Thad Matta leads plenty of potential candidates for Pitt hoops job
So, where does Pitt turn now?
The easy part for athletic director Heather Lyke was firing basketball coach Kevin Stallings after a season in which the Panthers went winless in ACC play. Now for the more difficult part: finding the man to replace him.
A potential leading candidate could be Thad Matta, who won an average of 26.7 games over his first 12 seasons at Ohio State before being let go last summer following his first losing season in Big Ten play.
Lyke spent 15 years in the athletic department at Ohio State, including nine years when Matta was there.
The 50-year-old Matta guided the Buckeyes to two Final Fours, nine NCAA Tournament berths, four Big Ten Tournament titles and five Big Ten regular-season championships while winning 65.8 percent of his conference games. But his two worst seasons were his final two (combined 38-29).
Matta's split from Ohio State was termed "mutual" when it occurred in June — an odd time on the calendar — but Matta never expressed any interest in retirement.
Adding intrigue to the Matta/Pitt rumors was that on the day after Pitt's season ended — and the day before Pitt announced Stallings' firing — news broke that Matta was "no longer a candidate" at Ole Miss .
Matta, of course, is far from the only name Lyke might be considering to take over a program that was highly successful under previous coach Jamie Dixon. A look at other potential candidates:
Hurley might be the preferred choice of Pitt fans because of his known surname and the job he has done at Rhode Island the past six seasons. The Rams are headed to their second consecutive NCAA Tournament and are playing for their second straight Atlantic 10 Tournament title this week as the No. 1 seed. His brother, Bobby, is Arizona State's coach and a former star point guard at Duke.
At 41, riding consecutive 20-plus win seasons and leading the College of Charleston into the NCAA Tournament next week, Grant is one of the "hot" names in coaching. He also has an ACC background (four seasons at Clemson before being hired by Charleston in 2014. As Pitt continues its struggles in adjusting from the old Big East to a more southern league, that could be appealing.
If Lyke wants to make a splash while being realistic — and not, in theory, having to break the bank — how about a former NBA coach? Musselman guided the Golden State Warriors and Sacramento Kings for short stints between 2002-07. He has averaged 26-plus wins as Nevada coach the past three years, has the Wolf Pack ranked and headed to the NCAA Tournament for a second straight season.
Sanchez might be the ACC's "it" assistant coach at the moment, with Virginia ranked No. 1 in the country and Sanchez the associate head coach. Virginia plays a style Pitt previously had success with, and Sanchez is known as an excellent recruiter.
Though he's just 30, Scheyer might be more tempted to take over Pitt — and perhaps a better choice — than more veteran Duke assistant Jeff Capel. If Pitt's goal is to succeed in the ACC, who better than someone who led a team to conference (and national) titles as a player captain and assistant coach?
Schmidt has a pair of local ties in that he spent six years as the coach at Robert Morris and his wife, Anita, is a Mars alum. A one-time assistant at Penn State, Schmidt has been the coach at St. Bonaventure — a 3½-hour drive from Pittsburgh — the past 11 years. Next week, he likely will lead the Bonnies into the NCAA Tournament for the second time.
A favorite among former players and some fans, Knight was perhaps the player most responsible for the program's renaissance at the turn of the century. A former Panthers point guard who spent 10 seasons on Dixon's staff, Knight has been an assistant at Rutgers the past two years.
Chris Adamski is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at email@example.com or via Twitter @C_AdamskiTrib.