Heavy hitters weighing in on CU hoops
AP Sports Writer
BOULDER, Colo. – Some heavy hitters in hoops have been reaching out to Colorado athletic director Mike Bohn in the wake of Jeff Bzdelik’s departure.
Larry Brown has contacted him. So has George Karl. Bohn has even touched base with Nuggets All-Star guard and former Buffaloes standout Chauncey Billups.
They all have their views on the head coaching vacancy following Bzdelik’s departure for Wake Forest.
The Buffaloes players are even weighing in on the opening, stumping for associate head coach Steve McClain to be promoted to the position.
Bohn is taking it all under advisement, assembling his search committee to help him make the decision. He has no timetable for a decision, just a desire to find a coach that can keep the Buffaloes on the path of improvement.
Before Bzdelik’s departure, Colorado was on the cusp of turning things around, going 15-16 last season with a win over Baylor and a near upset of top-ranked Kansas.
“We do have a respect for the importance of trying to move forward quickly,” Bohn said Wednesday. “But we want to make sure we get the right coach.”
The Buffaloes players think that coach is already on the bench. In their view, the hiring of McClain would prevent the splintering of the team.
Big 12 freshman of the year Alec Burks recently expressed a strong desire for McClain to get the job. Guard Cory Higgins reiterated that stance Wednesday.
“It’s no secret, we’ve expressed this to many people,” said Higgins, whose father, Rod, is the GM of the Charlotte Bobcats. “We’d like coach McClain to be here. For me, the most important thing was trying to keep (McClain) here to try to keep everybody together.”
Might there be a fracturing effect should McClain not get the position?
“Could be,” Higgins said. “A couple of our players have said it publicly. That’s something that could very well happen. I hope it doesn’t. I hope we don’t have to go down that path.”
Even Bzdelik backed McClain at his introductory news conference in Winston-Salem, N.C., on Wednesday. McClain was brought in by Bzdelik in 2007 after spending nearly a decade as head coach at Wyoming.
“I hope so,” Bzdelik said, when asked about McClain stepping in for him.
Bohn was noncommittal, saying the search was in its early stage. He does plan to interview McClain, especially since the players are high on him.
Among the other names popping up are Mike Dunlap, an assistant coach at Oregon, and Northern Colorado head man Tad Boyle, who led the Bears to a school-best 25 wins last season.
“Those are both intriguing candidates,” Bohn said. “But I think it’s premature to talk about any candidate.”
Since the news on Bzdelik’s departure began to surface, Bohn has been besieged by inquires. He’s taken every call.
Then again, who would turn down an audience with Brown?
“When Larry Brown calls, we like to hear what Larry thinks,” Bohn said. “We’re trying to make sure we return all the phone calls, respond to e-mails, do as much intelligence work as possible.”
Bohn was touched by Karl reaching out to him through a text message, especially in light of the fact that Karl is battling throat and neck cancer.
“To hear from George is really awesome,” Bohn said.
It was Billups who first alerted Bohn that Bzdelik may be leaving, the Nuggets star texting Bohn last Friday that something could be up.
“Quickly found out there was some validity to it,” Bohn said, grinning.
Now, he plans to use Billups – who remains the face of Colorado basketball – as a resource going forward.
“He cares about this program,” Bohn said. “It’s refreshing, inspiring to us to have that type of individual helping us.”
The uncertainty over the next coach may take a toll on the Buffaloes in recruiting. Guard Levi Knutson is hoping that’s not the case.
“It’s going to be hard to get the recruits we want in here,” he said. “But we’re going to try to keep all of our guys together. When a coach is named, we have a solid group of guys that have had some success, so that recruits will want to come join us and have a successful year.”
The talk around the Buffaloes following the year was the possibility of making the NCAA tournament next season. They thought they were on their way.
Bzdelik’s leaving, however, might put a crimp in those plans.
Higgins said he was “angry” over the situation, especially going into his final year.
“But you can’t let that affect you,” he said. “I don’t have time to be angry. I just need to move on.”