Top five names on Gamecocks’ coaching short list

Poor Darrin Horn didn’t even have time to remove the name plate from his office door before rumors starting swirling about who’s name would take its place.

His firing had to be done, as nice a guy as he is. South Carolina’s basketball program has reached an an all-time low since joining the SEC two decades ago. It almost makes those back-to-back NIT titles seem like the glory days.

Here’s the problem: Gamecocks AD Eric Hyman can search for candidates at the Final Four all the way down to Bourbon Street and still not find a better man than Horn.

The real problem is that men’s basketball has fallen so far behind the baseball and football programs that the excitement is gone. Even the NCAA Tournament-bound Lady Gamecocks generated more interest this season.

And it’s going to be tough to generate some momentum in the current state of the SEC. With No. 1 Kentucky, Vanderbilt and Florida already in the same division, national power Missouri joins the East (geography be damned) next season.

It’s a lot more tempting for an up-and-coming coach to go to a mid-major and build a winner against lesser competition than it is to jump in the path of an oncoming freight train. Sure, the pay is better, but the job security sucks.

So there’s a good chance that the next coach at South Carolina is a name you may not recognize, a real sleeper gamble (like maybe a Wall Street millionaire who wants to give coaching a try) that isn’t currently on anyone’s short list.

But Hyman has to be feeling the pressure to replace his first hire with a more successful candidate. Here are the ones who are on the Gamecocks’ radar, listed in order of their odds of becoming South Carolina’s next head basketball coach:

* Gregg Marshall: The Wichita State coach had done well with the Shockers following a rocky start, but he hasn’t reached the level of success he did at Winthrop, turning the tiny Big South school into a mainstay on the NCAA Tournament’s invitation list. Word is the Greenwood would love to come home, and the Gamecocks just might grant his wish.

* Jeff Capel: After his last head coaching stint with the Sooners soured to the point of NCAA sanctions, Capel has paid his punishment by serving as an assistant at his alma mater under the legendary Coach K. Now the former VCU and Oklahoma coach has a clean bill of health and is sure to be a hot commodity on the market. USC makes perfect sense for the North Carolina native.

* Tommy Amaker: Another Duke grad that would be considered a real coup for the Chicken Coop. Amaker has built a winner at, of all places, Harvard, which is in the NCAA tourney. For a relatively young coach he already has an impressive resume – Seton Hall (1997–2001), Michigan (2001–2007), Harvard (2007–present).

* Shaka Smart: Capel’s successor at VCU has taken the Rams to the next level, and his show of loyalty to stay at the CAA mid-major power and pass up big bucks from major conference schools speaks volumes about his character. But Smart not be so quick to stay after this season. His name is already being mentioned for other coaching positions but USC should be in the mix.

* John Cooper: Relax, Buckeyes fans. Not THAT John Cooper. This is Tennessee State’s John Cooper, who led the Tigers to a strong season that included being the only team to beat Murray State. Unfortunately the Tigers played in the same league with the Racers and lost out on an NCAA Tournament bid, but Cooper has shown he can build a winner with little to work with.

There’s the early short list of candidates for the Gamecocks’ coaching vacancy, but anything can happen during March Madness.

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One response to “Top five names on Gamecocks’ coaching short list”

  1. brian foulks says:

    I am digging this list my friend…top to bottom but i have to go with John Cooper as the next coach…

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