Who’s next?

Joe Harrington

When Kansas coach Bill Self left Illinois in 2003, Bruce Weber was hired to replace him. In his first game as the head coach, Weber wore an all black suit to signify the end of the Self era at Illinois.

Jim Christian is in Fort Worth, Texas, now at Texas Christian University. The question is: Who is wearing the all black suit next season when Kent State starts the 2008-2009 season? Here are 10 coaches that could be replacing the crazy foot stomper that was Christian on the Kent State bench.

1. Geno Ford, Kent State assistant coach. Christian mentioned him in his press conference Saturday, and it’s no secret that Ford has been the department’s No.1 choice to replace Christian after he was brought back this season after two years at Muskigum College. Ford is an Ohio native and is the third leading scorer in Ohio University history. That pedigree could allow Ford to recruit the Buckeye state, something that Christian hasn’t focused on in recent years. Kent State had one player, junior Julian Sullinger, who was from Ohio. If Ford doesn’t follow Christian to TCU, there is no doubt that he will be one of the final candidates for the Kent State job.

2. Gary Waters, head coach of Cleveland State. The man started the 10 years of 20 wins while coaching Kent State from 1996 to 2001. Waters left Kent State to take over Rutgers, but was let go in some part to missing a game in 2005 because he was being inducted into the Kent State Hall of Fame. Waters recruited nearly every player on the 2002 Elite 8 team and quickly turned Cleveland State around in just two seasons. Will Waters want to comeback? Will Kent State Athletic Director Laing Kennedy ask him? Who knows, but as long as Waters is coaching in nearby Cleveland, his name will be mentioned as a coaching replacement.

3. Jim O’Brien, former Boston College and Ohio State head coach. O’Brien left Ohio State under a cloud of controversy and even sued Ohio State for wrongful termination. Now O’Brien wants back in the coaching carousal and is mentioned as a candidate for Toledo’s coaching job. O’Brien would hands down be the best coach — he did take the Buckeyes to the Final Four. However, Kent State would be hesitant to hire a coach with NCAA sanction baggage.

4. Oronde Taliaferro, Oklahoma assistant coach. Who? Taliaferro was an assistant coach under Stan Heath in 2002. He has ties to Kent State but would be a candidate out of left field if hired. Still, he’s worth to mentioning.

5. Dan Peters, Ohio State assistant coach. Peters is a Kent State alum and has worked under some terrific coaches. Peters coached at Cincinnati under Bob Huggins and with Thad Matta at Ohio State since 2004. The Canton native was the head coach at Youngstown State before joining Huggins’ staff in 1999.

6. Any Western Kentucky assistant. The pipeline is there, with Christian and assistant coach Eric Haut all going through Western Kentucky before stopping at Kent State. Former guard Armon Gates is currently on staff as well. Who they would hire is a question mark, but Western Kentucky head coach Darrin Horn would be out of the question, considering he just took the Hilltoppers to the Sweet 16.

7. James Whitford, Xavier assistant coach. Whitford was the top assistant coach for Charlie Coles at Miami for seven seasons. All together, he spent 11 seasons at Miami and in the Mid-American Conference. Because Xavier coach Sean Miller may be a candidate for Indiana, Whitford’s status could be up in the air, but he has to be a strong candidate that no one has heard of.

8. Steve Robinson, assistant coach North Carolina. This would be the biggest, most far-fetched hire, but it would be a touchdown. Robinson has been on Roy Williams’ staff for years and has head coaching experience at Tulsa and Florida State. Robinson was named one of the best recruiters in the country, which would be appealing for the future of the program. Would it take some selling from Kennedy? Without a doubt, but would be well worth it.

9. Mark Montgomery, associate head coach at Michigan State. The only reason he would be mentioned is because of Stan Heath. Although Heath was only at Kent State for one season, it was his assistant Jim Christian that kept the program going for six more seasons. Montgomery has been at MSU for seven seasons and has more than enough qualifications to be the head coach.

10. Any other long tenured MAC assistant coach. It would be smart for the Flashes to find a coach that has experience in a unique conference like the MAC.

Contact assistant sports editor Joe Harrington at [email protected].