The media room at the Al McGuire Center was filled to the brim Thursday afternoon as Bill Cords provided insights on search for Buzz Williams’ replacement since the social media eruption Monday.
The two main points: Cords said he will remain Marquette’s interim athletic director until about this time next year and that Virginia Commonwealth coach Shaka Smart remains far from a “DONE DEAL” to become Marquette’s next head coach.
“I can neither confirm nor deny,” Cords said of whether Marquette has contacted Smart. “That’s the best I can do.”
Sources, continue supplying your information.
“A friend of mine called up (Monday) and he said, ‘Congratulations.’ And I said, ‘Really?’ And he said, ‘You’re the only person to ever get the chance to get with Shaka Smart and hire him,'” Cords said of his Monday experience. “That’s the first I knew about anything.”
What Cords does know is he has no concrete timeline to make a hire and Marquette will go at a pace it is comfortable with.
“You have to be careful in this process. You have to be sensitive to the people involved in the process,” said Cords, who was asked to remain for an additional year before Williams’ departure. “Timing is important. You really have to do your due diligence to make sure this is absolutely the best person.”
As for who the best person is, Cords let on little.
He said Marquette is seeking the “best possible coach we can find” and the candidate could have history as a head coach or an assistant, so long as he is the “best.”
“The program is the strongest it’s ever been,” Cords said. “Solid base, foundation, support, everything. Therefore, our pool is good. It is stronger and better than by far than we’ve had.”
We’ve heard many names floated about as candidates besides Smart. Ben Howland. Brian Wardle. Mike Hopkins. All three are done coaching this season (or never started in Howland’s case).
ESPN’s Jeff Goodman reports there is a “mystery” candidate still coaching in the Sweet 16. Cords wouldn’t bite when asked if any candidates were still at work.
“I can’t respond about anybody who is still in the tournament or not in the tournament,” Cords said.
But this isn’t just Cords’ decision to make. Marquette announced the hire of its new president, Dr. Michael Lovell, on Wednesday and he’ll have a huge say in the process.
When asked who was involved in selecting the next coach and what that process was like, Cords would only concede that he, Lovell and interim president Father Robert Wild were part of that team.
“He’s the president,” Cords said of Lovell. “He’s got to be involved.
“Father Wild is involved. I want you to know that.”
But Brad Autry and Isaac Chew will not be.
Cords reaffirmed the two assistants’ departure from Marquette and said Jerry Wainwright and strength and conditioning coach Todd Smith are working with the basketball players to maintain their routine.
Cords said it will be the new coach’s decision to make on whether Wainwright will remain on staff.
The next coach will also determine whether Marquette releases any members of Williams’ recruiting class, Cords said. That was an issue with recruit Sandy Cohen, who tweeted he had been released from his national letter of intent.
“We had a little bit of a misunderstanding with Sandy Cohen,” Cords said. “I called Sandy and talked to him directly and he said, ‘I didn’t understand it.’ And he felt badly about it. He’s a great kid and that got cleared up.”
What isn’t cleared up, is the future of the Big East Conference, which Cords addressed.
“I don’t think that’s an issue,” Cords said of the conference strength and its deal with Fox Sports. “I was disappointed in coach’s (Buzz Williams) comments about the conference and about Fox Sports.”
“Somebody asked me the other day, ‘What are the downsides (to this job) because of what Buzz said about the conference and Fox Sports?'” Cords said. “I said, ‘That’s not a downside. It’s a challenge.’ Every challenge is an opportunity. We’re going to seize those opportunities and we’re not only going to get better but we’re going to get stronger.”
And the challenge now for Cords and company is to find a coach who views Marquette as a destination job and not a steppingstone, unlike Tom Crean and Williams who jumped ship.
“Well, we’re not a steppingstone. There’s one time where you might say that, but I don’t think we are now,” Cords said. “We feel we have everything in place in terms of support and facilities to make sure that person has a chance to do what we all want to do and that’s get back to the Final Four and win a national championship. That’s our vision.”