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Coaching Rumor Mill Has Plenty of Grist
Odom has been to 34 Final Fours, dating from Greensboro in 1974. He knows how the coaching musical chairs game works.
"It used to be that a school like Kentucky could just point a finger and say, 'I want you,' and they'd have their coach," he said. "It isn't true anymore. Florida can match anything they offer Billy Donovan. Look at Texas A&M. You think they're letting Billy Gillispie walk out the door for Arkansas? They haven't had basketball like this in 50 years. There are a lot of oil men down there. They'll find the money."
Not long after Odom's pronouncement, word began to make its way around the lobby: Texas A&M had given Gillispie a long-term extension at $2 million a year.
"Jackpot," Odom said. "Imagine that: $2 million a year at Texas A&M for basketball. We are about to enter the era of the $3 million-a-year basketball coach."
That era may begin next week when the bidding opens for Donovan, regardless of whether his team wins a second straight national title Monday. Donovan did not sign a long-term extension last year after winning the national championship, so he is in the wonderful position of being able to name his price. Or he might be able to get the Miami Heat job. He is close to Pat Riley, and if he wins a second straight title, this might be the time, at age 41, to consider the NBA.
Someone mentioned that maybe Riley, a Kentucky grad, might want to go coach his alma mater.
"Only if he can take Shaq with him," one coach said.
"Yeah, but if Shaq got hurt, Riley would need more knee surgery," another said.
The lobby can be a bit mean-spirited, though funny, too.
Other names being tossed around: Vanderbilt Coach Kevin Stallings appears to be the leader in the clubhouse right now for the Michigan job. Stallings played and coached at Purdue and has probably hit the ceiling at Vanderbilt, which was one shot (or one missed traveling call, depending on your point of view) from a region final. Stallings has won in one of the toughest jobs in the country, so why can't he win at Michigan?
As soon as the word spread about Gillispie staying at Texas A&M, another name began to float around for the Arkansas job: Florida State Coach Leonard Hamilton. Having been an assistant at Kentucky, Hamilton has ties to the Memphis area, a key recruiting outpost for Arkansas, a place dominated in recent years by Calipari. Someone even threw Tim Floyd's name out for Arkansas, noting his ties to Memphis from his days as the coach at New Orleans.
Steve Alford, newly minted as the coach at New Mexico, walked past the group that included Tubby Smith.