These are strange days at Kansas State. And if John Currie’s goal was to clear up the confusion over why Frank Martin left the Wildcats to coach basketball at South Carolina, he fell short.
But for the time being, at least, it’s time to look forward.
Currie has already started working on a list of candidates to replace Martin. I have worked on my own list of 10, though I do not expect the K-State athletic director to stick my list in his back pocket.
Here are 10 coaches who could be good fits:
1. Tad Boyle, head coach, Colorado – If Boyle is interested, the other nine guys on my list might as well look elsewhere. I have been high on Boyle since his six years as an assistant to Mark Turgeon at Wichita State. He’s proven as a head coach (four years at Northern Colorado, two at Colorado) to be a good recruiter and tactician. He’s said in the past that Colorado is his dream job because he and his wife, Ann, are from nearby Greeley. But it can’t hurt to ask.
2. Tim Jankovich, head coach, Illinois State – Jankovich is from Manhattan and played at K-State. He’s familiar with the Big 12 from his days as an assistant to Bill Self at Kansas. He’s done a good job at Illinois State, which appears on the verge of becoming a perennial Missouri Valley Conference force. He has a lot going for him.
3. John Groce, head coach, Ohio – Groce, who led the Bobcats to the Sweet 16 and a near upset of North Carolina, is said to be on the verge of taking the Illinois job. He’s a former assistant at Ohio State, so the Big Ten makes sense. But, again, it’s worth a call just in case the Illinois thing isn’t working out.
4. Orlando Antigua, assistant coach, Kentucky – One of the biggest challenges for any K-State coach is recruiting. Let’s face it, Manhattan isn’t a destination point for a lot of high school athletes. Antigua, who speaks Spanish fluently, has been John Calipari’s chief recruiter at Kentucky, and before that spent time with Calipari at Memphis. Antigua played at Pittsburgh and grew up in the Bronx. He sounds a lot like Martin, in some ways. And that’s not a bad thing.
5. Steve Henson, assistant coach, Oklahoma – Henson is tough to figure. He’s been tied to Lon Kruger for so long, first as a player and then as an assistant, that it’s difficult to know whether his ambition to be a head coach is strong. If it is, K-State could be a fit. He’s one of the Wildcats’ all-time greats and is from McPherson. K-Staters love him.
6. Mark Fox, head coach, Georgia – A native of Garden City, Fox is another with K-State ties. Not that K-State ties will be the major factor for Currie. In fact, they might not be a factor at all. Fox was highly successful at Nevada and his first two seasons at Georgia went well; the Bulldogs were 21-12 in 2010-11. But they regressed to 15-17 this season, so there’s that to consider.
7. Randy Bennett, head coach, Saint Mary’s – Bennett has been at Saint Mary’s for 11 seasons and taken the Gaels to four NCAA Tournaments. He has gone toe-to-toe with Gonzaga in the West Coast Conference and won his share of those battles. I think Bennett would be a great hire for K-State or any of the BCS schools who need a coach. But his name rarely comes up. He is a native of San Diego and reportedly loves the West Coast. Would K-State be enough of a lure?
8. Tommy Amaker, head coach, Harvard – Amaker failed in his first big-time go-round as the coach at Michigan. But he’s settled in well at Harvard and is undoubtedly going to get another chance in the big-time someday. Amaker, who played at Duke, is high-risk, high-reward.
9. Dwayne Stephens, assistant coach, Michigan State – Stephens played at Michigan State from 1989-93 and has been on Tom Izzo’s staff with the Spartans for nine seasons. Before that, he worked for Tom Crean at Marquette and recruited Dwyane Wade. He’s highly thought of in the coaching ranks and another assistant who, surprisingly, hasn’t taken a head coaching job yet.
10. Steve Alford, head coach, New Mexico – Alford has done a fantastic job with the Lobos, but isn’t there a limit as to how far he can take that program? This season, it was the second round of the NCAA Tournament before a loss to Louisville. This is a stretch, because Alford is making $1.1 at New Mexico. But I love his experience and he would bring instant credibility.