KU’s next men’s basketball coach should be …

Posted on Jul 8, 2014 in News and Sports

No screaming, crying or fainting necessary: It’s a what-if scenario, part of a series by Sports Illustrated on potential college basketball coaching replacements.

As much as they’d prefer to deny ever having had the conversations, fans have always mulled potential coaching replacements, and lately the list has been dominated by former KU players Danny Manning (now at Wake Forest after a successful stint in his first head coaching job at Tulsa), Tad Boyle (doing great things at Colorado—including beating KU last year in Boulder), Jacque Vaughn (Orlando Magic of the NBA) and Mark Turgeon (now at Maryland after good runs at Wichita State and Texas A&M). All four make SI’s list, as do Gregg Marshall of Wichita State (although his public irritation with the Shockers not landing a spot on KU’s non-conference schedule would seem to hurt his chances to get the job here) and Arizona’s Sean Miller.

What makes this list particularly intriguing, however, are the two coaches Sports Illustrated considers most likely to assume command at Allen Field House should Self unexpectedly depart: Ohio State’s Thad Matta and Virginia’s Tony Bennett.

The Jayhawks enjoyed a thrilling home-and-home series with the Buckeyes in December 2011 and December 2012 (KU won both games), and KU beat Ohio State in the 2012 NCAA semifinals in New Orleans—all of which gave KU fans (and athletics administrators) plenty of time to watch Matta in action and admire both his coaching and recruiting abilities, as well as his competitive yet classy demeanor. When it comes to representing a school and a program, few do it better than Matta, who until this past season finished first or second in the Big 10 for five consecutive years and advanced to two Final Fours.

Bennett wasn’t widely known until this past season, when he coached the Cavaliers to 30 wins, regular-season and conference championships in the rugged ACC, and a Sweet 16 berth in the NCAA Tournament. Sports Illustrated describes Bennett, who came to Virginia after good success at Washington State, as “personable” and “a hot commodity.”

And now … deep breaths, everybody. With superstar recruits set to join returning stars such as Perry Ellis, Wayne Selden Jr., Frank Mason and Jamari Traylor, Bill Self’s 12th season at KU could be his most exciting in years.

—Chris Lazzarino

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