Names to consider as Georgia Tech looks for coach

From his time at Xavier, Georgia Tech Athletic Director Mike Bobinski knows well the charge that an NCAA tournament run can give to a school and its fan base. Yellow Jackets fans know it well, too, although the experience is a little more in the past.

It is Bobinski’s belief that it can happen again in time at Tech.

“We need to be an NCAA tournament team,” he said in an interview in February. “Does that mean we have to win the ACC every year? No, it doesn’t. You don’t have to win the ACC to be in the NCAA tournament. Would I like to win the ACC and should we be competing for that, take our turns at that as time goes by? … Yes, I think we should do that, but I darn sure think we should be a postseason-capable team and a team that’s capable of winning games in the postseason, not just getting there.”

Bobinski may never have more influence on making his vision a reality than in the next 10-14 days, the time frame within which he hopes to hire Brian Gregory’s replacement. In his news conference Friday, Bobinski gave some standard parameters — head-coaching experience preferred, though not mandatory, a person who can sell the story of Tech’s past successes to recruits, a coach who can articulate and execute a plan for success.

Who might that be?

BRAND NAMES

Chris Mack, Xavier

Bobinski knows him well, having promoted him from assistant to head coach in 2009. He would be tough to lure to Tech. He has turned down Cal, Tennessee, Wake Forest and likely others. The Musketeers are rolling, he’s paid well, is comfortable in his situation and faces no great incentive, beyond the challenge of the ACC, to leave.

Gregg Marshall, Wichita State

Marshall might be the premier mid-major coaching candidate, with five consecutive NCAA berths and a Final Four berth to his credit. Marshall just ended the first year of a seven-year deal reported worth an average of $3.3 million annually. Unless Bobinski has an exceedingly generous donor gift in his pocket, this is pretty far-fetched.

Archie Miller, Dayton

The man who succeeded Gregory is also the younger brother of Arizona coach Sean Miller, who preceded Mack at Xavier and worked with Bobinski. After five successful seasons at Dayton — three consecutive NCAA berths, including an elite appearance in 2014 — Miller’s name has also been connected to multiple jobs. He’s in the same position as Mack – solid team, secure contract, happy where he is. It’d take a lot to extricate him from Dayton.

TECH CONNECTIONS

Rod Balanis, Notre Dame assistant

Balanis, who played for coach Bobby Cremins from 1990-94, has been alongside Fighting Irish coach Mike Brey since his hire in 2000. He has helped build Notre Dame into the sort of consistently successful and well-coached team that Tech would do well to emulate. Balanis has never been a head coach, though. Still, of the Tech-grad candidates, he might be the least recognized, but is probably the most likely to get in the picture.

Craig Neal, New Mexico

Neal was an All-ACC guard for Cremins in the 1987-88 season and earned his first head-coaching job in 2013 at New Mexico after serving as an assistant to Steve Alford first at Iowa and then at New Mexico. Neal led the Lobos to the NCAA tournament in his first season and finished at 27-7, but in the two seasons since had records of 15-16 and 17-15. If he weren’t a Tech grad, would alumni be interested?

Mark Price, Charlotte

Price was interviewed in 2011 by then-AD Dan Radakovich before he ultimately hired Gregory. Price got his first head coaching shot last March at Charlotte, in the same city where he was an assistant with the NBA Hornets for the previous two years. Taking over a team that lost three starters to transfer, Price held the season together (14-19 overall, 9-9 Conference USA). But almost certainly, the lack of experience makes Price an unlikely option.

LESS KNOWN

Randy Bennett, Saint Mary’s

Sharing the West Coast Conference with Gonzaga, Saint Mary’s has become a worthy peer under Bennett’s watch. In the past nine seasons, the Gaels have made the NCAA tournament four times and the NIT five times. No other coach in school history managed more than one postseason appearance. Potentially intriguing to Tech is his ability to recruit internationally, specifically Australia. However, Bennett has been there 15 seasons and rebuffed other power-conference teams.

Bryce Drew, Valparaiso

Perhaps known to casual fans as the player who made a last-second game-winner to beat Ole Miss in the 1998 NCAA tournament, Drew took over at Valparaiso for his father, Homer, in 2011 and has won at a .719 clip with two NCAA appearances and two more in the NIT. Notably, the Crusaders have finished first in the Horizon League four out of his five seasons. Drew reportedly is a target in searches at Saint Louis and Pittsburgh.

Mike Lonergan, George Washington

After a successful run at Vermont (four 20-win seasons in his final five), Lonergan has coached the Colonials to 20-win seasons in each of the past three years at George Washington. However, the best regular-season finish that his teams have managed in his five seasons is third in the Atlantic 10.

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