What would it take? The big names
They are among the coaching elite. So is there any chance any of them ever leave?
College coaches change jobs all the time. And if they don't change, it doesn't mean they aren't rumored to be on the move. What would it take for certain coaches to leave? That's what we'll be examining this week on ESPN.com. While the rest of the week we'll look at the hottest names, the ones most often mentioned when an opening comes up, we'll start first with the some of the big names that seem locked into their current posts. Let's look at what it would take to lure them someplace else:
(And remember, we realize that most of these coaches will never leave until they retire. But the old "never say never" rule always applies.)
Mike Krzyzewski, Duke, 34 years
What hasn't Krzyzewski accomplished at Duke? Remember the 1980s? Well, Coach K was elite in that decade, too. Shortly after his arrival in 1980, he turned Duke into the perennial power it has been for nearly 30 years. He has led the Blue Devils to the Final Four in four consecutive decades and boasts a Division I record 983 wins. And he's not losing steam. Duke's 2014 recruiting class is ranked No. 1 by ESPN's RecruitingNation, ahead of Kentucky's crew. Tyus Jones, Jahlil Okafor, Grayson Allen and Justise Winslow form a potent collection of talent that will make Duke a national title contender (again) and the favorite to win the ACC in 2014-15. Coach K is Duke basketball. You can't separate the two.
What would it take? Coach K will retire in the coming years. And that's the only way he'll leave Durham, it seems. The Los Angeles Lakers wanted him. But Krzyzewski rejected their five-year, $40 million offer in 2004. Back then, Kobe Bryant was the best player in the NBA -- although a young LeBron James was quickly gaining ground on him. Still, Krzyzewski said no. So the NBA is not a threat. And there's just no other school that would interest him. This isn't news. We all know that. That's not all, though. He has been vocal about shaping college basketball's future. The current hierarchy of college sports is shifting. And in the next decade, the entire makeup of Division I athletics might be a foreign composition compared to its current arrangement. And if that realignment creates a void for veteran leaders to mold the new rendition of collegiate athletics, Krzyzewski could be the "commissioner" or one of the executives who fills it. Plus, we all know if Beyonce called, he'd listen, too.
Possibilities: A tropical paradise, college basketball commissioner's post or executive board, Beyonce's world tour
John Calipari, Kentucky, five years
He's the Jay Z of college basketball, and he's also friends with Jay Z. That's not a minor detail within his dazzling tenure in Lexington thus far. Calipari has tapped into the one-and-done market and molded squads, packed with freshmen and sophomores, into national contenders. He's hip and trendy. Some coaches bring motivational speakers into the locker room. Calipari brings Drake. It's not easy to convince those athletes, who could star for any team in America, to join forces at Kentucky. But he has turned that into an art, which has led Kentucky to three Final Four appearances and one national title in the past four seasons. And next season's squad should enter 2014-15 as the preseason favorite, yet again, to win the national title.
What would it take? Months before Mike D'Antoni, uh, resigned, there were rumors about Calipari taking the Lakers job that wasn't even available yet. He squashed that buzz during the NCAA tournament. Well, he tried to quiet the noise. But then he cracked the door to the NBA again when he recently told reporters that he'd love to coach LeBron one day. He's coached in the NBA before. But he has found more success in college than what he experienced with the New Jersey Nets in the 1990s. He seems open to the idea of coaching arguably the greatest player of our generation, though. An opportunity to guide elite talent and an NBA team positioned to compete for a title is clearly something that the Kentucky coach would consider.
Possibilities: The Miami Heat, or wherever LeBron is playing
Bill Self, Kansas, 11 years
One time, Kansas finished second in the Big 12 standings under Self. That was 2003-04, Self's first year in Lawrence. Since then, the Jayhawks have won 10 consecutive Big 12 championships. And the Jayhawks will be favored to win their 11th consecutive conference title in 2014-15. Self has assembled another talented recruiting class that features elite big man Cliff Alexander and likely one-and-done wing Kelly Oubre. He continues to dominate one of the nation's toughest conferences. That's not easy to do. Self, who also led the Jayhawks to a national title in 2008, has been doing this for a decade. Kansas will build a statue for him once he retires.
What would it take? Earlier this month, Self -- again -- silenced any chatter about a possible stint in the NBA. It's an annual conversation. And it makes sense. Why wouldn't an NBA team try to sign Self? But there's nothing to it. Self told reporters that "There's nothing about me and the NBA. Zero." He'll probably retire in Lawrence. But he hasn't completely crushed the idea of entertaining the NBA possibility in recent years. He's close to former Kansas assistant and current San Antonio Spurs general manager R.C. Buford. And Gregg Popovich probably can't coach forever. Plus, he's an Oklahoma native. And if the stars align and Self has the chance to coach Kevin Durant one day, he might be tempted to go, too. But it's hard, nearly impossible, to imagine Self leaving Lawrence for anything other than an extended stay in the Caribbean once he's done coaching.
