Lang's World: Let’s take a ride on the coaching carousel
We have finally reached the end of the college football regular season. There are still a few Conferences with championships to settle, of course, but by next week that will be wrapped up, and then we can all go bowling.
And right now, if you listen real closely, you can also hear the coaching carousel beginning to spin. In a sport where the players don’t get paid, all that money has to go somewhere, and most of it seems to go to hiring and firing coaches. UNC coach Larry Fedora, for example, was replaced this week by former UNC coach Mack Brown. And now Fedora will be paid $12 million by UNC to not coach UNC.
Anyway, that big coaching wheel will keep on turnin’ for the next month or so, even if this year there probably won’t be quite as much action as a year ago. So I thought this week we could take a look at some of the best candidates for a few schools who are looking for help (and some other schools who may soon be in the market)…
The Red Raiders finally cut bait with Kliff Kingsbury, who scored a lot of points but gave up even more points and went a combined 35-40 over six seasons. Kingsbury should have no trouble finding a new gig as an offensive coordinator if he doesn’t surface elsewhere as a head coach.
Our replacement: I never watched Friday Night Lights, but how about the coach from that show? Eric something-or-other? I know the role was played by the ruggedly handsome actor Kyle something-or-other who was also on that show “Bloodlines.” You’re losing a hip young coach in Kingsbury, let’s keep the Hollywood sizzle alive in Lubbock!
The Cardinals delivered a big L to former coach Bobby Petrino, who has proven great at leaving disappointed fanbases in his wake all across the South. (As a Falcons fan, believe me I know.) Two seasons ago The Ville had a Heisman winner and a fun team. This year they finished 2-10.
Our replacement: I’m pretty sure Rick Pitino is available! But for real, there’s nothing fans in Kentucky love more than a winner, and fans of Louisville and the University of Kentucky love to tweak each other. So how about Louisville offer their head gig to former Kentucky quarterback Tim Couch? He’s currently working as a television analyst, which is a common stepping stone to the sideline.
It’s been a rough year for the Terrapins, who had all sorts of off-field issues to deal with, so they fired coach DJ Durkin and turned to interim coach Matt Canada, who sounds like a superhero. He wasn’t: Coach Canada led them to a 5-7 record this season.
Our replacement: I know Maryland has a lot of big-time backers and alums, and it’s constantly mentioned as a place where coaches will have every opportunity to be successful. But I can’t remember Maryland ever being all that good at football -- their Wikipedia page has a section called “The Dark Years” that details a span of 13 years, which is a lot of time to be in the dark. They keep trying, but they can’t make that jump to consistent relevance happen. So where should they turn? May I suggest not all that far: There just so happens to be a coach who is currently looking for work, who coached in the region, who has had high profile offenses and developed great quarterbacks. And sure, he’s had some off-field issues, but really, you know, who hasn’t? And that’s why I think Bobby Petrino would be the perfect man for the job.
The Buffaloes recently moved on from coach Mike MacIntyre, who went 30-44 over almost six seasons. Before MacIntyre, the Buffs hadn’t won a bowl game since 2007.
Our replacement: I mean, the clear and most hilarious answer here is former Colorado State coach Jim McElwain, who turned the Rams into a contender before leaving for Florida, where everything basically fell apart. Apparently some Colorado fans have already considered this option, with less-than-enthusiastic results.
Which to me only increases my excitement over this possibility. McElwain has shown he can win games in Colorado. Change the mascot from a buffalo to a shark and let the man do work.
After a 5-7 season, coach Clay Helton recently received a dreaded vote of confidence from USC AD Lynn Swann (still feels odd to write that). Boosters may not be thrilled by Swann not cutting bait with Helton, but they have a good young quarterback in JT Daniels, and it shouldn’t be hard to do worse than a sub-.500 season.
Our replacement: Considering that the team has so many young players who are talented, and that the school obviously values headlines and hiring alums, my choice for the next head coach of USC would be USC alumni Will Ferrell. He’s famously a sports fan and athlete, and I bet he’d appreciate the opportunity to make terrific content out of a season in charge.
Former Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith was something of a surprise choice to head up the Illinois program, but three years in he’s gone 9-27, and the most impressive thing he’s put together over that span may be his giant beard. But the school obviously values Smith, as they just gave him a two-year contract extension over the weekend.
Our replacement: Well, look: You’re in the same conference as big dogs like Ohio State and Michigan, so getting into that upper echelon isn’t going to happen overnight. So in the meantime, if I was on the staff at Illinois, I’d try and make some headlines by hiring a different former Bears coach: Mike Ditka. He’s almost 80 and just had a heart attack over the weekend, but he is beloved in the state and could be a galvanizing presence.
The Wildcats finished the season 5-7, which is disappointing for a program that has been a perennial winner. Coach Bill Snyder has been on the sideline since 1989, so long that they actually named the stadium after him. Considering Snyder is 78 years old, the real question is will he stay or will he go? And if he goes, who replaces him?
Our replacement: In-state rival Kansas just brought in a big name in Les Miles, so I would think KSU might want to make a similarly large splash. And when I was perusing the Bill Snyder coaching tree of former assistants, there was one name that stood out to me as a potential home run: Rex Ryan. He hasn’t made many waves as a broadcaster, and you’d think as a recruiter he could do amazing things.
The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Memphis Grizzlies. All opinions expressed by Lang Whitaker are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Memphis Grizzlies or its Basketball Operations staff, owners, parent companies, partners or sponsors. His sources are not known to the Memphis Grizzlies and he has no special access to information beyond the access and privileges that go along with being an NBA accredited member of the media.