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Thursday, April 19, 2012
North Texas taking its time with search

By Eamonn Brennan

College coaching searches are typically held on some strict deadlines. For example: Last month, when Illinois sought a replacement for former coach Bruce Weber, athletic director Mike Thomas openly stated that he wanted to end his search before he left for the Final Four in New Orleans. This kind of arbitrary deadline happens for a couple of reasons, far as I can tell:

1. There is a real chance schools can lose current players and recruits if the situation feels uncertain. And who knows what those players are hearing from opposing coaches gently (or not so gently) nudging them toward a transfer.

2. The perception is such that if you can't find a coach within a few days, well, clearly there is something wrong with your program. What's wrong with your program, dude?

Still, the deadlines can be counterproductive, and they were for Illinois. When Shaka Smart turned the job down, Thomas had to scramble to find a second and third and fourth option, and when those possibilities fell through he found himself rushing to sign a deal with Ohio coach John Groce -- a good, well-respected coach, but also one that went 34-30 in the MAC in four seasons -- before the deadline Thomas himself created. It was a bit of a mess for a variety of reasons. The rushing around was one of them.

Which is why it's somewhat interesting to see North Texas athletic director Rick Villareal be so laissez-faire about the idea of hurrying to find a new men's basketball coach. Villareal is charged with finding a replacement for Johnny Jones, who left for the vacant LSU job last week, and while Villareal doesn't want the search to take all summer -- he wants to finish up in the next 10 days -- he told the Denton Record-Chronicle that he isn't hurrying just to hurry, either:
“I know there is some angst and concern, but what I would tell people is that we hired Johnny Jones,” Villarreal said. “We had the foresight and I had the intuition to do that. We hired Karen Aston a year ago, and she did a great job. We hired Dan McCarney, who has increased our program tremendously.We are going to get that kind of person.”

“I’m not going to try to do it in two days, because we don’t have to,” Villarreal said. “We have got some time. I’m going to be diligent and see just who is interested, and at the end of the day make sure that we have the best pool to pull from.”

At this point in the calendar, with much of the high-level coaching intrigue finished for now, this seems like the appropriate approach. Jones made the North Texas job a surprisingly desirable one; Villareal will have a solid pool of candidates to work through. If fans are willing to trust the process, why rush it?