TAMPA — Four months after launching the search for a new football coach, USF athletic director Michael Kelly is doing the same for another prominent sports program on his campus.
Which is to say, he’s navigating the most critical stretch of his half-decade tenure.
Having tabbed a highly-regarded, 30-something grinder (Tennessee offensive coordinator Alex Golesh) to resuscitate Bulls football, will Kelly seek a similar transfusion of young blood in his search for Brian Gregory’s replacement?
Or will he go gray, opting for a well-known veteran with a more polished — and pockmarked — resume?
Either way, Kelly’s search comes as realignment again percolates on the college landscape. If the Bulls hope to someday land in a more prestigious conference, success in their two biggest sports could be nearly as vital to their case as the facilities upgrades in which they continue investing.
With that in mind, we have compiled a list of 10 possible candidates for the gig — five rising prospects and five recycled ones.
On the rise
Amir Abdur-Rahim, Kennesaw State coach
This former Georgia and Texas A&M assistant could have myriad options after overseeing this historic season for the Owls. After amassing 19 wins in his first three seasons, Abdur-Rahim led Kennesaw State (26-8) to the Atlantic Sun regular-season and tournament titles, and its first NCAA Tournament berth. He was presumed to be a strong candidate for the Georgia Tech vacancy, which reportedly has gone to Damon Stoudamire.
Chris Capko, Southern California assistant
This former Bull checks an awful lot of boxes. Raised in Lakeland, Capko started on Kathleen High’s 2001 state title team and evolved into a USF team captain during the Robert McCullum era (2005-2007). Widely deemed an outstanding recruiter, he is wrapping up his seventh season as an assistant to Andy Enfield at USC, which has qualified for its third consecutive NCAA Tournament.
Dusty May, Florida Atlantic coach
A former student assistant for Bob Knight at Indiana, May has overseen a breakthrough season at FAU, leading the Owls to a 31-3 mark and a No. 9 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Because the Owls are headed to the American Athletic Conference, a move to USF might be deemed a lateral one by some, but the Bulls have better facilities and presumably a better chance at ultimately reaching a power league.
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Bob Richey, Furman coach
A South Carolina native, Richey very well could land a more prominent gig before turning 40, and that milestone birthday arrives next week. In six seasons as Paladins coach, Richey has compiled a 138-53 record, directing this year’s club (27-7) to the program’s first Southern Conference tournament title and NCAA Tournament berth in 43 years.
Richie Riley, South Alabama coach
This 40-year-old Kentucky native has spent the last seven years piecing together a solid mid-major head coaching resume. In two years at Nicholls State and five at South Alabama, Riley has collected three 20-win seasons, and he just wrapped up a 19-16 campaign. His offenses score a lot, and his teams have ranked in the top four in the Sun Belt Conference in scoring defense four of the last five years.
On the rebound
Mike Brey, former Notre Dame coach
Brey, who turns 64 later this month, had three losing seasons in his last five years with the Irish. But before that, he led the program to 14 20-win campaigns and 12 NCAA Tournaments (including an Elite Eight berth) in 18 seasons. A former assistant at Duke and national prep dynasty DeMatha High in Maryland, Brey recently said he is not finished coaching.
Frank Martin, University of Massachusetts coach
This Miami native (and longtime Miami-area prep coach) had his eyes on this job during the final stages of his decade-long tenure at South Carolina (2012-2022). A straight shooter (sometimes to a fault) whose passion for coaching seeps from every pore, Martin’s flammable sideline demeanor alone would pull in fans. His deep-seated Miami-Dade recruiting ties would pull in players.
Josh Pastner, former Georgia Tech coach
In a previous life at Memphis, Pastner averaged 26 wins in a five-season span (2009-2014), leading the Tigers to four NCAA Tournament berths in that stretch. Though not as successful at Georgia Tech (109-113 in seven seasons), he was universally liked and — by many perceptions — hamstrung by a lack of institutional support. His 14-season head coaching record: 272-185.
Rick Pitino, Iona coach
Let’s not kid ourselves. If Pitino wants to get back into major-college hoops at age 70, he’ll have far more attractive options (St. John’s, Georgetown, Texas Tech) than USF, which cannot afford to disqualify this icon because of his prior baggage. Bulls athletic director Michael Kelly still must make the call. Worst Pitino can do is say no.
Richard Pitino, New Mexico coach
If you can’t land the elder Pitino, why not the one who has had his eye on the Bulls job before? Richard Pitino, once a Billy Donovan assistant at Florida, owns a 191-163 record as a college head coach, and he led Minnesota to a pair of 20-win seasons and NCAA berths the previous decade. His current Lobos team won 22 games and is headed to the NIT.
Contact Joey Knight at email@example.com. Follow @TBTimes_Bulls.
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