There's a fine line between ambition and delusion, and SMU appears to be squarely on the wrong side of it in its coaching search.
Among the big-name coaches the Mustangs have reportedly targeted to replace the fired Matt Doherty include Marquette's Buzz Williams, Harvard's Tommy Amaker, Long Beach State's Dan Monson and Saint Louis' Rick Majerus. Several of those coaches didn't bother to listen to SMU's sales pitch. The ones that did still said, "Thanks but no thanks."
The most recent to turn SMU down was Majerus, who did so even though the Mustangs were apparently willing to nearly double his salary to roughly $2 million per year.
It didn't make sense for the 64-year-old Majerus to leave a Saint Louis program he has on the verge of being a perennial NCAA tournament contender to go to an SMU program that will require massive rebuilding. Instead, Majerus listened to SMU's offer and apparently used it as leverage, returning instead to coach a Billikens team that has everyone but Brian Conklin back from last year's 26-win season.
CBSSports.com reports that SMU's next target may be Oral Roberts coach Scott Sutton, who admittedly is a more realistic candidate. SMU also might have been successful if it targeted North Texas coach Johnny Jones weeks ago, but now the Mustangs may have waited too long since LSU is showing interest.
Whoever becomes SMU's next coach will be at an immediate disadvantage because of the Mustangs' lack of self-awareness in this search. All SMU is doing by going after pipe dreams like Williams or Amaker is raising the hopes of their fans to unrealistic heights and making the eventual hire an automatic letdown.
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Yes, SMU is joining the Big East and apparently will make a newfound commitment to basketball by throwing money at its next coach. Still, this is a program that hasn't been to the NCAA tournament since 1993, didn't finish above .500 in Conference USA in any of Doherty's six seasons and loses by far its best player off a 19-loss team.
DePaul was vastly more successful in a far stronger Conference USA, yet look how it has struggled since going to the Big East.
SMU's basketball job may be more appealing than it once was, but it doesn't appear it's nearly as good a gig as the school's administration seems to believe. The Mustangs need to find someone who's legitimately interested and make him an offer before this coaching search drags on any longer.
- Rick Majerus
- Tommy Amaker