Thursday, June 21, 2018
Sports

Jones: Splashy hoops hire? Nope, USF goes with Coach Next

Whenever a sports team hires a new coach, we all immediately ask the same question:

Good or bad hire?

That's the question we asked Tuesday when we learned USF was going to hire Brian Gregory to be its men's basketball coach. Good or bad hire?

The answer is not so cut-and-dried. Or exciting.

Instead, the answer is, "Who knows?" accompanied by a shrug and, maybe, a yawn.

That's what USF basketball has come to. Frankly, this is what we've come to expect. Another wait-and-see hire that doesn't make much of a splash.

Because of its sorry history, USF can't expect anyone to uncross his or her arms and give the Bulls the benefit of the doubt on anything related to men's hoops.

Gregory might be a heck of a nice guy and really sharp when it comes to basketball. But this isn't the type of hire that excites whatever little fan base remains and entices skeptical recruits to one of the worst basketball programs we have ever seen.

This is the man who is going to turn USF into a winner? This is the best USF could do? A 50-year-old whose career coaching highlight was getting to the second round of the NCAA Tournament eight years ago?

Was there no one else?

What about Joe Dooley, the coach who has Florida Gulf Coast in the big dance? What about former Alabama coach and Florida assistant Anthony Grant? There was intriguing talk about LeBron James' old high school coach.

When you see what else is out there and how quickly USF moved on the hire, you wonder if Gregory was the only guy who returned USF's phone call.

Surprising that USF athletic director Mark Harlan didn't jump in his car and use $10 worth of gas to drive over to Orlando where coaches such as Kevin Keatts (UNC Wilmington) and Steve Forbes (East Tennessee State), as well as Dooley, will be coaching this weekend in the NCAA Tournament.

What, Gregory was in such hot demand that he wasn't going to be available in a week? This hire was squarely inside the box.

Then again, why do we think any of those other coaches would even be interested in USF? Let's face it, this is not a good job. Other than a season here and there, no one has been able to win at USF consistently. And the last guy, Orlando Antigua, turned out to be a complete disaster. The Bulls went 23-55 under his watch, and now the NCAA is sniffing around to see if everything was done on the up-and-up.

Now it's Coach Next — just the latest in a string of coaches searching for the key to unlocking the rusty door of success at the Sun Dome.

So, can Gregory win at a place where no one seems to know how to win? While there won't be a rush on season tickets with this hire, Gregory does deserve a few minutes before we proclaim this is a good or bad move.

That brings us back to Harlan.

So far, he's 0-for-2 on basketball hires.

Harlan had to turn to Antigua after his first hire, Steve Masiello, was discovered not to have a college degree as his resume stated.

Two big swings and misses. It's about time Harlan got one right, wouldn't you say?

As far as Gregory goes, we'll believe it when we see it. After all, this is USF men's basketball.

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