Two more coaches Drake should consider, and don’t roll your eyes…
A university athletic director once explained to me: You don’t hire a search firm to find coaching candidates; you hire a search firm to find out who might be interested.
Drake’s Sandy Hatfield Clubb is going through the process now, trying to find a men’s basketball coach, and she doesn’t need to pay consultant fees to figure out whether interim coach Jeff Rutter or Creighton assistant Darian DeVries are suitable candidates.
Both have the sort of background and qualifications that would intrigue and rally supporters. Hatfield Clubb wouldn’t need to drop a dime.
When she issued a statement last week saying there would be a national search, Hatfield Clubb wanted to expand the possibilities, see who else is available.
And I have two other candidates, coaches with a hall of fame resumes, who Drake should at least reach out to, to gauge their interest: Baylor’s Kim Mulkey and Stanford’s Tara VanDerveer.
Ok, ok… I’ll wait a moment until you’re done laughing, rolling your eyes or dismissing me as a blogging troll.
Now, back to Mulkey and VanDerveer.
In recent years, female coaches have made inroads at the NBA (Becky Hammon is an assistant and summer league head coach for the San Antonio Spurs) and major-college level (Teresa Phillips became the first woman to coach an NCAA Division I men’s game in 2003).
But none have been given a full-time shot at rebuilding and redefining a men’s program (Phillips, the athletic director at Tennessee State, briefly filled in after one male coach was fired and another was suspended).
For Mulkey or VanDerveer, taking over the Drake program would be an historic milestone.
For the Bulldogs, it would bring instant relevance.
Let’s be real. Drake is lost in the basketball abyss. According to Kenpom.com, the Bulldogs finished this season ranked No. 259 out of 351 teams.
They were No. 261 a year ago and No. 275 in 2015.
And if you’re worried that hiring a female coach would seem a little gimmicky and lead to smirks from others around the Missouri Valley Conference, well…
Minutes before the Valley’s championship game between Wichita State and Illinois State tipped off Sunday, Bob Lutz of the Wichita Eagle tweeted “Great atmosphere in this building for this one. The Valley needs more of this. This ain’t Drake-Evansville, folks.”
That may seem mean, but Lutz wasn’t wrong.
If you want the wisecracks to stop, silence them with a bold move. Outside of Tom Davis, most successful men’s coaches wouldn’t give the Drake job a second thought.
An elite coach from the women’s side might at least think about it. The moment they said yes, ESPN, Sports Illustrated and every other news outlet would flock to Des Moines.
Imagine next fall, when the Valley holds its preseason media gathering and Wichita State’s Gregg Marshall is NOT the center of attention.
VanDerveer has won two national championships, and the idea of anyone luring her away from Stanford seems unlikely.
Mulkey is different. She’s led Baylor to two NCAA titles, won another as a point guard for Louisiana Tech and is fueled by any hint of disrespect.
This wouldn’t be a publicity ploy. It would be a matter of pride, for a woman who does not suffer fools gladly.
As someone who has been around Mulkey at a couple different tournaments, I can tell you she’s self-assured, snarky and defiant.
She reminds you of Gregg Marshall.
The timing isn’t particularly favorable. A couple weeks ago, Mulkey made tone-deaf comments when asked about parents sending their daughter to Baylor in light of the school’s recent sexual assault issues.
She responded to the backlash with a tearful apology.
So, yeah, as if Mulkey wasn’t already a longshot, that’s probably a deal breaker. But if Hatfield Clubb wants to find a coach with a proven track record and insatiable drive to succeed, she’ll have to deviate from the norm.
No matter who is chosen, we’ll all gather at the press conference and ask “How can Drake win?” IfMulkey or VanDerveer were the new coach, I’d honestly wonder how Drake could lose.