Navy Coach Paul Evans returned here today from Pittsburgh, where he spent Sunday night and this morning interviewing with University of Pittsburgh officials.
Evans spent three hours Sunday night with Pitt Athletic Director Ed Bozik and Assistant Athletic Director Dean Billick. This morning, he met with University President Wesley Posvar.
On Sunday, Evans gathered with Navy players, coaches and officials who were waiting to see where the Colonial Athletic Association champions would play in the NCAA tournament. Then, he said, he attended the Coolidge-Gonzaga City Championship high school basketball game at Cole Field House before flying to Pittsburgh.
Evans said today that the Pitt job had not been offered to him but acknowledged his interest by saying, "I would like to have the choice."
The "choice" is whether to stay at Navy, where he has been for six seasons and has a 116-59 record, or go to Pitt, which plays in the Big East and has been searching for a coach since Roy Chipman announced he would resign at the end of this season.
"The Naval Academy and I, personally, want Paul Evans to stay," Navy Athletic Director Bo Coppedge said. "He's a super coach and a fine individual. But when you have good people, you have to expect others to be interested in them. I hope he doesn't go, and I'll do everything possible to keep him."
Navy will open the NCAA tournament Friday in Syracuse, N.Y., against Tulsa. Evans said that if the job were offered and he did accept, he would not say anything publicly until after the Midshipmen were finished in the tournament. Pitt is playing in the National Invitation Tournament.
"I don't know what their timetable is," Evans said. "I think they're bringing other people in." Cleveland Cavaliers Coach George Karl is another known candidate.
"We don't know a whole lot, but my feeling is that it's great for Coach," said senior guard Kylor Whitaker. "It's like a player, whose goal is to go to the NCAA Final Four and win it if possible. For a coach, the payoff is moving to bigger programs where you can go to the NCAA Final Four and be in the top 20 every year."
Whitaker said he did not think the uncertainty about Evans would hurt the team's tournament play.
"There has been talk about it for a while, but it hasn't affected us this year," Whitaker said. "The only time I think you'd ever see it hurt a team was if the team was losing."
Junior center David Robinson, who has improved tremendously under Evans, said he would be disappointed if Evans left.
"I want what's best for him," Robinson said. "It will hurt our program, but . . . he's a good coach and deserves to go as far as he can. The main thing he's given me is confidence. And I needed that confidence."
Evans said, "It's a good situation. They've got some good players in the program, and it's one of the best conferences in the country."
Asked if he would accept the job if it were offered, Evans said, "It's a tough decision because I really like it here, but then something like yesterday happens and it really ticks me off."
Evans was referring to Navy's seventh seeding in the East regional, which means the Midshipmen will have to face Syracuse at the Carrier Dome if they win in the first round.
"How can you be [18th] in the country and get seeded seventh?" Evans asked. "The seed is bad enough, but then to potentially have to play a team on its court. The schools from the big conferences are in the places they want to be. It's not fair to the kids here, who work just as hard, and probably harder.
"The fat get fatter, and the rest of us have to do it the hard way. Plus there's two teams from our conference in the same sub-region. I'm not sure Richmond didn't do better. I think it's [bad]. But on the other hand, I think the kids are going to prove something."
Evans said the question of staying at Navy does not involve money.
"They took care of me real well last year," said Evans, who received a raise last year.
"It's not a financial situation. It's a career decision. It's a career decision I have to make. It's whether I want to stay here and say I've reached the end of my career at 41 years old, or go on to a situation where I think you can be in the top 20 every year. There's a lot of things pushing at both sides."