The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

College Sports

April 13, 2014

D’Antoni speculation now seems to have legs

Kareem Canty got what he wanted, and Marshall fans should find out this week if they will get what they want.

It’s been just about a month since Tom Herrion resigned as the Thundering Herd’s men’s basketball coach following two historically bad seasons that came after two historically good ones. During that time, Canty, Marshall’s point guard who was statistically one of the best in college basketball, languished in a land of self-imposed limbo.

The Harlem, N.Y., native made no secret of his unhappiness, often taking to Twitter to express his frustration and desire to leave Marshall. On March 14 —  the day Herrion resigned — Canty tweeted that he would indeed be leaving and that it had nothing to do with Herrion.

All he needed was to be officially released, which athletic director Mike Hamrick was not going to do on a whim. His stance had been that no releases would be granted until after players meet the as-yet unnamed Herrion replacement.

In fact, Hamrick nor anyone else on the three-person committee that heard Canty’s appeal Friday and ultimately decided to grant the release was a member of the athletic department.

Canty can now enroll at any college he wishes, with no restrictions, and he is expected to file a hardship waiver with the NCAA. If that is granted, he will not have to sit out the otherwise mandated redshirt season.

Whatever the reason for Canty’s leaving, hopefully everything works out for him. But as the search continues into month No. 2, the question now officially has to be asked.

Will Canty regret not sticking around?

That’s because what started as a cute little white mouse has morphed into the biggest elephant in the room ever.

At first, the speculation that Mike D’Antoni would return to Huntington after spending the last several years of his life in New York and Los Angeles seemed nothing more than a pipe dream shared by Herd fans.

Talk about culture shock. Yes, D’Antoni is from Mullens and knows all about a slower pace of life, but he has spent so much of his adult life under the bright lights of the NBA. That standard of living can’t be shaken away in a matter of days when it’s been all you have known for so long.

But the speculation has not gone away, and no one who could make it go away has done or said anything to make it go away.

Count me among those who thought Marshall would have a new coach by now. Heck, Ohio University needed, what, two days to replace Jim Christian after he left to fill the vacancy at Boston College?

The calendar still read winter when Herrion and the Herd parted ways. We’re now weeks into spring, and still no coach.

All signs point to that being because Hamrick feels there is a legitimate chance of luring D’Antoni.

Word has been that D’Antoni, who was hired as head coach of the Lakers the day after Veterans Day in 2012, will be fired after the season ends. That’s Wednesday. The Lakers have already clinched the worst season in the history of the storied franchise, so it would be a surprise if a change is not made.

D’Antoni probably knows this, that he will be looking for a job as early as Thursday morning. If he had no interest in coming back to Marshall, he would have told Hamrick a long time ago. No way would he let his alma mater twist in the wind while lots of worthy candidates get tired of waiting and either go elsewhere or withdraw their names from consideration.

There are those who believe D’Antoni would not be a good hire because of his lack of experience in recruiting. Valid, but I disagree. What greater recruiting platform could there be than “I coached Kobe Bryant” or “I coached Carmelo Anthony”?

Besides, all he would have to do is bring aboard as an assistant his brother Dan, who does have recruiting experience.

Should D’Antoni indeed be introduced as the next coach, that brings us to the original question.

Canty was already one of the nation’s finest point guards. Imagine him playing in D’Antoni’s system, which is centered around that position.

D’Antoni took an already established Steve Nash and helped make him an MVP in Phoenix.

D’Antoni unleashed Linsanity on the Big Apple.

Could he have made the same impact on Canty’s career? No matter how it works out, we’ll never know.

— E-mail: gfauber@register-herald.com and follow on Twitter @GaryFauber.

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