Murray State coach Matt McMahon is officially off board. As expected after his interview with LSU Sunday, he is taking the job with the Tigers according to national reports and reports from Baton Rouge. Monday morning David Cloninger of the Post and Courier reported USC AD Ray Tanner was to fly to Murray, KY to interview McMahon. There’s been no confirmation as to whether that trip took place. Matt Norlander of CBSSports.com reported this afternoon that McMahon actually passed on the USC job days ago.
As for some history on the search, our sources tell us Cleveland State coach Dennis Gates was the top target when it began. Gates also was very interested in the Georgia job. When he did not get that job and was not immediately offered the USC job after his interview, he jumped on the chance to go to Missouri when that job was offered to him. Sean Miller, according to sources, was not the primary target from the start of the search but became a bigger factor after Gates took the Missouri job. Our sources are not conclusive as to whether or not Miller was in Columbia last Thursday. There was a plane that flew out of Columbia’s downtown airport Friday afternoon bound for Cincinnati.
That leaves BJ McKie and Lamont Paris as the remaining publicly known candidates as of late Monday afternoon.
Ray Tanner’s search for a new men’s basketball coach to replace Frank Martin enters its second week on Monday. Though if you believe what Jon Rothstein reported on CBS Saturday, Tanner has been working on this for months as he attempted to lure Sean Miller to Columbia.
Indications Sunday night, combined with logic, would lead one to believe Tanner might have his man this week. And the field appears to be down to two. That is, unless Tanner and his search firm are working with candidates yet to be publicized.
Of the names mentioned publicly, Wake Forest assistant and former Gamecock great BJ McKie, and UT-Chattanooga head coach Lamont Paris are the strongest candidates still in the picture.
Miller, of course, was hired by Xavier. Dennis Gates is headed to Missouri. Matt McMahon, who interviewed with LSU Sunday, reportedly is the Tigers top choice and is likely to land there. And Bob Richey, who interviewed last week, as of Sunday night appeared more inclined to stay with his Furman program for the immediate future.
Assuming the Gamecocks don’t get a chance with McMahon, that leaves McKie and Paris from the original list of publicized names. McKie interviewed in Columbia on Friday, and it’s likely Tanner has had his interview with Paris. Both no doubt impressed Tanner with their basketball IQ and management skills. And each has his own strong argument for the job.
McKie is the Gamecocks’ all-time leading scorer, an Irmo native and one of the most revered basketball players in USC history. He helped to lead two USC squads to the NCAA Tournament during the Eddie Fogler era. He spent 13 seasons in pro basketball and has been an assistant coach for 11 seasons climbing from the Big South, thru the Southern Conference and now to the ACC. McKie, of course, would be the hometown hero, and with his ties to the basketball community in the Columbia area, he could be viewed as someone who would keep the local talent at home with his contacts in high school and AAU circles.
Paris doesn’t have the hometown hero thing going for him, but what he has that McKie does not is five seasons of head coaching experience. By all accounts, he’s done a masterful job at UTC going from 10 wins in 2018 to 27 this season and the NCAA Tournament. His overall record with the Mocs is 87-70 including 43-45 in the Southern Conference. Before Chattanooga, Paris spent several seasons on the staff at Wisconsin and the Badgers went to the NCAA Tournament each season he was there.
If Tanner’s decision is down to these two, he ultimately will be making a historic decision for the University. Either McKie or Paris would become the first African- American head coach for one of the major men’s programs at USC.
Ethnicity aside, Tanner needs a home run hire for his own legacy. Some of the goodwill he earned with Gamecock fans as baseball coach is eroding with his coaching hires. He turned to Shane Beamer, a non-head coach, to fix the football program. Would he do the same for basketball? An answer to that could be just days away.