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Carousel SZN: Who’s next for Texas A&M Basketball?

Buzz Williams is the early favorite, but this could go a number of different directions

Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Believe it or not, this is our first tango with the Hoops Coaching Carousel at GBH. We’ve only been around since A&M moved to the SEC, and Billy Kennedy has been here the whole time... so this is uncharted blog territory.

There’s only one thing you need to know, really. This process moves quick. Let’s get crackin’.

Realistic Candidates

These are the candidates we could pry away with the right offer. Some will take more money than others, but they’re all on the table.

Buzz Williams - Virginia Tech

The presumptive favorite from the drop, Buzz appears to be target #1 according to multiple sources.

He finished above .500 for four consecutive years in the toughest conference in America, he’s about to book his third straight trip to the NCAA tournament, and he’s done it all at a school without a ton of hoops history. And before that, he was a perennial NCAA darling at Marquette. But this is about more than coaching bonafides - Buzz has legitimate Texas roots and was an assistant at Texas A&M under Billy Gillispie.

If we pull this one off, good things won’t be far behind.

Likelihood: If Buzz wants this to happen, it’ll happen

Chris Beard - Texas Tech

In four short years as a Head Coach, Chris Beard has a Big XII title, a Sun Belt title, an Elite Eight (Texas Tech) and a 12/5 NCAA upset (UA - Little Rock). He has completely rejuvenated the basketball atmosphere in Lubbock, and he could probably write his future there a la Billy Gillispie at A&M in 2007. He has Texas ties, he has Texas coaching experience, and he would be an incredible hire… but prying him away from Lubbock is going to be close to impossible. And rumors abound that if he DOES want to leave Lubbock, Austin is his first choice, as he was an Assistant Coach at Texas under Tom Penders.

Likelihood: Not likely… but neither was Jimbo Fisher.

Eric Musselman - Nevada

This represents a move away from poaching and towards a more traditional route - Mid Majors. Musselman just secured back-to-back Mountain West titles, and he’s about to make his third straight NCAA Tournament appearance. Last year’s squad was a #7 seed that beat #10 Texas and #2 Cincinnati en route to a Sweet 16, and he appears primed for an equally dangerous run this year.

Grabbing Musselman presents its own challenges, because we’d be grappling with just about every vacant power five job in the country. This is the clear #1 “mid-major” guy available, and he doesn’t exactly have ties to Texas A&M.

Likelihood: With no regional preference or prior connection, we’d have to outbid some potentially significant suitors.

Nate Oats - Buffalo

Oats has built a legitimately good program at Buffalo, culminating in last season’s 13/4 upset over Arizona in the NCAA Tournament. They haven’t slowed down, either, as this season produced consistent Top 25 appearances and a solid seed in the NCAA’s.

Oats also guided the Bulls to a dream run through the MAC Tournament in his first season, which would make this his third NCAA Appearance in four years.

Likelihood: Like Musselman, Oats will receive offers from all over the country… but possibly at a lower price point.

Steve Forbes - East Tennessee State

While Forbes is not as accomplished as the other names in this category, his time spent as an assistant under Billy Gillispie (and Bruce Pearl and Gregg Marshall) makes him at least a somewhat viable candidate. He’s got better (or at least more direct) connections in the area than the national names below, and he’s a better coach than the local names listed at the bottom of the article. I don’t think this hire would move the needle nationally, and he’d have to earn our trust, but we could do worse. His biggest achievement to date is a 2017 Southern Conference title and first round NCAA defeat as a #13 seed.

Likelihood: This is a perfectly acceptable hire. If we dip below this line, something went wrong.

Unrealistic Candidates

Splash hires that would shock the country or local guys that would honestly be a little underwhelming.

Greg Marshall - Wichita State

Current season notwithstanding, Marshall has turned Wichita State into a perennial mid-major force for basically the entirety of the 2010’s. Their Athletic Department has noticed, to their credit, and they locked him down to the tune of $3.5 Million per year. This hire would be unanimously praised, but it doesn’t seem likely enough to warrant “realistic” status.

Likelihood: This would be a coup of the highest order.

Kelvin Sampson - Houston

Strictly in basketball terms, Sampson’s credentials are undeniable. He had five stellar years in Norman from ‘01-06, he had a successful cup of coffee at Indiana, and he’s currently in the middle of an incredible turnaround at the University of Houston. But with Kelvin Sampson, it’s never that simple. His time at both Oklahoma and Indiana ended with NCAA Violations, the latter of which tagged him with a five year show-cause penalty (effectively removing him from the head coach ranks for almost a decade). He’s back and he’s coaching well, but you have to ask... is it worth it?

Likelihood: Once you get comfortable with the idea of vacating wins, you still have to outbid Tillman Fertitta. Methinks this one ain’t worth the trouble on either front.

Kyle Keller - Stephen F. Austin

Keller was an assistant under Billy Kennedy from 2011 - 2016 and left to take the SFA job when Brad Underwood bolted for Oklahoma State. His Texas connections make this seem like a viable idea on the surface… until I mention that the SFA program has dipped under Keller’s leadership. They did win the Southland Conference Tournament in 2018, but the program had become a nationally recognized small conference darling prior to his arrival… and that status is gone.

Likelihood: Had he kept the train rolling at SFA, you’d see Keller closer to the top of this article

Rick Stansbury - Western Kentucky

My least favorite Texas A&M Basketball taek of the last eight years is “Billy Kennedy owes all of his success to Rick Stansbury.” It’s lazy, and it’s flat out incorrect. However, if you’re one of those people, there’s technically a chance we could bring your golden boy back into the fold. His recent run at the helm of Western Kentucky has been solid, but he hasn’t made the kind of noise one might expect when someone with his resume drops down to the Mid Major level.

Likelihood: This would feel a little underwhelming, to be honest.

Overall Thoughts

I’d be pretty happy with any of the first six names on this list... but beyond that, I’d need a little convincing. The SEC has not shied away from hiring legitimately proven names in recent years, so in that context a bargain basement hire will feel a little hollow.

Whatever happens, we’ll keep you posted.


Who would you hire as Texas A&M Basketball’s next Head Coach?

This poll is closed

  • 60%
    Buzz Williams, Virginia Tech
    (425 votes)
  • 18%
    Chris Beard, Texas Tech
    (132 votes)
  • 4%
    Eric Musselman, Nevada
    (32 votes)
  • 1%
    Nate Oats, Buffalo
    (13 votes)
  • 1%
    Steve Forbes, East Tennessee State
    (11 votes)
  • 6%
    Gregg Marshall, Wichita State
    (46 votes)
  • 0%
    Kyle Keller, Stephen F Austin
    (3 votes)
  • 0%
    Rick Stansbury, Western Kentucky
    (4 votes)
  • 2%
    Kelvin Sampson, Houston
    (20 votes)
  • 2%
    Other (tell us in the comments)
    (14 votes)
700 votes total Vote Now