Washington

Head coach candidates Maryland fans should watch in March Madness

Washington

As the best teams in the country converge for the NCAA Tournament, a majority of the top Division I coaches will have a chance to showcase their coaching abilities during March Madness. One program that is paying close attention to coaching performances is the Maryland Terrapins as they look for their next head coach. 

Maryland got a head start on their coaching search back in December when the program and Mark Turgeon parted ways. Unless the Terrapins were going to hire a non-college coach, it was always going to be a waiting game for seasons to end before they could interview candidates. Now they have other programs to compete with, including Louisville, Florida and Kansas State.

With each day that passes in the tournament, there could be news on which direction Maryland is leaning or interviewing. Teams will get eliminated, opening the door for Maryland's Athletics Director Damon Evans and his search committee to talk to their targets.

Some of the original names that were suspected to be candidates for a high-profile job like Maryland have been removed.

Several of those names, like Bruce Pearl and Andy Enfield, have received huge extensions crossing them off as options on the buyout market. Even Iona's Rick Pitino came out and publicly said he's not going to be the new head coach despite swirling rumors.

So, here is a list of the top candidates playing in the tournament that can be available with a reasonable buy-out. The list may be smaller, but the quality remains high for the Terps.

 

Mike Brey, Notre Dame

There are a lot of reasons Mike Brey makes sense as a leading candidate for Maryland. Brey is a DMV-native through and through. The 62-year-old grew up in Bethesda, Md., played collegiately at George Washington and was an assistant at one of the top high schools in the area at DeMatha. That connection has paid dividends on the recruiting trail as he's had no problem getting top recruits to South Bend.

After a storied career early in his tenure, Notre Dame has had a rough stretch of seasons of late. This season is the first since 2017 that the Fighting Irish has qualified for the NCAA Tournament.

As bigger names are being crossed off the list by signing extensions, Brey may be the best of the rest. But all of this is would be assuming that Brey would be willing to part with ND after 22 years.

Ed Cooley, Providence

If Maryland wants to hire a coach at his peak, Ed Cooley at Providence should be at the top of the list. Cooley returned the Friars to national prominence over the past decade and regular at-large bids to the NCAA Tournament.

This year has his best coaching job yet, winning the Big East regular-season title and earning a No. 4 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Cooley, 52, is more than deserving of moving up to a bigger job. He may not be a 'sexy' candidate, but there is a high floor with Cooley. 

He's had all this success at Providence in the Big East. Just imagine what he could do with the resources of Maryland. 

Kevin Willard, Seton Hall

It took Willard a while to build the Pirates back into a consistent threat for an NCAA Tournament bid, but he doesn't show any signs of stopping. Until the COVID-19 pandemic, Seton Hall had made four straight NCAA Tournaments. They're back this season after missing last season. 

Willard has a similar career arc as Turgeon did when he came to Maryland. At 46, he'll be hired at an age that will allow him to make his mark and build up the Terrapins for the long haul. And by far, Maryland would be the easiest place for him to recruit of his stops at Iona and Seton Hall. 

John Becker, Vermont

At some point, someone is going to hire John Becker for a more prominent program than Vermont. All he has done is turned the Catamounts into a powerhouse in the America East conference. The past five tournaments have seen Vermont win their conference three times.

The jump from Vermont to Maryland would be unprecedented, the Catamounts aren't exactly an upper-tier mid-major. However, Becker does have D.C. roots and could be looking to come back. He's a graduate of Catholic University and coached at Galludet in D.C. before joining as an assistant at his alma mater. 

It's yet to be seen how he could recruit at a high level, but he's always gotten the best of his players to form some truly dominant teams. 

 

Matt McMahon, Murray State

Many industry reporters expect this to be McMahon's last run with the Racers. Four conference championships in the last five seasons, three NCAA appearances in four tournaments and one highly coveted recruit in Ja Morant. If they didn't win their conference tournament this season, they would easily have earned an at-large bid. 

At 43-years-old, McMahon has positioned himself well for a better job and all signs point to him being a great coach at the Power 5 level. He didn't exactly turn Murray State around in a rebuild, but took a successful program and has them playing to their potential. 

Maximizing potential is exactly what the Maryland program needs. All the elements of an elite program are there, what is missing is the coach. McMahon is established and never coached a bad season. Sure, Maryland hiring him would be a risk, but passing on him now may be something athletic directors regret down the line.

Todd Golden, San Francisco

Todd Golden is the next hot-shot young coach in the market. In just three seasons, he got the Dons back to the NCAA Tournament - as an at-large team no less - for the first time in over two decades.

At 36, he's the youngest of the candidates on this shortlist and is already being rumored as a potential candidate at other openings. Just eight years ago he was a director of basketball operations at Columbia and now is coaching in March Madness. 

There's no doubt his ascension is upward. The timing may be too early for the Terrapins, but that could change with a run in the tournament.