First and foremost, I just want to shout a hearty "Amen" in response to the heartfelt goodbye letter Michael Spath wrote to John Beilein today. I couldn't say it better myself, so I won't even try. We wish Coach B well. He's the GOAT for Michigan basketball. Like everyone else, I'm eternally grateful for the ride.
But now the show must go on.
Michigan basketball was considered a top 5 job in the Big Ten before Beilein arrived 12 years ago, despite spending a decade in the wilderness after NCAA sanctions. We now know Michigan was foolish to take those violations so punitively serious, when others are even inventing fake classes and effectively engaging in money laundering with so far no accountability from the NCAA. Nevertheless, Beilein ran what many considered the cleanest major program in the country, and it was also one of the most successful. He leaves with Michigan now considered one of the top overall jobs in the sport. It is now time for A.D. Warde Manuel to hire a replacement worthy of that mantle.
There's already a slew of coaching hot boards out there from folks far more connected to the hiring process than I am. So the point of this exercise is not to get attached to a particular name or two, but rather set the criteria we believe Warde Manuel should be looking for in his next head basketball coach. Then, once the qualifications are set, you proceed to evaluate which names/resumes meet those qualifications.
If I were Warde Manuel, this is the criteria I'd be looking for:
1. A coach with a proven track record as a HEAD COACH.
It's a false choice between proven track record and potential. The truth is someone's proven track record is the best indicator of their potential. For example, when Michigan hired Beilein 12 years ago he was coming off an Elite 8 appearance at West Virginia. He had a proven track record of success at all his previous stops, too. Therefore, it was reasonable to project he had the potential to do even better at Michigan given its superior tradition and advantages, because of his track record. At the time Beilein was hired, a lot of folks preferred Chris Lowery of Southern Illinois instead. He was the new hotness, and it was quite the divisive topic on the various message boards. Thankfully, A.D. Bill Martin hired the track record over the potential. The rest, as they say, is history. When Lowery was fired at Southern Illinois in 2012, Beilein was about to embark on arguably the best Michigan basketball run ever.
2. A coach that knows the balance between recruiting and development.
Since Michigan is obviously not going to become the next school involved in the racketeering...err...recruiting game at the highest levels, it needs a coach who can strike a balance similar to what Beilein did the past few years. Consistently recruiting top 50-150 kids, or the next major tier of prospect, while developing their upside once in school. The likelihood the next Michigan coach is going to be permitted to outbid...err...out-recruit at the elite level is extremely low. On the other hand, they can't be so fixated on development that they don't understand you can't mold mid-major clay into high-major success in the rugged Big Ten. This isn't the Ivy League. People still expect to be relevant and contend around here.
3. A coach that takes the term student-athlete seriously.
This is an automatic to coach any sport at the University of Michigan.
4. A coach who is "relatively" clean.
As long as the NCAA is going to permit schools like North Carolina to tarnish their academic brand to win basketball schools, and so many other programs to outright defecate on their rules on FBI wiretaps, there's really no need to live up to some super-standard above and beyond the fake one that isn't a real standard anyway. So as long as the coach has proven he takes the term student-athlete seriously, and there's no possibility he could be implicated in any illegality at his previous stops, who really cares about anything else? Don't worry about the letter of NCAA by-laws that are full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. Only be concerned about maintaining the overall integrity of your individual institution.
"But Steve," some of you will say, "how many coaches meet that criteria?"
That's the point. We ain't the leaders and best for nothing. Warde Manuel makes a pretty penny to rise to the occasion in situations like this, and I'm sure he learned plenty from the Kevin Ollie debacle while he was at UCONN.
This is Warde's moment to make his mark as the AD here.