Some things on my mind now that we’re a couple full days into our search:
It’s interesting to hear others in the PAC-12 media and fans of other teams talk about Utah. Many are dismissive and give off that Larry Scott-ish “You’re lucky with what you get” vibe saying the Utah HC gig is like 9th best in the conference. On the other hand, we fans like to think we’re the third best program/gig acknowledging that we’re not UCLA (by a country mile) or Arizona. And, going for recency and a network of bagmen that would make Al Capone jealous, Oregon. What’s the truth? I’m not sure. I do think we’re a top half gig and we are not full of fan pomp to expect more success than we’ve seen in the last 5-15 years.
As for HC, I’m REALLY vacillating on what we actually need.
X’s and O’s
One part of me says what we need is exactly what Alex Jensen is: a coach’s coach. An old school X’s and O’s guy. A true student of the game.The kind of guy who dreams about ways to break down an opponent’s defense or scheme to stop their star player. A guy who can take descent recruits and have them playing as a whole to compete agains blue-chip foes. If that’s really what we want, Alex IS that guy, and Harlen just needs to show up at his front door with a blank check and not leave until Jensen is our coach. “But what about recruiting!!!?” That’s what you assemble a staff for. Hire a staff that has in spades what you lack as a HC.
The other side of this is that maybe we don’t need a mad scientist. What we need is a personality. A mini celebrity. A guy that star player’s love and want to go to war with. I’m not saying he’s the only guy, but in this mold the one I keep thinking is an Earl Watson. EW comes right from the place where we NEED to grab a foothold: LA. He IS an LA guy. LA loves him. I have no idea if he can coach, but I can guarantee that he can get into ANY living room in SoCal and make a pitch that will get guys to come here. That’s what we’re missing. We need that figurehead who can shew talent to the U. Then you can have a whole staff of guys to figure out the X’s and O’s. But this time we’ll be planning with a bench full of talent!!
In either case, whether you go for the mad scientist that may not be the recruiting draw or the rock star who may not have the whiteboard cred, you need that expert mind one seat over. This is where I actually think in may not be a bad idea to hang on to Tommy Connor. Especially if we go the Player’s Coach route. Connor may seem like damaged goods now, but I assure you he’s a great coach and STILL very valuable to the U. I think we’re dumb to let this guy walk.
And just for conversation’s sake I think we may want our new coach to take a close look at Chris Burgess. He might be a redundant piece if we land Jensen, but think of how a once blue-chip, California raised, Duke attending, Ute alum would help a guy like Earl.
Also, don’t forget that Phil Cullen is an assistant with the Spurs. He doesn’t have quite the same pedigree as Burgess, but he’s a smart guy who “gets” Ute basketball and is up and coming.
Last of all, yes, you probably find some way to keep Martinez’s dad on staff for a couple more years. The tradeoff is worth it.