Area HS coaches eye DePaul job
Head, Smith of the Public League say they'd make good choices
CHICAGO -- Brooks High School boys' basketball coach Chris Head has heard all the names the media and public have generated as potential candidates for the DePaul coaching position.
He agrees with some more than others. But in the two months since Jerry Wainwright was fired as the Blue Demons' coach, Head has been surprised there hasn't been a single mention of two names he would have at the top of his list -- his own and Simeon's Robert Smith's.
"I should be the next coach at DePaul," Head said. "I'm not saying that joking. What DePaul needs is someone who has got very good ties in the Public League. If you look at the history of DePaul, it's been most successful when they've had players from the Public League. Someone like myself or Robert Smith would be perfect at a place like DePaul, UIC or Chicago State."
If DePaul did consider any high school coaches, Head and Smith would have to be among them. They have been two of the Public League's most successful coaches in the past decade.
Head, who has coached for 25 years, led Westinghouse to a state runner-up finish in 2000 and won a state title in 2002. Most recently, Head has revived the basketball program at Brooks and has won 20-plus games there each of the past four seasons.
Smith, who was an assistant at Simeon for seven years, has been the state's most successful head coach over the past six years. He has coached the Wolverines to a 162-34 record, two state championships and a runner-up finish.
"I've never thought about DePaul itself, but I've thought about college jobs in general," Smith said. "It's intriguing. I know both of us definitely imagined us getting to the next level. Being at home doing it at the next level would be great.
"I really think it wouldn't be a bad idea. When you look at me and Chris especially in the Public League, you're going to get the best. We have great relationships with all the high school coaches and the kids and the parents. It would be to their benefit to call one of us in. I wouldn't understand why they wouldn't just call and see."
One of DePaul's greatest struggles in the recent past has been attracting homegrown players. Both coaches have been able to do just that at the high school level. Head coached David Bailey, Martell Bailey and Jamarcus Ellis at Westinghouse and now has a couple of Division I prospects, including Wisconsin recruit George Marshall. Smith most notably coached Derrick Rose but also has produced a number of other college players, including Illinois center Stan Simpson and UCLA recruit Lazeric Jones. This year's team includes Dayton-bound Brandon Spearman and nationally ranked freshman Jabari Parker.
The one knock on both is that neither has college coaching experience. Both felt that wouldn't matter in the long run.
"I think our experience and success outweighs our college coaching experience," Head said. "Basketball is basketball. If you can coach, you can coach."
Smith said, "Really at the end of the day, it's the same. Once you learn to run a program, you learn to run a program. I think I've done a great job in my six years here to put Simeon back on the national level to compete with the best teams in the country."
Nothing against Head or Smith, but City/Suburban Hoops Report's Joe Henricksen, a Chicago-area recruiting analyst, didn't think DePaul would be considering anyone from the high school ranks.
"That just isn't realistic," Henricksen said. "There is no way DePaul would ever go that route, nor should they. This certainly isn't the time for this program to go with that far out of the box thinking. Would it be worthwhile for the new head coach to look into bringing in a high school coach from the city as an assistant coach? Possibly. But there are also some quality college assistant coaches out there right now who they should target that already are locked into the city and have the college coaching experience and résumé.
"This is certain: DePaul absolutely has to have a Chicago feel on its staff, not necessarily the head coach, but the staff. The staff must include at least a couple of guys with Chicago ties, coaches who really get and understand Chicago and [have] relationships already built."
With DePaul's mounting failures, Head couldn't see how he or Smith would be any more of a risk than the program's previous coaches.
"Give us a chance," Head said. "You've given everyone else a chance. They've done everything else. It can't hurt them."
Scott Powers covers high school and college sports for ESPNChicago.com and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.