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Coaching Candidates: Crean vs Gottlieb vs Holtmann

Three of us argue for our favorite choice for new basketball coach

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A lot has been said in the media this week about who Oklahoma State Athletic Director Mike Holder might hire as the next Cowboy basketball coach.

Today, we’re going to talk about who he SHOULD hire.

There’s been a lot of debate on Twitter, and amongst us CRFF writers. Tyler Wiederhoeft, Joel Penfield, and I are going to make our cases for our favorite choices.


Tom Crean

I know this likely won’t be a popular pick, but why not? Is it because he got canned at Indiana? Let’s put it this way, Indiana is not the basketball powerhouse of the 80’s that it once was. Don’t tell the fans though, as they still hold the team to the standards that haven’t been the norm in this millennium.

In Crean’s 19-year career, he is 356-231 between Marquette and Indiana. He is 11-8 in NCAA Tournament games, and 2-3 in the NIT. He is a two-time C-USA Coach of the Year (2002, 2003), the Clair Bee Coach of the Year (2003) and HE WAS THE BIG TEN COACH OF THE YEAR LAST YEAR. How you go from Coach of the Year to jobless in one year is something I’m not sure of. It’s not as if he had a terrible year, he just had an off year. However, an off year is too much for the Indiana fanatics, and Crean is now looking elsewhere for a job.

This year, Crean was 18-16 with a 7-11 Big Ten record. Indiana also had an unceremonious exit from the first round of the NIT, a game in which they refused to host, even though they were the high seed.

For those that say Crean isn’t a good head coach, look at what he did at Indiana. He inherited a God-awful team, but turned it around and his last losing season was in 2011-12. Oklahoma State is in a much better program than Indiana was when Crean took over, so there is no reason to think that he couldn’t take over and be successful in year one.

An argument against Crean is he will cost too much. In 2016, Tom Crean made about $3.2 million total. Holder offered Underwood somewhere in the $2.2-$2.5 million range. It doesn’t seem that odd for Crean to come in and take a pay cut, albeit likely a slight one. Plus, Illinois paid Oklahoma State $3 million when they took Underwood, so Holder now has some more money to work with.

Crean talked to Pete Thamel of Sports Illustrated (yes, THAT Pete Thamel) about his firing at Indiana and his future. What he said makes Oklahoma State sound like a perfect destination.

“A good job, a great job, those all come down to the alignment. Resources are important. Facilities are important. Tradition is important. Fan bases are important. Where can you recruit is important. But alignment is key. That, for me, is what you’re looking for.”

Resources? We have the cash and the boosters.
Facilities? It doesn’t get much better than “The Madison Square Garden of the Plains.”
Tradition? Ask anyone, tradition is important here.
Fan bases? He who shall not be named brought the rowdy back. (Now the question is will it return?)
Recruiting area? Basketball recruiting isn’t as “localized” as football, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t important. Currently on the OSU roster, there are seven players on the roster from Texas. Crean has the connections in Indiana and the surrounding area to still be successful there.

I think Tom Crean would be successful at Oklahoma State for a couple reasons.

1) He has coached in a Power Five conference - he has been battle-tested in a typically tough conference. There are no questions on if he will be able to make the move to such a big school/conference.

2) He has already made a ton of money - He won’t bail on OSU after a season for money. Also, if OSU gives him $2.5-$3 million per year, there’s not a program out there that is going to triple his salary and draw him away from the Cowboy program.

Plus, who wouldn’t like to put a little #CreanFace on the OSU sidelines?


Doug Gottlieb

When Brad Underwood unceremoniously decided to leave Stillwater, I hopped back on the Doug Gottlieb train immediately. I was on it last year as well after Travis Ford was let go. I liked the idea of having another Oklahoma State alum in the athletic department as a coach. But, when Brad Underwood was hired, I immediately bought into his program. When he left last Saturday, like most Cowboys fans, I felt betrayed. Once the reports were confirmed, I tweeted #BringDougHome.

I want to see Doug Gottlieb on the sideline for the Cowboys this season. I believe he can be successful as a head coach, despite never having coached a game at the collegiate level. He's a basketball savant, he knows the game extremely well. He's an X's and O's type guy, but I think he can be a players’ coach as well. He'll need to hire a staff around him that can help him in the nuances of coaching,

If Doug is hired, he can help rally a fanbase that feels betrayed by the abrupt departure of Brad Underwood. He can continue what Brad Underwood left, bringing the Rowdy back to Gallagher-Iba Arena.

My last point, and the biggest selling for me that separates him from the other coaching candidates, is that he WANTS to be in Stillwater. Doug won't be looking for the next job, he wants to be here coaching the Cowboys. He’s willing to go all in, and put himself out there for this job, and I commend him for that because that takes a lot of courage to do so in this profession. It's a high risk/high reward type of hire, but I believe it is worth that risk.



Chris Holtmann

I don’t disagree with Crean, in fact if he is willing to take the likely pay cut Holder would offer, then I would hire him now. However I doubt Holder is willing to offer $3 million, which is likely what it would take to land the former Indiana and Marquette head coach.

In that case, I’m going with Butler head coach Chris Holtmann. I mentioned him in my “Who Should OSU Hire” post last weekend. Holtmann is in his third season running the Bulldogs and has accrued a 70-30 record so far (they play North Carolina in the Sweet 16 tonight). In all three of his seasons at the helm, the Bulldogs have not only reached the NCAA tournament, but won at least one game.

His record in the Big East is 34-20 (.630), and while no, the Big East is not the Big 12, it is the best non-Power Five conference (and might be better than the Pac 12). For those who don’t know, the Big East includes last year’s National Champs Villanova, as well as Creighton, Providence, Xavier, Marquette, and Seton Hall - who all made the NCAA Tournament this season. It’s a good conference. Hiring Holtmann wouldn’t be like hiring someone from a lower tier conference, ala Underwood this year, it’s hiring a coach from a team that’s faced quality competition and does so all season long.

We don’t just have to talk about Holtmann’s career at Butler. Before taking over the Bulldogs, Holtmann was the head coach at Garner-Webb (also the Bulldogs) for three seasons from 2010-13. He took the team from 11 wins, to 12, to 21 and one win from their first trip to the NCAA Tournament. That’s still the program’s most wins since moving up to D-I in 2001.

How about the money? Butler hasn’t released Holtmann’s salary, but it’s believed he makes less than $1 million a year and is one of the lowest paid coaches in the Big East. If that’s true, Holder could easily double his salary and still pay less than he was going to pay Underwood next season.

He may not be the sexiest or most well known pick. Heck, I haven’t seen him on any of the other lists, but he’s going to go somewhere else eventually. He’s a coach on the rise, similar to former Butler head coach Brad Stevens. Like Stevens before (he was reportedly considered before Holder hired Travis Ford), it would be wise for Holder not to let another Butler man slip through his fingers.

We are currently on Day 6 of the coaching search, and Cowboy fans are still anxiously awaiting the orange smoke to rise out of the smokestacks of GIA signaling a new coach. CRFF will keep you up-to-date on developments as they become available.