Chuck Landon: Marshall should be pursuing D'Antoni
The natural reaction is to assume Mike D'Antoni would have no interest in Marshall's vacant head basketball coaching job.
There are several valid reasons to believe that.
After leaving in 1973, D'Antoni rarely returned to Huntington during the next 30 years and had little to no association with Marshall. So, why would he want to return to his alma mater now?
Then, there's D'Antoni's wife, Laurel, who is from the state of Washington. He met her in 1984 when D'Antoni was a star player and coach in the Italian League and Laurel was a runway model in Milan, Italy.
She was living the modeling life in Tokyo, Germany, Switzerland, Italy and Manhattan before marrying D'Antoni. Since then, they have lived in such cities as Denver, Phoenix, New York and, now, Los Angeles.
Would Laurel, 54, be happy living in Ritter Park or Barboursville?
As for Mike, after being a pro head coach in Italy and in the NBA with Denver, Phoenix, New York and for probably another month, Los Angeles, would he really be interested in the uncharted territory of college basketball?
For all intents, the last time D'Antoni was involved in college basketball was when he scored a team-high 20 points in Marshall's 80-76 loss to Fairfield in the 1973 NIT. It was his final game in a Marshall uniform.
Would the D'Antonis really want to leave their $6.9 million home in Manhattan Beach, Calif., with its ocean view and relocate in southern West Virginia?
It's that easy to be skeptical. But is skepticism the right move in this particular issue?
Although I succumbed to the urge initially, I have realized the folly of my logic.
What everyone's mindset needs to be -- particularly Marshall's president Steve Kopp and athletic director Mike Hamrick -- is to go after D'Antoni as though he's the best candidate on earth.
Because he is.
There are only two people who are capable of re-energizing Marshall's fan base. Just two. And they're so beloved, Herd fans still call them by their first names.
Mike & Chad.
Imagine the implications.
If D'Antoni would agree to become Marshall's new head basketball coach, the program would sky-rocket immediately. Marshall would become a basketball school again. Huntington would become a basketball town again. The Henderson Center would have crowds of 7,000 or 8,000 on a regular basis again.
There's no other coach who could have that impact.
That means if there's even the slimmest glimmer of hope that D'Antoni would consider taking the head coaching job, Marshall officials need to court him, woo him and go after him like he's the savior of Herd basketball.
Because he very well could be.
Realistically, that can't be said about any other candidate. Not Kevin Keatts. Not John Pelphrey. Not Steve Henson. Not anyone.
That's because there's not "another" Mike D'Antoni. There's only one and he's an icon here.
That's why D'Antoni has to rank as the top candidate in Marshall's coaching search. He has to be regarded as the No. 1 choice. And he has to be pursued as such.
If and when D'Antoni tells Marshall's officials that he isn't interested, then the search can move on to other candidates.
But until that happens, this job should belong to only one person.
Chuck Landon is a sports columnist for The Herald-Dispatch. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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