LEXINGTON - Kentucky Athletic Director Mitch Barnhart is busy looking for the next coach to lead the Wildcat men’s basketball program. Following Tubby Smith’s abrupt departure, many names have surfaced as Kentucky looks to lock down its next head coach. Home to the nation’s winningest men’s basketball program, the University of Kentucky is looking to get the best possible replacement for Smith, a 10-year veteran of the program. Here’s a closer look at some of the coaches being mentioned as Kentucky looks to fill one of college basketball’s most prolific coaching positions.
Rick Barnes, Texas - Barnes is in his 20th season as a head coach. The Hickory, N.C. native, has been a winner every place he’s been. He is in his ninth season at the University of Texas. Barnes has guided Texas to a school-best seven straight 20-win seasons.
Billy Donovan, Florida - The Rick Pitino-schooled Donovan, a former Kentucky assistant, remains at the helm of defending national champion Florida. Donovan played for Pitino at Providence before he coached alongside him. Donovan has coached Florida to three SEC titles. The former Kentucky assistant has coached Florida in a pair of National Title Games (2000 and 2006).
John Calipari, Memphis - Calipari has turned out consistent winning teams at both of his stops as a head coach - Massachusetts and Memphis. Calipari is currently sixth for most wins in NCAA history through 14 seasons. Memphis edged Texas A&M 65-64 Thursday night in the NCAA South Regional. The Tigers exited the tournament game 33-3.
Tom Crean, Marquette - Crean recently wrapped up his eighth season at the helm of the Marquette program. A former assistant coach at Michigan STate, Western Kentucky and Pittsburgh, Crean coached Marquette into the 2003 Final Four. Crean-coached Marquette teams have averaged 20 wins each of the last eight seasons.
Billy Gillispie, Texas A&M - Texas A&M ended the 2006-07 season 27-7 under Gillispie, a coach who has made the Aggie hoops program into a perennial Big 12 title contender.
Tom Izzo, Michigan State - Izzo recently concluded his 12th season as head coach of the Michigan State Spartans. Izzo’s run at Michigan State includes one NCAA National Championship, four Final Four appearances, four National Coach of the Year awards and a Big Ten-best 10 straight NCAA Tournament appearances.
Bruce Pearl, Tennessee - Pearl came to Tennessee from Wisconsin-Milwaukee and made believers of the Big Orange Nation. If Pearl trades his Tennessee Orange for Kentucky Blue, could he bring Chris Lofton, one of the state’s favorite native sons back with him? Ohio State edged Tennessee 85-84 Thursday night in the NCAA South Regional. Vols finished the campaign 24-11.
FORMER CATS Rick Pitino, Louisville: Could history repeat itself? One year after Pitino bolted the Bluegrass for Boston and the Celtics, Kentucky won its first national title under Smith. A Pitino move back to Lexington isn’t totally out of the question. Stranger things have happened.
Travis Ford, Massachusetts: Campbellsville. Eastern Kentucky. Massachusetts. Kentucky? Ford’s coaching path has already included gigs at an NAIA school, an Ohio Valley Conference member and his latest stop in the Atlantic 10. He got the backing of Pitino when he took over the Minutemen.
John Pelphrey, South Alabama: Pelphrey, a Paintsville native, just wrapped up his second straight 20-win season at the University of South Alabama. The former University of Kentucky standout remains one of the top players in Wildcat history. Pelphrey doesn’t have the coaching experience of any of the other candidates on this list, but cut his coaching teeth under the watchful eye of Donovan.