Chuck Landon: Oklahoma assistant in lead for MU hire
Close connections ... of the previous kind.
That's the name of Marshall's search for a new head basketball coach.
Although it won't include Steven Spielberg, it will involve candidates who have connections to Marshall's athletic director, Mike Hamrick, somewhere along the line.
And, make no mistake, Hamrick is going to hire Marshall's next basketball coach.
Did anybody hear any mention of a search committee during Hamrick's press conference on Friday in the Shewey Building?
Because there isn't going to be one.
Hamrick is a one-man committee.
That wasn't the case four years ago when Hamrick allowed Jeff O'Malley, MU's associate athletic director, to hire Tom Herrion.
If Hamrick had it to do over again, I don't believe he would handle it the same way. And that's no reflection on O'Malley, who does a superb job of serving as the liaison to the men's basketball program.
It's simply a matter of Hamrick not needing his contacts or glasses to have 20-20 hindsight.
He inferred as much during the press conference on Friday by commenting rather off-handedly, "I didn't know Tom Herrion very well." He was referring to when Herrion was hired.
Hamrick won't make that mistake again.
The new coach will be his hire. The new coach also will be someone Hamrick already knows and, more than likely, has worked beside.
Why is that the criteria?
Because there's no margin for error.
This hire can make or break Hamrick's legacy as Marshall's athletic director. And don't think for a minute that Hamrick's legacy isn't vitally important to him.
The 56-year-old Hamrick wants to be remembered as the athletic director who got things turned around at his alma mater.
Which leads us back to this hire.
I expect Hamrick to handle this search just like he conducted the hiring of a new head football coach at the close of the 2009 season. He's going to hire somebody he knows like Doc Holliday.
That's why my list of potential new coaches isn't nearly as long as most speculations.
It doesn't include such names as Bruce Pearl (Hamrick hates cheaters) or Seth Greenberg or Bobby Lutz (no second chances for a guy who turned the job down the last time).
It also doesn't include such names as Kevin Keatts, John Pelphrey, John Brannen, Jeff Battle or Brian Fish. They have connections to MU, but not to Hamrick.
And it doesn't include the D'Antoni brothers, Mike or Danny, or Chad Pennington. All for the same reason.
Strike former Herd assistant and current Ohio State aide Jeff Boals from the list, too, because sources say he isn't interested.
So, who does that leave?
A lone front-runner named Steve Henson.
The 45-year-old former Kansas State star point guard and current Oklahoma assistant fits Hamrick's criteria like a basketball sleeve. He has been a disciple of Lon Kruger's for 25 years and Hamrick considers Kruger the best basketball coach he ever has been around.
All three of them were together at UNLV for five years (2004-08). Hamrick was the Rebels' athletic director, while Kruger was head basketball coach and Henson an assistant coach.
So, there's the connection.
Will there be some smoke screen names and subterfuge candidates?
But it appears to be Henson's job to lose.
Chuck Landon is a sports columnist for The Herald-Dispatch. Email him at email@example.com.
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