02 April 2008
As Jacksonville State University continues its search to replace head men's basketball coach Mike LaPlante, Alabama assistant coach Philip Pearson's name has moved to the top of the short list of candidates.
Philip would be a slam dunk hire for Jacksonville State. He was the classic over-achiever as a player at Alabama - becoming the first walk-on to ever earn a start in an SEC game for the Tide. As a member of Mark Gottfried's staff at Alabama he has not only been a part of an SEC Championship team, and been a participant in the NCAA Tournament's Elite Eight, but he has also been the chief recruiter for the state of Alabama.
Obviously at JSU Philip would not be recruiting the same athletes that he has been recruiting for Alabama, but the contacts that he has developed over the last decade of coaching in this state would be absolutely invaluable to a team in JSU's position.
This would also be a great opportunity for Philip. He's been a candidate for several head coaching positions in the past few seasons, most recently at the University of South Alabama, but for a variety of reasons, he's been passed over. This would be a chance for Philip to get his opportunity as a head coach, while still at a relatively young age, without having to uproot his family across the country. The fact that he has the in-state recruiting connections would seemingly make this an easy transition for him, as well.
So what would it mean to the Tide? Obviously it would require the hiring of a new assistant. And unlike last season's hire of Kobie Baker, where Bama was replacing the last coach on the end of the bench (what used to be the restricted earnings position), this time Mark Gottfried would be looking to hire a #1 assistant; likely an Associate or Assistant Head Coach. With that position would come not only greater prestige, but also a greater pay-check.
Recent moves within the UA Administration have seen Athletics Director Mal Moore take on the duties of oversight for men's basketball - a position vacated by Wendell Hudson when he became the head women's coach at Alabama. With Mal Moore being in that position, Mark Gottfried should have access to a high level of support in searching for a candidate should Pearson get the JSU job, and a vacancy open in Tuscaloosa.
Bama's defense, especially on the perimeter has struggled for several seasons, and Bama fans are hoping to see more intensity on defense in the 2008-09 season. The name most often mentioned is former Tide standout and assistant coach T.R. Dunn. While getting T.R. back to Tuscaloosa would be a wonderful thing, don't expect to see it. As a current assistant coach with the NBA's Houston Rockets, T.R. has come under the NBA microscope recently, due to the Rockets' long winning streak, the Houston players crediting defense as the reason.
There are other options available to Mark Gottfried, however. Prior to the 2005 season, after finishing 11th in the SEC in points against, Florida's Billy Donovan hired Larry Shyatt to coach his defense. Over the course of 2 seasons, the Gators improved to 2nd in the conference... and won consecutive NCAA Championships. If Mark is wielding the Associate Head Coach title around, that could be enough to woo Shyatt away from Gainsville.
I don't expect Jacksonville State to delay their hiring much longer in making their hire. While Philip's prowess as a recruiter for Alabama would certainly be missed, he has earned the opportunity to become a head coach. Hopefully, if that happens, Mark Gottfried will seize the opportunity to make an impact hire of his own.