March 23, 2011
There's a fine line between ambition and delusion, and Tennessee appears to have crossed it with its list of top choices to replace Bruce Pearl.
A source in the school's athletic department told the Knoxville News-Sentinel that the five top candidates are Pittsburgh's Jamie Dixon, Villanova's Jay Wright, Alabama's Anthony Grant, Texas A&M's Mark Turgeon and Wichita State's Gregg Marshall. Will anyone on that list besides perhaps Marshall even bother to take Tennessee's calls?
That Tennessee would bother to float Dixon and Wright as potential candidates is as laughable as Oregon reaching out to Michigan State coach Tom Izzo this time last year. The Vols might throw Mike Krzyzewski and Roy Williams on their list as well because they have about as much chance with those two as prying Dixon or Wright out of the Big East.
Whereas the Oregon job at least had Nike money behind it to make it somewhat compelling to big-name candidates last year, Tennessee's job has numerous red flags associated with it at the moment.
There's the specter of looming potential sanctions from the NCAA violations under Pearl's watch. There's the fact that athletic director Mike Hamilton's job appears to be on shaky ground. And there's the fact that Pearl's success at Tennessee was more an outlier than the norm, raising questions as to whether his successor will be able to cope with the raised expectations.
Given all of those drawbacks, it's very surprising that someone in Tennessee's athletic department would float such a big name-heavy list of coaching candidates to the local media.
Tennessee has to be self-aware enough to realize it's almost certainly not going to get Dixon or Wright or even Turgeon or Grant. All the Vols are doing by tossing names like that out there early in the process is raising the hopes of their fans to unrealistic heights and making the eventual hire an automatic letdown.