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There should be only one candidate for DePaul's coaching job -- Rod Strickland
The names are floating around and being devoured like free food.
The latest: Steve Lavin (ex-UCLA), Tracy Dildy (UIC), Craig Robinson (Oregon State), Chris Lowery (Southern Illinois), Mark Aguirre (New York Knicks) and Tyrone Corbin (Utah Jazz). All are in the mix and rumored to be in the conversation about the next head basketball coach at DePaul.
And that's just the ones we -- the public -- have heard about. There are probably others, still secret.
It's an impressive list, because for what was once the pinnacle of basketball in Chicago, DePaul over the years has become the new abyss. Lately, it's had as much success attracting local high school superstars and nationally rated star players as McLovin would have in attracting a second look from Keeley Hazell or Nicole Narain.
None at all.
Ever since DePaul relieved Jerry Wainwright of his duties in January, the university's basketball program has been going even further into hell in a handmade handbasket. Losers of 13 of their past 14 games with the only victory being a one-point win over Marquette, the Blue Demons are on the verge of becoming the city's NCAA version of the New Jersey Nets.
So, meaning no disrespect to interim coach Tracy Webster, it's time we stepped up to help DePaul out in its search for basketball resurrection.
Here's how to fix it. Once the season is over, hire this name as the next head coach: Rod Strickland.
If DePaul is seriously serious about being the program that once again defines the city's hoops scene -- if it is serious about bringing the program back to what it once was, and once again being the pride of the Chi -- then he's the only person it should be seriously considering.
Even among the wealth of qualified prospects, candidates and "good looks," Strickland stands out. His pedigree, his past, his presence. That he's been on the bench as assistant coach for two No.1-ranked NCAA teams over the past three years -- one that went to the NCAA championship game in 2008 (Memphis) and one that everyone is predicting will at least be in the Final Four this year (Kentucky) -- should be the deal-sealer. That's something none of the aforementioned possibles can claim.
Plus, Strickland, 43, is an alum. (So are Aguirre, who in a recent interview said he would be interested in the job if asked, and Corbin.) His imprint at the university still resonates through the city's basketball circles and, most importantly, through the high school Public League. When it comes to recruiting (which is the most important element in bringing the program back to prominence), he has an advantage over Aguirre and Corbin because he's still intimately connected to the college game while they've been involved solely with the NBA throughout their coaching careers.
And while there might be questions about Strickland's role in the Derrick Rose/SAT/Memphis situation, you wonder if the fact that Strickland helped recruit Rose to the Tigers and has a relationship with Pooh could be an asset when he's talking to current recruits about DePaul.
In an e-mail, Bounce magazine's senior editor Alejandro Danois says, "[Strickland's] upbringing, his journey through the game and his current incarnation as the master teacher, infusing these young cats with his acquired knowledge through their one [and done] season, accelerated [basketball] Ph.D coursework. It's almost like he's training a small combat force at the position. His young boys are killing it in college while prepping to dominate the game at the pro level."
ESPN college basketball analyst Andy Katz, though, has some reservations.
"He certainly has the name recognition, and I do believe he can recruit," Katz said. "But the question still to be determined is how he would handle the pressure of being a head coach on the bench and in the office, where he would have to also be a CEO for the first time."
OK. But the question has to be asked from the perspective of DePaul: Is there a better candidate who can get done what needs to get done to get things back to where they are supposed to be?
From the outside of the Sheffield gates looking in, that answer is "No," because as much as the notion of the other names at DePaul works, none fits quite like Strickland. And to rebuild the program to the level of respectability needed to stop players such as Sherron Collins and Jon Scheyer from leaving home to go ball elsewhere, what simply "works" is not good enough. You need something that fits ... perfectly.
And in the case of the Blue Demons and the former point god called Rod, you need something that also makes perfect sense.
Scoop Jackson is a columnist for ESPNChicago.com and ESPN.com.