I've decided to come out from under my rock to discuss the obvious.
Another Oklahoma State basketball season is coming to an end, and while Travis Ford could argue in previous seasons that he's not getting enough credit for the positives in the program, he's going to have to wear the cloak of the worst season for OSU hoops since the 1980's. With the Cowboys sitting at 12-15 and no solid prospects looming on the calendar to finish the season, this would be the fewest wins since 1987-88.
Since Ford came within a T. Boone Picken's decision of being let go last season, you have to think it's a likely occurrence once this campaign has ended.
That being said, Mike Holder is in a really hot seat.
He is held largely responsible for the albatross of a contract that has kept Travis Ford in town for at least one extra season, maybe two, and which helped turn GIA into a morgue. Even if he manages to pull the trigger this time around, that negotiation could likely haunt him for a few more years.
Should Ford be shown the door (and I'm not even going to discuss the possibility that he might stay), his buyout will be just under $2.5 million per year for the next three years (I think?). Unless negotiated otherwise, that is not a lump sum, and would be payed out over that time. With that lead weight hanging around Holder's neck, along with the financial burden of funding the new baseball digs, blowing a wad on a big hire is not likely. The only saving grace would be that the sum is reduced by whatever salary Ford receives should he land other employment. Not unlike unemployment benefits, Ford must show that he is actively searching for another position, so that might be motivation for a smaller lump sum up front. (shout out to Pokelahoma for clarifying the details)
So where does one go when you don't have big dollars to spend on a new head coach for a program with basketball tradition, yearning for the days of Eddie Sutton?
You would have to go surfing for assistants, or mid-major head coaches. Even then, making a splash could be tough as money is flowing nicely at some smaller schools (see Greg Marshall at Wichita State), and other worthy names are likely interested in other venues (see Ben Jacobson at Northern Iowa). Another issue here, even if you manage a noteworthy hire, would be keeping that coach long enough for money to free up. Oklahoma State is a big enough program to keep a good coach, if warranted. I mean, if you can pay Travis Ford.......
The other route would be taking a leap with an unknown. This avenue would almost require that you look at an alum, and a name that has dominated the Twitter-sphere for a couple of years in relation to this topic is former Cowboy point guard, Sutton disciple, and CBS sports personality Doug Gottlieb. He has zero coaching experience, although he was raised by long time coach Bob Gottlieb (who passed away in 2014), who also served as an assistant under Eddie Sutton. Keep in mind he may not even want the job. He's in a pretty cushy spot right now.
If you are in Holder's shoes, what do you do?
If you don't make a change, you get absolutely roasted, and potentially damage the program to the extent that it could take a decade to rebuild. Your job will be drawn directly into the crosshairs, despite many other great accomplishments as AD.
If you make a change with a no-name hire who has no previous ties to OSU and he doesn't have an immediate impact, you'll get absolutely roasted, and GIA will continue to be a graveyard.
If you make a change with a "Doug Gottlieb" type hire, you'll generate some immediate fan support, and you'll be able to get him relatively cheap. You'll also get the luxury of at least two seasons to turn things around. Should that not happen, a vocal few will fault you for the risky hire, but most will say fine and be happy to search for another suitor, assuming you haven't hung OSU at the altar of another crazy contract.
All of those choices involve risk, but when has hiring any coach been a sure thing?
So it seems like the best out for Holder is the last option. Experience or not, hire an alum (preferably Gottlieb), get the fans excited again, and hope he has the chops to handle Big 12 basketball. Who knows, you might end up with another Gundy/Smith/Holiday in the process.
It's worth the risk.