John Kuester, who has had mixed success at Boston University the past two seasons, and Pat Kennedy, who has had much success at Iona College the past five seasons, are the two leading candidates to become basketball coach at George Washington University, according to sources connected with the school.
Athletic Director Steve Bilsky is expected to present a coach to GW President Lloyd H. Elliott this week and an announcement could come by the end of the week.
Bilsky, who has focused his search on head coaches since Gerry Gimelstob resigned under pressure April 2, said yesterday, "We have narrowed the list of candidates considerably but we have not yet selected a coach. I think we are getting close."
Bilsky has also interviewed head coaches Bob Dukiet of St. Peter's, Jim Calhoun of Northeastern, Tom Schneider of Lehigh and Mike Cohen, Gimelstob's top assistant the last four years. Only Dukiet among that group is still under serious consideration, sources said, and he is the third choice right now, a person to turn to if a contract could not be worked out with either Kuester or Kennedy.
Kuester is probably the more likely choice right now, largely because he may be more eager for the job than Kennedy.
Neither was available to comment yesterday.
Kuester, 30, has a 31-28 record at BU, 15-13 this past season. Kennedy, 33, is 110-45 at Iona since succeeding Jim Valvano in 1980. The Gaels have won at least 20 games the last four seasons and were 26-5 this past season, including a 59-58 first-round NCAA tournament loss to Loyola of Chicago.
Kuester played for Dean Smith at North Carolina. Sources said Smith has called Bilsky on Kuester's behalf, likening him to George Karl, another former Carolina player who turned the moribund Cleveland Cavaliers into a respectable team this NBA season.
In 1977, as a UNC senior, Kuester was MVP of the ACC tournament and the Eastern Regional playing on a team that included Phil Ford, Walter Davis and Mike O'Koren. He was an assistant under Rick Pitino at BU and became head coach when Pitino, now the coach at Providence, left to become a New York Knicks' assistant coach.
Kennedy, who took over from Valvano at Iona in the wake of a scandal that cost Jeff Ruland his final year of eligibility, makes considerably more money than Kuester does. GW does not have a summer camp or any television or radio contract to sweeten any package. The school would have paid Gimelstob $45,000 this coming season. It likely would have to pay more to get Kennedy.
Kuester would not cost as much, but he does not have Kennedy's experience or his background as a winner. Alumni were obviously disappointed by a GW season that began with hopes for 20 victories and ended with a 14-14 record, a dissension-racked team and the departure of a coach with three years left on contract. How they would react to another lengthy rebuilding program must be a concern for Bilsky.
After going 17-12 in 1983-84, GW began the 1984-85 season as a cofavorite in the Atlantic-10 conference. But star center Mike Brown played much of the season hurt, and a February slump ruined the season.
When Gimelstob resigned, he suggested Cohen for the job, a recommendation backed by many of the players. Several have intimated to people that they will transfer if Cohen is not named coach, according to sources.
Cohen was the primary recruiter for most of the current team, whose leading scorers, Brown and Joe Wassel, graduate this year. The two players most likely to consider leaving are freshman guard Joe Dooley and freshman forward Max Blank, the 6-foot-8 Soviet immigrant who missed most of the season because of knee trouble.
Cohen has told friends that he will not remain at GW as an assistant coach. Regardless of what happens, Blank faces more surgery on his knee in the near future and will be redshirted next season.
One of the first jobs Kuester or Kennedy will face will be convincing all the players to stay and to make certain that the one signed recruit for next season, Brian Royal, a 6-6 wing guard from New York City, does not decide to go elsewhere.