Possibilities: Oklahoma City Thunder, San Antonio Spurs, early retirement
Tom Izzo, Michigan State, 19 years
Last season's seniors were the only four-year players that Tom Izzo didn't lead to the Final Four during his time at Michigan State. He has been on the job since 1996. Izzo is an icon in East Lansing. He flirted with the Cleveland Cavaliers a few years ago. And when he announced that he'd decided to stay with the Spartans, the news conference was like a coronation. Michigan State loves Izzo. But he's also savvy enough to ensure that the program and its supporters don't make the mistake of taking him for granted. His legacy at Michigan State is unrivaled -- and he followed the man, Jud Heathcoate, who led Magic Johnson and the Spartans to the 1979 national title.
What would it take? The NBA continues to call. Izzo reportedly rejected the Detroit Pistons as they courted new coach Stan Van Gundy. Cavs owner Dan Gilbert wined and dined Izzo before he chose to stay in East Lansing. But he listened. Why wouldn't he listen again, especially if a job offers an opportunity to coach elite talent in the NBA? The Cavs couldn't guarantee that LeBron would stay when they courted him. But if he'd had that assurance, he might be in Cleveland right now. The Pistons, however, have some intriguing pieces. So some crazy NBA offer could still draw Izzo. Maybe. But retirement seems like the only way that he'd ever leave East Lansing.
Possibilities: The beach, an NBA team that's capable of competing for a title
Sean Miller, Arizona, five years
Sean Miller is only 45 years old. That's fairly young for a coach who has one of the best jobs in the game. Arizona has the legacy, investment and facilities to compete with any program in the country. Arizona reached the Elite Eight last season after spending a chunk of the season with the No. 1 ranking. California's Mr. Basketball, Stanley Johnson, joins the mix next season, when the Wildcats will be national title contenders again. Miller also has a top-10 class for 2015, per RecruitingNation. He's building a strong program in Tucson. The Wildcats, under Miller, should be contenders as long as he maintains this pipeline to the nation's top players -- especially those California studs. It's still early, but Miller has impressed in the first five years at Arizona.
What would it take? After Gary Williams left Maryland, Sean Miller considered the vacancy in 2011. But he also reiterated his love for Tucson. Miller has a dream job and a chance to be one of the game's great coaches. But the former Pitt point guard and Beaver Falls, Pa., native is still an East Coast guy. Maryland could call again. But next time, the Terrapins will have Big Ten Network money. In 2012-13, Miller was ranked 17th nationally with a base salary of $2.2 million. His current contract maxes out at $2.6 million. There's no reason for Miller to leave Tucson anytime soon, even if a good NBA team offered a lucrative deal. But he's also one of the best bargains (according to base pay) in college basketball right now. Plus, if Roy Williams, Coach K and/or Jim Boeheim leave their posts in the coming years and Miller continues to succeed at Arizona, you'd think they'd consider him, too. But good luck. Miller has it all in Tucson.
Possibilities: Maryland, Duke, North Carolina, Syracuse, the NBA
Billy Donovan, Florida, 19 years
Florida has made four consecutive Elite Eight appearances. And that's not the first thing that appears on Donovan's resume. His back-to-back national titles in 2006 and 2007 with Joakim Noah, Corey Brewer and Al Horford are his top coaching accomplishments. The Rick Pitino protégé has emerged from that giant shadow to stand among the game's best coaches. He's also making $3.7 million, a top-10 salary in the college game. Before Donovan's arrival in 1996, the Gators had reached the NCAA tournament five times. They've missed it twice (2008, 2009) since 1999. The SEC is a football conference. And Florida is the only SEC program that's managed to maintain a high-level basketball and football program during the BCS era. Donovan deserves the credit for that.
What would it take? If you're a Florida fan, then you know that the right NBA job could lure him. It already happened once, when Donovan accepted the Orlando Magic gig in 2007 before he changed his mind days later. That just wasn't the right job. And even when Florida announced an extension and pay raise for Donovan earlier this year, he said, "The NBA part of it, the intrigue part of it for me, is just the fact that it's basketball 24 hours a day. That's all you're dealing with is basketball." That's why NBA teams continue to contact him. And that's why Donovan seems destined to end his career with an NBA franchise. Remember, he's only 48.
Possibilities: New York Knicks, NBA
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