Successor Series: Who takes over for John Beilein at Michigan?
The SI.com Successor Series will examine who might replace some of the biggest head coaching names in college basketball when they inevitably leave their posts. It is intended as pure speculation -- fodder for discussion in the long hoops offseason. That said: Down the line, we reserve the right to claim we knew it all along.
John Beilein, Michigan
Record: 701-411 (443-269 in Division I)
NCAA titles: None
The question of who will succeed John Beilein at Michigan is complicated, for two reasons. First, Beilein is 61 years old, and how long he hangs on in Ann Arbor may depend on how desperate he is to pursue the national title that has eluded him in his first 32 seasons as a college head coach. Second, it's not entirely clear who will sit in the athletic director's chair when it's decision time. Dave Brandon, the 62-year-old former Domino's Pizza CEO, has served as Michigan's AD since 2010, but few expect him to occupy the position for long.
By resurrecting the Wolverines -- bringing them to their first NCAA tournament in 11 years in 2009 and then to the national title game in 2013 and the Elite Eight this past March -- Beilein may have ensured that he'll have some say in the matter of his successor. But since it's unclear both when Beilein will be ready to have that discussion and who the boss he'll have it with will be, the answer to who will succeed him remains uncertain. Let the speculation begin.
If Beilein left tomorrow
LaVall Jordan, Michigan assistant coach. The Albion, Mich., native is prepared and polished enough to handle a head coaching gig – there's an argument to be made that Jordan should be running the show at Butler right now after being a finalist for the job that went to Brandon Miller. He is also primed to take over the even more prominent job in Ann Arbor. Michigan fans most likely would accept it as a no-brainer in-house move, especially after observing Jordan play a primary role in developing NBA guards in Darius Morris and Trey Burke. Jordan also helped infuse more ball-screen elements to diversify the Michigan offense. He could leave and come back, too, though one wonders if the best bet is to hang tight instead of risking a stock drop somewhere else. At 35 years old, Jordan has the time to consider that option.
Jamie Dixon, Pittsburgh head coach. It might fall under the long-shot category, no doubt, and it becomes even less plausible with every year Beilein sticks around. Dixon is 48 and ensconced at Pittsburgh with a deal that runs through 2023. He's now in the ACC, so he's not been shunted to a smaller stage after conference realignment. But moving from western Pennsylvania to eastern Michigan might be an easier personal sell than, say, Dixon returning to California. (He routinely has been mentioned in scuttle about USC and UCLA gigs when they were open or near-open, but that's a long haul after having a family settled in one spot for more than a decade.) And after an Elite Eight run in 2009, the Panthers haven't been back to even the Sweet 16. Would Michigan look like a better platform for championship success? While the perception with Dixon is that he's a defense and rebounding guy – and thereby maybe too much of a jarring stylistic departure from Beilein – the Panthers did have a top-20 offense in the kenpom.com adjusted efficiency rankings this season.
Tad Boyle, Colorado head coach. Boyle is a Colorado native and a Kansas graduate who has taken the Buffaloes to three straight NCAA tournaments while winning nearly two-thirds of his games (92-49 overall) in Boulder. Michigan would be a huge boost for Boyle's career. He would go from a program battling just to stay relevant in an increasingly taxing Pac-12 to a spot with ample resources and built-in potential to contend annually in the Big Ten and beyond. And he's just 51, which offers Michigan a nice balance of experience and possible longer-term stability.
Long shots and long-range plans
Bacari Alexander, Michigan assistant coach. Alexander actually checks off many of the same boxes that Jordan does – he's a Detroit native with the personality and poise to handle a top job somewhere. He can develop players, too, having helped turn Jordan Morgan from a bit player into a double-double guy by the end of 2013-14. And Alexander will be just 38 years old in September. But there aren't any head coaching timeshares available. Only one guy gets to replace Beilein, and of the candidates on hand, Jordan appears to be favored. Still, if Jordan is entrenched elsewhere when Beilein steps aside, Alexander could get the nod.
Saul Phillips, Ohio head coach. Phillips has more ties to another Big Ten program, Wisconsin -- he's a native of the state who played at Wisconsin-Whitewater and later served as an operations guy in Madison under Bo Ryan. But it's difficult to imagine a soon-to-be 42-year-old on an upward trajectory rejecting the idea of running the Wolverines. Phillips led North Dakota State to an upset of No. 5 seed Oklahoma in the NCAA tournament last March and is familiar with the recruiting landscape in Ohio and Michigan. The only question is whether school administrators would aim higher, for whatever reason. After all, Beilein was pulled from West Virginia, an established Big East program at the time.
Shaka Smart, VCU head coach/Tony Bennett, Virginia head coach. It's easiest just to lump them together: Both have Midwest roots (Wisconsin natives), both are young and successful (Smart is 37, Bennett is 45), both have long-term contracts at their current spots. Either or both might get a call from an ambitious AD, because that seemingly happens at every opening. But both might wait for a more perfect landing spot, too, because both can afford to do so.
Patrick Beilein, West Virginia Wesleyan head coach. Could the circumstances fall just right to make this a family affair? The younger Beilein was a finalist for the Marist job that went to one of his father's former assistants (Williams College coach Mike Maker) this offseason. The Bobcats went 20-12 last year, Beilein's second season running the Division II program. Depending on how long his father stays on the sideline in Ann Arbor, Patrick could position himself to take over.
Tod Kowalczyk, Toledo head coach. In four years, the Rockets went from 4-28 to 27-7 in 2013-14 under Kowalczyk's watch. He's just 48 and he's just down the road from Ann Arbor, so he should be no mystery to the decision-makers at Michigan. Still, you'd have to imagine that Jordan and other big-name candidates would get called before Kowalczyk.
Tony Jasick, Jacksonville head coach. Very much a long-range option requiring a lot to fall into place. But Jasick is just 36 and took IPFW from 11 wins to 25 wins in three seasons before jumping to Jacksonville this offseason. He and his wife are both Whitehall, Mich., natives, too. If Jasick continues a steep upward trajectory, perhaps he gets in the conversation as a hot name with local ties down the line.
Mitch Henderson, Princeton head coach. This may be a bit of a wild name to throw out there after three seasons as a head coach, a 58-32 record and zero NCAA tournaments so far. But if you're thinking about guys who run motion systems that at least loosely resemble Beilein's, and if you consider Henderson's age (39 in August) and Big Ten background (11 years as a Northwestern assistant), then maybe you could imagine a couple Ivy League titles or success at a bigger program nudging Henderson into the mix.
Steve Wojciechowski, Marquette head coach. It didn't work out so well the last time Michigan hired a private-school head coach who was a former assistant at Duke (Tommy Amaker's haul of NCAA tournament bids after arriving in Ann Arbor from Seton Hall: zero.) But if Wojciechowski keeps Marquette contending for Big East titles, going to Michigan wouldn't preempt any chance of replacing Mike Krzyzewski at Duke. Success in Ann Arbor might only enhance those chances, actually.