ASU, UCLA trudge on without coaches

December, 8, 2011
12/08/11
10:57
AM ET
Things got nutty yesterday with the Arizona State coaching search as the Sun Devils left SMU coach June Jones at the altar.

When you toss in UCLA, it appears we have two Pac-12 coaching searches that are picking up a sense of urgency -- amid apparently feckless navel gazing -- as the fan bases show signs of justifiable frustration.

Before we go on, here's some perspective: Both fan bases should save their outrage. Hey, it's the season to be joyful! The endgame, not the process, ultimately matters. Save your ultimate reaction -- positive or negative -- for after your new coach introduces himself for the first time.

Of course, premature reaction is part of why Arizona State is here, uncomfortably in the news over process not results. There was a considerable amount of spin coming out of the Jones debacle Wednesday, but what is clear is that Jones wanted the job, thought he had the job but Arizona State backed away extremely late in the process, with money -- Jones' hefty buyout at SMU -- and negative booster and fan reaction certainly playing significant roles.

It seems there's a lot of push-pull within the Sun Devils coaching search. Lots of voices speaking but not one clearly above all others.

It's time to pause for a lesson, one that I've learned from watching scores of coaching searches.

No. 1: Search firms are useless. They are a waste of money. And they often have agendas.

No. 2: A search committee should be comprised of one person making the decision. Typically, that's a strong athletic director.

Collaboration is overrated. A one-person search committee arrives at a coaching search already with a good idea of what it is looking for. It talks to other smart people -- in some cases lots of them -- but only in order to get information that informs its conception of what it wants in a coach.

Let me give you two examples, apologies if Sun Devils fans who won't like hearing this: Arizona's Greg Byrne and Washington State's Bill Moos.

Byrne made a decisive decision to fire Mike Stoops on Oct. 9, but he already had a plan and a list of coaches he liked. He then talked to a lot of folks. He made a couple of runs at people. He got his man, Rich Rodriguez, at a discount. Now everybody is telling him how smart he is, which I gather he's enjoying.

Moos had a plan before he needed it. He visited Mike Leach in Key West before he was certain he was going to fire Paul Wulff. And, a day after firing Wulff, which did indeed feel like a sad day for the Cougars, he transformed the spirits of a fan base with a great hire. Optimism in Pullman is just short of those Jason Gesser years.

Folks: Search committee of one. End of story.

The key thing for every school, of course, is having someone who can successfully execute as a search committee of one.

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