As fans of college basketball turn eager attention to the true start of the NCAA Tournament on Thursday, Texas Tech will be continuing to search for the coach it hopes can return the Red Raiders to that stage – one they haven't graced since 2007.
In the week since Tech's season ended with a 28-point loss to Kansas in the Big 12 Tournament quarterfinals, athletic director Kirby Hocutt has been busy interviewing a handful of potential candidates for the job created by Billy Gillispie's resignation six months ago.
Believed to be among them, according to sources and various reports: Doc Sadler, the director of basketball operations at Kansas and a former Nebraska coach; Scott Sutton, the head coach at Oral Roberts; Steve McClain, the associate head coach at Indiana; and Chris Walker, Tech's current interim coach.
Tech is also believed to have taken a shot at New Mexico coach Steve Alford, but he signed a 10-year extension on Wednesday to remain the coach of the Lobos for the forseeable future.
It is unclear whether there are more candidates Hocutt plans to consider, or, if there are, when he plans to speak with them.
Hocutt told reporters immediately following Tech's exit from the Big 12 Tournament that there was no timetable set on the search. If Tech doesn't announce a coach on Thursday, though, it's hard to think one would come until at least next week, as the university is set to host the first and second round games of the NCAA Women's Tournament this weekend.
Tech will also conduct its first spring football practice under first-year coach Kliff Kingsbury on Friday.
Hocutt said last week the importance of making the right hire – one he hopes can make Tech a program that enjoys sustained success – makes it imperative not to rush the process, though he did say he was mindful of bringing it to its conclusion “as expeditiously as possible.”
“These are decisions,” Hocutt said at the Big 12 Tournament, “that affect Texas Tech and its basketball program far beyond the eligibility of the young men in our locker room. I want the very best for these young men, and for that reason I have great respect for them. But at the end of the day, I have to have confidence in the recommendation and the decision that I'm going to make going forward.”
So where has this process left Tech on the recruiting front? The Red Raiders, who went 19-43 overall and 4-32 in the Big 12 the last two seasons, didn't sign any players during the early period back in November – their lone commitment, Blake Danielak, changed course after Gillispie resigned – and currently don't have any players orally committed to sign in April.
Keith Frazier, a McDonald's All-American shooting guard out of Dallas Kimball, has narrowed his college choice down to Tech, Texas A&M and SMU. Frazier, whose sole recruiter at Tech was Walker, has said he will make his decision by March 28, though it could come sooner.
It has been widely speculated that Tech's chances of landing the nation's 22nd-ranked player would decrease significantly should Walker not earn the permanent position.
Hocutt, of course, can't tie a decision that affects the long-term future of a program to one potential athlete, which is why he has been deliberate this week – and during the past five months, really – as he prepares to hire a coach in a major sport for the third time in less than a calendar year.