There has been no shortage of work landing on the desk of Texas Tech Athletic Director Kirby Hocutt this year.
In May, Hocutt fired baseball coach Dan Spencer after a mostly unsuccessful four-year stint, then replaced him with assistant Tim Tadlock.
This fall he navigated through a tumultuous saga surrounding former basketball coach Billy Gillispie, who eventually resigned under scrutiny and was replaced, on an interim basis, by Chris Walker.
A long-term solution for the basketball program, whether it be Walker or someone else, will have to be constructed by the end of the spring.
Add in his work with football stadium-enhancement plans and a new television deal, among other daily tasks, and it’s been a full docket for the 41-year-old administrator.
If all that wasn’t enough, Hocutt now faces the most important days of his still-fresh tenure in Lubbock: Finding the next football coach in a football-crazed town.
It’s a challenge, Hocutt said on Saturday, he didn’t expect to be taking on this month. Tommy Tuberville assured Hocutt in a meeting on Friday that he was dedicated to the future of Tech football. A day later, Tuberville was on a flight to Cincinnati to become the next head coach of the Bearcats.
Hocutt expressed eagerness on Saturday to shake off the shock and begin his mission of finding the right replacement for Tuberville, knowing full well what Tech’s fan base expects from its program.
“A sense of determination,” Hocutt said when asked what his overriding emotion is as he begins this search, “a sense of determination to get a leader in here who is committed to Texas Tech University, who wants to be ingrained with the fabric of Lubbock, with West Texas, and a winner.”
The search will land squarely on Hocutt’s shoulders. He indicated Saturday that he likely won’t use a search firm. He is confident in the network he has built during his career in athletics, confident in himself to land a coach who can win.
“It’s my intention to move forward with the contacts and the relationships that I have developed in the profession,” Hocutt said. “I’ve worked very hard to develop those. That being said, there may be a particular service in the coming days that I identify that I’d like some assistance with. If that’s the case, then I’ll consider it at that time.”
Hocutt was asked on more than one occasion on Saturday whether he felt his responsibility of hiring the next head coach was also an opportunity to unite a community of fans that has at times been divided since the controversial firing of Mike Leach in 2009.
He was also asked whether he believed the next coach at Tech needed to embrace the identity the school has garnered during the past decade as being a program that thrives on high-flying, pass-happy offense.
Hocutt answered by repeatedly arriving at the same word — fit.
“Fit is very important to me,” he said, “and I think finding the right fit for Texas Tech is critical at this point in time. We want a winner, leader, who is going to position us to compete at the highest levels competitively. Our goal is very simple. Our goal is to be the best college football program in the country, to compete for Big 12 championships and to compete for national championships. We’ve been at the top of the college football world before and we’re going to get back to the top.”
So who does Hocutt think can be the coach to attain those lofty goals?
A number of names have surfaced in the hours since Tech’s coaching search began. Texas A&M offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury, Clemson coordinators Chad Morris and Brent Venables and Baylor coach Art Briles are among an early crop of potential targets, but as of Sunday it was unclear which numbers Hocutt would begin dialing first.
He declined to discuss specific candidates after his news conference on Saturday. He had no trouble, though, discussing his optimism about the upcoming process.
“We’re going to do what it takes to get the best head coach in the country here,” he said. “We’ve got great resources, and we’ve got as passionate, committed of a fan base and donor base as anyone in this country. So we’ll do what it takes to get the right person.”
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