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Buffalo Bulls Basketball Coaching Search: Early candidates to replace Bobby Hurley

Don McPeak-USA TODAY Sports

On to the next one, as they say. For the third time this school year - twice in UB's highest-profile sports - we're waiting through another coaching search. I suppose it's at least nice that Blair Brown Lipsitz inked before Bobby Hurley left, and we don't have to manage two at once.

Before we get into an initial list for the next UB coach, I want to consider two questions that usually go unasked in posts like this.

What makes the program attractive?

On a team level, the Bulls have a talented roster - perhaps the most talented in school history - with an extremely loaded backcourt and the MAC Player of the Year down low. A new coach will need to keep that together. In capable hands they're poised for a step forward no matter what thanks to their first-ever berth in the NCAA Tournament last month.

As an athletics department, Buffalo is trending up. More resources are being invested in recruiting, coaching, and marketing, and it's not hard to see every team trending up over their historical status. UB's coaching roster includes nearly every conceivable path to the midmajor job, and whether it's Legette-Jack, Stutzman, Nickell, Riddle, or someone else, a current Bulls coach could bolster Danny White's selling point.

Regionally, Buffalo is a better place to live than its reputation would dictate. Our Buffalo readers know this, and non-Buffalo visitors can find it elsewhere, but just know that "Dude, it's Buffalo" is short-sighted and not quite right.

What makes it unattractive?

Money and the MAC. By all accounts the proposed and now-unsigned new contract for Hurley relied on donations to get into the 600K range. That's really not very much.

On top of that, the MAC still is now going on 16 years without putting together two NCAA Tournament-quality teams in one season. With Hurley in Buffalo, I had outside hopes that the Bulls could be a strong at-large contender in 2016, and maybe a great hire can still leverage that, but there's much less room for error here when it comes to the postseason.


All that said, here's a short starter list of ideas for a replacement. We'll of course have more as this continues.

One of the current assistants: Nate Oats was in high school just two years ago, but has been the recruiting ace in the hole since stepping into the Blue and White, and would provide emotional stability and continuity to the program. Levi Watkins appears to have less of the recruiting swag behind him, but he has the college-level experience. He's also been working with the UB post players for two years, which has been enough time to win two conference Player of the Year awards from that group.

Either of Oats or Watkins would likely keep the team together. I think Oats in particular would minimize defections.

Michael White, Louisiana Tech: Could UB pry him away from the Bulldogs? I'm not sure. White is building a strong program in his own right, one that was getting a marginal amount of at-large buzz this spring, but will also lose three senior starters to graduation. C-USA generally has a little more money than the MAC, and maybe White feels he's done enough to make his next step a clear step up.

He's also Danny White's brother. Stranger things have happened. He's recently signed a 600k/year contract extension, so it might take more than what Buffalo's got, but I would love him.

A coach who knows the region: In one way or another most Big Ten assistants or Horizon, Missouri Valley and Ohio Valley coaches would be a stretch, but they'd also maybe hold on to our Great Lakes-area base.

Candidates who might move up could be Ray McCallum (Detroit), Gary Waters (Cleveland State), Dan Muller (Illinois State) and Greg Lansing (Indiana State). There's not really any reason to single out a specific handful of Big Ten assistants, but there's many of them. The most intriguing to me is Bacari Alexander (Michigan)

A retread: Let's remember that Danny White hasn't always hired the up-and-coming star. Felisha Legette-Jack came to Buffalo after struggling at Indiana. Some of the coaches listed above fit this bill, but what about the recently-fired Herb Sendek, who's got a MAC history and a history of postseason entries? Bobby Lutz, now an assistant at NC State, has spent time in Charlotte and might keep Levi Watkins and the team together. With these folks, money may be a larger concern.

Rising stars: Not going to offer much in the way of explanation here, just a pair of successful coaches from smaller conferences in Andy Toole (Robert Morris) and Mike Brennan (American). I would be happy with either, who would get a step up in resources and commitment coming to Buffalo. Consider also Pat Skerry (Towson).


We'll have much more, obviously.