North Carolina State's Norm Sloan and Duke's Bill Foster are the leading candidates for coaching vacancies at Florida and South Carolina, respectively, according to sources at the two schools.
Florida officials have contacted Sloan, coach at State the last 14 seasons, about the possibility of his returning there to replace John Lotz, fired in December.
At South Carolina, officials have made it clear that their first choice to replace retiring Frank McGuire is Foster, who has turned Duke into a national power during his six years there.
Both coaches have refused to discuss their situations but sources say that each man is interested.
"Norm certainly acts like he's interested in the job," one Florida source said yesterday. "He's either very interested in it or acting that way to use it as a lever for something else."
Sloan was noncommital. "I have to say no comment. I'm aware there's been a lot of activity down there on my behalf. People have talked to me, the media has talked to me.
"But I just don't want to talk about the situation at this time."
Sloan coached Florida for six seasons, 1960-65, compiled an 85-63 record and recruited Neal Walk, the best player in the school's history. When he left to return to North Carolina State -- his alma mater -- Florida's outdated basketball facility, "Alligator Alley," was cited as one of the factors in his leaving Florida is opening a new 12,000 seat arena this summer. f
Lotz, the Gator coach since 1973, resigned in December under heavy pressure after Florida, 8-19 a year ago, got off to another slow start. Florida is 2-11 in the Southeastern Conference and 5-15 overall this season.
Sloan, 53, coached N.C. State to the national championship in 1974 and has won 473 games in his coaching career.
State is 15-5 this season going into today's game at Notre Dame. But it has been a trying year for Sloan because Clyde Austin, one of his top players, has been involved in a controversy involving his alleged ownership of two expensive cars.The matter is under investigation by the ACC.
Additionally, Sloan is faced with the problem of trying to replace Charles (Hawkeye) Whitney, the backbone of his program the last three seasons, who graduates this spring.
Florida sources say the school is looking for a head coach with a proven ability to rebuild programs. "Our last two coaches were assistants from top programs and they couldn't get it done," one Florida source said.
Sloan has rebuilt programs and so has Foster. After resurrecting teams at Rutgers and Utah, Foster arrived at Duke six years ago in the wake of the school's worst one-season performance, 10-16. In four seasons, he turned the Blue Devils around, taking them to the national championship game in 1978.
But last season, with the entire 1978 squad back, the Blue Devils slipped to 22-8. Even though they tied for the ACC regular-seacon title and returned to the NCAA tournament. Foster was criticized for the team's failing to liveup to its preseason No. 1 ranking.
This season, the Blue Devils started 12-0 and were top-ranked in the country for four weeks. BUT THEY HAVE SINCE SLIPPED TO 17-5 -- 5-5 IN ACC play -- and face an uphill fight to get into the NCAA tournament.
Like Sloan, Foster, who has won 314 games as a head coach, faces the problem of replacing the backbone of his program, senior center Mike Gminski. p
"If he's going to make a move, this would be the year to do it," one Duke official said.
"I don't want to talk about anything like that right now," Foster said. "All I'm worrying about is this season and this team."
But South Carolina officials, who have watched their program slip steadily the last four years (The Gamecocks are 11-8 this year against a weak schedule) apparently are willing to pay almost anything to lure Foster, 49, away from Duke.