Beyond Wyoming, jobs are also available at Towson and Eastern Washington -- which announced their decisions on Monday as well -- along with Stetson, Monmouth, Georgia State and Bradley. According to our own Andy Katz, there is also the lingering threat of buyouts and potential openings at a variety of schools, including Utah, Oklahoma, Arkansas, NC State, Georgia Tech, Providence and South Florida. Indeed, the dominoes are about to begin falling. The coaching carousel -- which might better be described as a game of musical chairs -- is about to hit full speed.

In other words, the pink-ponied carousel has begun in earnest for the first time this season. So come on, you guys! Hop on! Dibs on the race car! Weeeee!