It's no secret that Travis Ford's days in Stillwater are numbered. Whether a change is made at the end of this season or not, OSU will be looking at head coaching candidates soon.
When that time comes, athletic director Mike Holder will have his work cut out for him. He can't afford to miss on this hire.
Let me just say that I think Holder has done a great job at OSU. From the rise of the football program and expanding athletic complex to the hiring of Josh Holliday, some of OSU's best years have been under Holder.
But the contract he gave Travis Ford remains a big stain on his resume.
I understand why Holder felt he needed to keep Ford at the time (with his early success and potential job offers). But the contract was too much and extremely too long. And most importantly, the gamble didn't pay off.
Hit on this next hire and you can wash away those sins as far as the fan base is concerned. Miss again and things could get dicey.
So what do you need in a head coach?
Aside from the X's and O's, a coach needs to be a good recruiter. Let's face it. Without good players, you aren't going to win a ton of games. Ford has landed a few big recruits but for the most part they have been players that either did not get better during their time in Stillwater or really didn't fit the system to start with.
Speaking of development, it's pretty important as well. You need a coach who is a good teacher and developer of talent. Some might say that has been the biggest thing lacking at OSU over the last few years.
It's not enough just to know basketball or how to run a practice. It's more a question of personality and character. It may be the most important quality to look for.
Lastly, you want someone who can rekindle the fire in Gallagher-Iba Arena. The Cowboys are having a historically bad season. While there have been a couple of injuries, this is the worst home team in 30-plus years. OSU teams (good or bad) have always been good at home.
The Cowboys have historically been good at home and they've historically played in front of a full house. Those two go hand-in-hand.
You need to get the fans back in the seats.
What OSU has to offer:
Although it may have been forgotten it in the last couple of years, Oklahoma State has some basketball tradition. Two national championships and six Final Fours. Countless All-Americans. From Henry Iba to Eddie Sutton, you don't have to look too far to see the rich basketball heritage at OSU.
Let's not forget that the facilities at OSU are among the best in the nation. That's a big deal. A lot of schools have to play catch up and Oklahoma State is set up to recruit and win now from that standpoint.
I think it's important to remember that while fans may be down on the program, it's not like the powers that be feel OSU is below anyone. There is still a lot of basketball pride in Stillwater.
What might hurt OSU:
Money. Yep, that old thing.
If Mike Holder and Oklahoma State decide to let Travis Ford go, they would still owe him upwards of $7 million over the next three years. What is Oklahoma State actually going to be willing to pay their next coach? Whatever that number is, add $2.4 million a year to your budget until 2019.
OSU has also made the transition into a football school. That may not be as appealing to a big name candidate knowing that he will have to compete with football for support (fan and monetary).
So since you aren't going to be luring away Greg Marshall without backing up the Brinks truck (he still may not come), your best bet is with an assistant or a wildcard play like Doug Gottlieb.
The Gottlieb possibility has already been discussed on this site (and will continue to be). So let's look at three of the top assistants coaches in the country who I think would fit well at Oklahoma State.
Kurtis Townsend - Kansas
The longest tenured assistant on Bill Self's staff is finishing up his twelfth year in Lawrence. He is well known for his recruiting skills and was actually picked as the Top Recruiting assistant in 2013 according to an ESPN survey.
Self had this to say about Townsend.
"The success we've experienced is in large part due to him and his ability to recruit and relate to players. Anybody who has worked with Kurtis or been around him knows there's nobody better with people than K.T.,"
Prior to his time at KU, Townsend held assistant coaching positions at Cal, USC, Michigan, Miami and others.
At age 58, it's not a given that Townsend would be interested. (He's been discussed for head coaching openings before). If OSU could pry him away from Self and the Jawhawks, they will have landed a top notch recruiter who has plenty of experience at the D1 level and in the Big 12. He knows what it takes to win.
Townsend would be a big-time hire.
Jeff Boals - Ohio State
Boals played his college ball at Ohio University before being starting his coaching career with his alma mater. He's had several assistant jobs including Marshall and Akron before landing at Ohio State in 2009.
With the Buckeyes, Boals quickly earned a reputation for bringing in top talent and for coaching defense. He works with the Ohio State's big men as well.
Boals' name has been thrown around for some head coaching jobs like Bowling Green and Mississippi Valley State. Oklahoma State would be step up in those conversations, but his contract could be easier to swallow than other bigger names.
This would not be a sexy hire for most fans but may be more realistic for what OSU can do. But if he's the right fit and can be successful...
Well, winning is sexy.
Kenny Payne - Kentucky
Kenny Payne is on this list mainly because he is one of the best assistants in the country. He's a big-time recruiter and no one questions his knowledge or experience from coaching to his professional playing days.
He even showed he can coach his team to victory in an impromptu rehearsal against South Carolina earlier this season.
Payne spent five years as assistant at Oregon before joining John Calipari's staff in 2010.
Here's what Calipari had to say when asked about Payne.
"His feel for the game and ability to develop players is second to none. I have all the confidence in the world that Kenny will make a great head coach someday, but we're ecstatic to have him as a part of our staff as associate head coach for the near future."
Kentucky showed their appreciation for Payne last year with a big raise, inking him to a three-year, $2.1 million contract. That contract, along with the fact that he would be a coveted hire for many schools, makes landing Payne a bit of a long-shot. It really all depends on how much OSU is willing to spend on their next coach.
These are just a few of the assistants that Oklahoma State might consider. If you were Holder, which of these three would you choose?