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On turmoil, rumors and coaching buzz

4/12/2010

It might be the offseason, but that doesn't mean the news cycle and the rumor mill have stopped churning in the college basketball world. Here's my take on all the latest happenings ...

• Not sure what exactly Wake Forest is planning on getting out of Jeff Bzdelik. "Buzz" is a very sound basketball coach, but Wake will be in for some tough sledding if he does not get a big-time recruiting-oriented staff. Remember, though Bzdelik was a winner at Air Force, it was only after the table was set by Joe Scott and Chris Mooney. Whereas at Colorado, where the cupboard was bare, the Buffs did nothing much of note, though they were well-coached. Bzdelik and Wake AD Ron Wellman have been friends for 20 years. So this seems to me like a guy firing a coach who he thought was in a little over his head, for a friend who he respects but might not have fully researched. Many in Boulder thought Bzdelik would take an NBA assistant job this summer because he was never really into recruiting. Does that sound like the perfect fit for the dog-eat-dog world of ACC basketball?

• While new St. John's coach Steve Lavin has stated that he wanted to have mentor Gene Keady on his bench this season, do not be surprised if there is a different big name former coach on his staff instead. Strong rumors out of Southern California have Jim Harrick, whose firing led to Lavin getting the job at UCLA, joining Lav in some capacity in Queens. Like Keady, Harrick recently lost his wife to a lengthy illness. But unlike Keady, he has been actively involved in AAU basketball the past five or so years.

• UCLA is cleaning house so to speak. Drew Gordon left midseason, and though he is immensely talented, Gordon never had a position nor did he buy into Ben Howland's system. Nikola Dragovic, James Keefe and leading scorer Michael Roll all graduated. Roll and Dragovic were pleasant surprises at the end of their careers. J'Mison Morgan (weight and other issues) and Mike Moser (who I was told they really liked coming in, but others in the Pac-10 say cannot play at that level) have both transferred and associate head coach Donny Daniels left for Gonzaga. According to several sources, Howland has made it clear to his staff that landing Terrence Jones and/or Ray McCallum is essential to getting the Bruins back among the nation's elite. It might also be essential to keeping their jobs. Stud recruit Josh Smith looked overweight in the McDonald's All-American Game and fellow incoming top-50 recruit Tyler Lamb is good but not great. As for freshman Tyler Honeycutt, he has a very high ceiling but may be another year away from dominating.

• There is an irony to Tommy Herrion getting a head-coaching job in the state of West Virginia. The new Marshall coach, who is roundly liked in the coaching community, was the assistant hit in the face with an object while on Pitt's bench during a game at WVU this season. If you remember the game, Bob Huggins personally took time to make sure Herrion was OK during the postgame handshake. Herrion followed longtime coach John Kresse at College of Charleston before being fired three years into his first head coaching gig. He should be in a much more comfortable position not following a man whose name is on the floor.

• Iowa State is a mess. Coach Greg McDermott, who was wildly successful at Northern Iowa (with current UNI coach Ben Jacobson on his staff) went all in this past season and ... well, quite frankly, failed. Craig Brackins was not nearly as explosive scoring-wise as his sophomore year, Charles Boozer tore his ACL, Lucca Staiger left midseason to play pro ball in Germany and ISU's guard play was never good enough to take the pressure off Brackins and Marquis Gilstrap. Now Gilstrap, who applied for another year but was denied, is gone. So is Brackins, who is off to the NBA. Also departing are Dominique Buckley and talented backup center Justin Hamilton. With all of that going on, McDermott has moved Jeff Rutter to director of basketball operations from an assistant coaching position and lost head recruiter Daniyal Robinson to the same position at Houston. With two open assistant coaching spots, look for McDermott to hire Nick Nurse, head coach of the D-League's Iowa Energy (who is very experienced as a European head coach and played with McDermott in college) and an assistant who can bring a player or two. ISU is sure going to need a few of those.

• Credit Ben Jacobson and Brad Stevens for following the Bob McKillop plan and staying where they are happy. All three have made great runs in the tournament and all three have signed long-term deals in the past couple years to stay at their current schools. The money is unreal on the open market, but find Jerry Wainwright, Todd Lickliter, Greg McDermott and Dan Monson and ask them if they would like to reset time and get a 10-year deal at their old schools.

• If -- and it's a big if -- Enes Kanter plays next year for Kentucky, Big Blue might forget the name DeMarcus Cousins. Kanter, who most people I talk to consider the best prep talent in the country, probably will sit an extended amount of time because of eligibility issues from his days playing in Turkey. But if he can get in 10-15 games next season, his basketball IQ and on-court talent will amaze.

• Best player not yet in the NBA draft? How about Luke Babbitt? The Nevada sophomore will be a lottery pick whenever he chooses to leave school. Last season, he averaged 22 points and nine rebounds, shot 50 percent from the field, 92 percent from the line and 42 percent from 3. You may read that some scouts are down on him because he's perceived as an average athlete, but that's not the case. In a sport filled with guys lacking polish, basketball IQ and "game," Babbitt would be a top-five pick if he was a foreigner.

• New Hawaii coach Gib Arnold has already landed a great recruit -- although that new recruit will never score a point for the Warriors. Arnold, who specialized in bringing African natives to College of Southern Idaho while he was coach there -- as well as during his time as a USC assistant -- got Nebraska assistant Walter Roese to come back to the Islands. It marks the beginning of Hawaii's reopening of their foreign recruiting in a major way. Roese, who also coaches the Brazilian junior national team, is the guy for South American recruiting and he is familiar with Hawaii, having played at BYU-Hawaii. Expect UH to have a United Nations feel in a year or two, much like Oahu itself.

• No one should be surprised by the James Dickey hire at Houston. Dickey, who could have gotten out at Oklahoma State while on both Eddie and Sean Sutton's staff, seemed to have waited for the right job for too long, but being back in Texas is a perfect for the last dominant coach of the old Southwest Conference. Tech was 30-2 and went to the Sweet 16 in its final year in the SWC under Dickey and he is compiling a terrific staff that knows the politics of Houston and Dallas well. The aforementioned Daniyal Robinson had a great reputation at Iowa State and previously under Porter Moser at UALR and Illinois State. Alvin Brooks, who has been a head coach and assistant in the state, was a solid hire. And Ulric Maligi, a well-connected former AAU coach of the Dallas Mustangs and an assistant at UT Arlington and Stephen F. Austin, will do well in the Dallas area.

Doug Gottlieb is an ESPN.com contributor and hosts "The Doug Gottlieb Show," which airs weekdays from 4-7 ET on ESPN Radio and ESPNradio.com. You can e-mail him at douggottlieb@espnradio.com