The Time Is Nearing For Unveiling New Wyoming Basketball Coach

Tracy Ringolsby

Wyoming athletic director Tom Burman was given the chance to speed up his search for the replacement of head basketball coach Allen Edwards last week.

Conference basketball tournaments and March Madness were among the events cancelled by the NCAA in light of the COVID-19 outbreak. That opened the door for college athletic directors in search of a basketball coach to step up the timetable for interviewing candidates, who might have been otherwise busy with tournament play.

That makes it quite possible that in the next day or two Burman will have the new coach in place, and the rumors -- wild and valid -- can be put to rest.

Recent history should underscore a desirability of a coach having regional ties, and an understanding that success as a Wyoming coach doesn't involve luring 5-star players, but rather finding talent under the radar, and creating a program with a chip on its shoulder.

Whether it's football -- remember Fresno State wouldn't let Josh Allen walk-on and when he sent letters to 100 coaches after one year in junior college Craig Bohl was the only coach who responded -- or basketball -- where for decades Cowboy teams that have had success have done it with under-the-radar players, like Fennis Dembo. Dembo came out of San Antonio, Tex., because then-coach Jim Brandenburg's daughter lived in Austin and heard about him from a friend. Dembo was a virtual unknown in Texas circles, and not recruited by any of the schools in the Lone Star State.

WelcomeTo7220.com's Top 5 Candidates

1. Jeff Linder, Northern Colorado. 

Contract: $155,00 base a annually through 2020-21 season.

Incentives: All academic based.

Linder fits a Wyoming checklist perfectly.

Born and raised in Lafayette, Co., he played high school basketball at Centaurus High School, then spent his freshman year at Mesa State in Grand Junction before transferring to Western State.

His coaching resume includes six seasons with Mountain West member Boise State before becoming the head coach at Northern Colorado for the 2016-17 season. After a building year, he has coached Northern Colorado to a school record three consecutive 20-win seasons, including three consecutive years with a win at Wyoming. Northern Colorado had only one win in six previous games against the Cowboys  -- home or away.

Only two previous times did a UNC team have a 20-win season -- Thad Boyle was 25-8 in 2009-10, and B.J. Hill was 21-11 in 2010-11.

And when the Bears won the CIT tournament in 2018 it marked the first time a Division I school in Colorado had won a post-season tournament since 1940, and the first-ever Big Sky team to win a post-season tournament.

What's more, he has major inroads in Colorado. What time has shown is that success at Wyoming -- football and basketball -- comes with a strong regional foundations, which means keeping Wyoming athletes in state, and focusing next on Colorado.

Six Colorado products were on the UNC roster in the 2019-20 season, including three who started in all 31 regular-season games:

-- Sophomore guard Matt Johnson, Rangeview High School, Aurora, 31 starts.

--Sophomore guard Bodie Hume, Sterling High School, Sterling, 31 starts.

-- Sophomore guard Jonah Radebaugh, Northglenn High School, Thornton, 31 starts.

-- Sophomore guard Sam Masten, Rock Canyon High School, Highlands Ranch, 13 starts, 24 games.

-- Freshman David Jabedo, Sand Creek High School, Colorado Springs, 8 games.

-- Redshirt freshman Roy Grigsby, Monarch High School, Superior, 8 games.

And in addition to a focus on Colorado, Northern Colorado, this year, also had three players from California, one from Texas, Nebraska, Minnesota, Canada and the Netherlands, a wide-ranging net.

2. Danny Sprinkel, Montana State

Contract: $164,000 base annual through 2001-02 season.

Incentives: $45,000 media appearances. $15,000 appearing in fundraising activities, social activities, Booster functions, public speaking engagements and ticket sales campaigns.

Sprinkel returned to his alma mater a year ago, and led Montana State to a 16-15 record (10-10 in the Big Sky Conference), it's first winning record in 10 years and only the third in 18 years.

He had previous experience as an assistant coach at Cal State Northridge (2000-06, 2008-13), Montana State (2006-08) and Cal State Fullerton (2013-19).

3. Dave Rice, Assistant Washington

Contract: Unknown. Originally signed a two-season contract (2017-18 and 2018-19) for $250,008 a season.

Rice, an assistant at Washington the last three seasons, has an extensive background in the Mountain West, including serving as the UNLV head coach (2011-16). He had a 98-54 record at UNLV before being fired on Jan. 1, 2016 when the Running Rebels were 8-6, having lost five of six, including their first three Mountain West games.

A UNLV alum, he was an assistant at UNLV (1994-2004); Utah State (2004-05), and BYU (2005-11) before being hired as the Runnin' Rebels head coach. He was an assistant at Nevada (2016-17) before joining the staff at Washington.

He never won over UNLV fan base with a more deliberate pace of game than the fans remember from the days of the late Jerry Tarkanian. 

4. Matt Driscoll, North Florida

Contract: $155,000 annual base through 2021-22 season.

Incentives: $25,000 promotional/fundraising fee for minimum of 10 appearances. $25,000 talent fee media appearances. $20,000 supplemental compensation.

Driscoll was a long-time assistant coach, including time with Larry Shyatt at Wyoming (19797-98) and Clemson (1998-03). He is North Florida's first head coach since it completed its transition to Division I. After going 73-88 in his first six seasons, North Florida is 111-91 the last six, including winning three Atlantic Sun championships, most recently this seasons.

In addition to North Florida, he was head coach at LaRoche College (1993-97) before joining Shyatt's staff at Wyoming. 

5. Travis DeCuire, Montana

Contract: $180,000 annual base through 2001-02 season with a $180,000 buyout for each year remaining on contract if he leaves early.

Incentives: $30,000 annually for athletic department and school functions. $15,000 1st round win in NCAA tournament, $25,000 each additional round. $50,000 retention bonus. $500 monthly automobile allowance. Up to $120,000 above the $86,000 he is required to generate in game revenue.

DeCurie led his alma mater, Montana, into the post-season in four of his first five years (there was no post-season this year, his sixth as the head coach). The Bobcats have had a winning record in five of his six seasons, finishing with a .500 record in 2016-17. An 18-13 record this season was only the second time in his six seasons Montana did not win at least 20 games.

Before becoming the head coach at Montana, he was the head coach at Green River Community College (2001-03) in Auburn, Wash., and an assistant coach at Old Dominion (2003-2008) and Cal (2008-14).

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