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Who Winds Up In Fayetteville And Knoxville?

Move over Georgia Tech, NC State and Oklahoma.  Make room for two SEC schools that also have head coaching vacancies.

With Mike Anderson apparently staying at Missouri and Bruce Pearl out at Tennessee, the Hogs and Vols are both in coach-search mode.  So of the two SEC openings, which is best?

Arkansas.

A new Hogs coach will inherit what should be a decent-to-good team next year if John Pelphrey’s signees wind up in Fayetteville.  Pelphrey was not a well-liked coach, so his replacement won’t have to worry about replacing a popular figure.  Arkansas also has tremendous facilities and a fanbase that will get behind basketball.  Athletic director Jeff Long is on solid footing, as well.  The only downside is that UA fans’ expectations might be a bit high.  For a 7-year period in the late ’80s and early ’90s, Arkansas dined on caviar, winning 200 games against just 43 losses.  At first, an NCAA tourney berth would be reason to celebrate, but eventually the folks in the plastic pig hats will want to head to the Final Four again. 

As for Tennessee, well, things don’t look too good.  The Vols have great facilities and a fanbase that’s proven that it will back hoops.  But a new coach will have to replace the most popular man in town and UT’s best-ever on-court coach.  He will do so knowing that when Pearl comes through his “show cause” ban (and he’ll get one), that some fans will clamor to “Bring Back Bruce.”  He’ll have to take a job not knowing what NCAA sanctions he might face.  His school will be on probation meaning that any rogue booster can make his job even more difficult.  And he’ll have to go to work for an AD who himself is in hot water.  Oh, and the school will likely face some APR issues in the future if many of its current players decide to hit the road early.

In Fayetteville, all eyes will turn from Anderson to Marquette’s Buzz Williams if/when Missouri’s coach finally inks his extension.  Mark Turgeon (Texas A&M) and Frank Martin (Kansas State) are also possibilities.

In Knoxville, think smaller.  Vol fans are hoping/praying that someone like Butler’s Brad Stevens will take the UT job, but that’s highly doubtful.  He’s proven that he can compete for national titles in an easier league and at a school where basketball rules. 

Therefore, UT fans might be better off setting their sights lower: Chris Mooney (Richmond), Shaka Smart (VCU), Rick Byrd (Belmont), and Gregg Marshall are possibilities, though Mooney will likely have his pick of jobs.

Anyone chased by both Arkansas and Tennessee — Marquette’s Williams? — will likely choose to captain the Razorback ship.

Some are tossing Anthony Grant’s name around in connection to the UT job, but it’s hard to find any reason why Grant would leave his current job at Alabama for a shakier one in the Volunteer State.

At Arkansas, it appears the ride is about to start up again.  At Tennessee, it’s just getting started. 

Buckle up, these things tend to get bumpy.

 




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