Chuck Landon: Decision nearing for Marshall basketball
Marshall should have a new head basketball coach by this time next week.
Eastern Kentucky's Jeff Neubauer still appears to be the leader, according to sources. But don't discount East Tennessee State's Murry Bartow.
The smart money is on him.
And I do mean money.
The Bartow scenario begins with the fact Marshall athletic director Mike Hamrick is friends with the 52-year-old, veteran coach and is very fond of his father, legendary former coach Gene Bartow.
Another key issue is Bartow's base salary at East Tennessee State is in the neighborhood of $168,000. So, Marshall could get him for the same $229,000 base salary it paid former coach Tom Herrion.
Bartow also wouldn't quibble about not chartering flights to away games or about a budget that has been cut by about 10 percent for consecutive years.
He would allow Marshall to maintain the status quo from a financial stand-point.
And don't forget the fact that Bartow has been a very successful coach. In 17 straight years as a Division I head coach, he has won 311 games against 234 defeats with four NCAA Tournament appearances.
Then, there's the Marshall factor. Bartow has a 4-2 lifetime record against the Herd. More important, Bartow's Buccaneers have won the last three meetings with Marshall, including an 88-78 win during the 2013-14 season at Johnson City, Tenn.
All that is relevant, but Bartow isn't actually the key to this potential hire.
Remember Bobby Bolen?
He's the linch-pin.
The Beckley native was ultra-successful at Mountain State University, coaching the Cougars to an incredible 487-123 record in 19 seasons. Bolen coached Mountain State to the 2004 NAIA national championship along with three other appearances in the title game. His Cougars also advanced to the NAIA Final Four on five occasions.
So, take a guess who Bolen's benefactor was at Mountain State?
Fellow Beckley native Jim Justice, naturally.
And since Justice is rumored to have donated most or, perhaps, all of Herrion's $571,000 buyout, the multi-millionaire is expected to have a say in who is hired as Marshall's next head basketball coach.
That leads back to Bartow.
If Marshall hires Bartow, he would bring Bolen with him as an assistant and, perhaps, as an unofficial coach in waiting. That would make Justice happy. And if the owner of The Greenbrier is happy, then Hamrick will be happy because that means Justice will continue to donate to Marshall's athletics.
See how all the pieces of this scenario fall in place?
That's why Bartow can't be dismissed as a candidate.
Meanwhile, sources at the Final Four in Dallas say former UTEP head coach Doc Sadler is trying to get involved in the Marshall search. Sadler was the Miners' coach during Marshall's first two years in Conference USA. Then, he was Nebraska's head coach for six years.
Sadler was an assistant at Iowa State this season.
In other job search news, sources say former Marshall player John Pelphrey was contacted by Marshall but the University of Florida assistant wasn't interested.
The bottom line?
Eastern Kentucky's Neubauer still looks like Marshall's best choice.
Chuck Landon is a sports columnist for The Herald-Dispatch. Contact him at email@example.com.
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