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Michigan Basketball Coaching Search Update

Pearl Gets Call From Hawkeyes, Give Them The Bird

The coaching shuffle got a whole lot more interesting yesterday when Tennessee announced it granted Iowa permission to contact Vols basketball coach Bruce Pearl regarding their now vacant head coaching position. Instead of swooning and taking the position, Pearl said "thanks, but no thanks" to Iowa, the school where he was an assistant coach prior to heading to the DII level for his first head coaching job.

I've suspected for a while Pearl is on Michigan's short list to replace Amaker. In his announcement that he wasn't taking the Iowa job he did little to change my opinion that Michigan has been in contact with him.

I've recruited Michigan well for years as an assistant at Iowa and a head coach at Southern Indiana, and here and (Wisconsin-) Milwaukee. I've always recruited Michigan. Those are opportunities that you certainly try to get to, but I'm here.

Now granted he preceded that excerpt by saying "I worked my whole life to be at a place like Tennessee" and followed it with "I'm here. I'm in the SEC. I'm at Tennessee. I go to work every day trying to reward Tennessee for bringing me here," but I'm not buying it.

You don't throw in how well you recruit Michigan into a conversation about Iowa unless you really mean to. Michigan "officially" hasn't contacted Pearl. Pearl hasn't "officially" contacted Michigan. However, it doesn't mean something isn't going on. All you have to do it look up towards Minneapolis to know the power of a little official silence. As Mark Synder points out,

Even though Michigan officials aren't talking in the search for a new coach, other people, first Oregon's Ernie Kent, now Pearl, are talking about the Wolverines.

To Pearl's credit, he's gone on the offensive stating he's not leaving Tennessee. According to the Tennessee AOL Fanhouse and The Sporting News:

"I'm putting it out there just as fast as I can because I don't want it to be a concern of our fans, and I want to demonstrate my loyalty and my commitment to this program. I appreciate very much being here, so I don't want them to worry about me going anywhere," Pearl told The Associated Press on Tuesday. "This is where I want to be. I want to be here as long as they'll be happy with me here."

Still. Pearl's salary is $1.1-$1.2 million. If Michigan were to throw the $1.8 million Tubby is making at Minnesota Pearl's way, I suspect he'd listen. His recruiting acumen in the Midwest is too strong to ignore and his personality would fit perfectly at Michigan. Plus, he'd piss off the Illini fans. And after the crap Bruce Weber's pulled, it'd be well deserved.

I know fans and media are balking at the $1.8 million price tag, but if Michigan is seriously considering buying out John Beilein's contract from West Virginia, $1.8 million a year for Pearl compared to a $1.2 million salary and a $2.5 million buyout for Beilein isn't even close.

Which brings me to...

Stop the Beilein Bandwagon, Michigan Needs to Get Off

God bless Bob Wojnowski of the Detroit Free Press for putting in print what I've been saying since Beilein's name was first floated, how in the world is this guy considered our top choice?

Woj put it best by saying, "But how high is the upside? Is Martin even seeking a major upside or hoping to get lucky? In U-M's hunt for a home run, is Beilein a ground-rule double?". I said it yesterday, "When the number of NIT appearances equals his NCAA appearances it worries me... Up and down years are not what I have in mind when I look for a new coach. I want a guaranteed winner, every year."

Beilein is not a home run coach. In the Pulous world of basketball coaching, Beilein is a Mark Loretta. He's expensive and other than getting on base a lot, he doesn't do a whole lot. He's a safe bet. The same way Tommy Amaker was.

This train needs to derail quickly.

I have serious reservations about Beilein's ability to recruit. Looking at his teams, they are stacked with 6-10 white guys who shoot three pointers and can't play in the post. He relies on three point shooting and a Princeton offense that does manufacture points but can stifle creativity. Beilein's recruits are system guys. He's never recruited the midwest well and all of his contacts are on the East Coast.

The standard response to this criticism is "Look where he's recruiting, no one can recruit there!" Stop. Stop right now. That's bull. Like I pointed out two days ago:

"East Lansing is a hole, yet Izzo does fine. Bulter's in the middle of nowhere and in the sweet 16, again. BYU was an 8 seed. Southern Illinois is somewhere near the Thunderdome. Washington State. Nevada. Vanderbilt???"

A good recruiter can sell a herpes vaccine to a nun. I refuse to give him a pass on his recruiting record because he works in Morgantown. The next response is he "does more with less." Yeah, but it's his less. It's not like he intentionally passes on 4 and 5 star recruits.

Wojnowski rightfully points out, "No one should assume he'll magically recruit better once he gets out of West Virginia, or that U-M will recruit itself." He's another east coast outsider who is eerily similar to Amaker in that sense. He doesn't have contacts here. He hasn't made inroads to the AAU and PSL. He needs someone else to do that. It'll take years before he has the comfort level with our key recruiting areas, and frankly by the time he does he'll be on his way out. Haven't we been down this road before?

Based on the coaches currently in the Big Ten: Tom Izzo to Bo Ryan to Thad Matta to Kelvin Sampson to Bruce Weber to Tubby Smith (and you can probably throw Purdue's Paitner in there as well), if Beilein came to Ann Arbor he'd be eighth on the top coaches list in the Big Ten. Is that what Michigan wants?

The final straw, at least to me, is the cost of bringing him here. At a minimum Beilein will coast the school $1.2-$1.3 million a year. Then there's the $2.5 million dollar buyout. Woj is dead on when he says "Would that be the wisest investment for a program that needs to spend on facilities?"

His record is so-so. His recruiting is subpar. The schedule West Virginia played was worse than Michigan's. He's expensive. He's a high floor, low ceiling coach.

I'll grant you, Beilein is an excellent basketball coach. But Michigan needs more than that. We need a star. And Beilein just isn't it.