Assistant Sports Editor
When the search for Tom Herrion’s replacement as Marshall’s new head basketball coach began March 15, athletic director Mike Hamrick might have anticipated at least a little controversy. It comes with the territory.
He probably never expected things to take the path they did in a span of 72 hours.
Thursday’s announcement that Danny D’Antoni — and not his little brother Mike — had been hired for his first college coaching job, the move was met with more than just a chuckle. Boisterous laughter could be heard all across the nation’s basketball landscape, at both the college and NBA levels.
Many Herd fans embraced it as a great hire. Others scoffed, feeling Danny is nothing more than a consolation prize after Mike informed Hamrick on Tuesday that he could not take the job because of his contractual obligations as head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers.
The move received national attention for all the wrong reasons. ESPN “basketball insider” Jeff Goodman may have summed it best on his Twitter feed:
“Conference USA coaches are texting me at a furious rate downright giddy by the fact that Marshall hired Dan D’Antoni.”
That’s not a good kind of giddy. They’re giddy, as in they believe one or two open dates just popped up on their respective C-USA schedules.
Goodman later allowed himself to be sucked into a debate with angry, astonished Marshall fans, at one time responding:
“All I know is everyone in NBA circles is texting me — along with C-USA coaches — killing the hire. We will see, but I don’t like it.”
The debate never died, and took a entirely new direction Friday thanks to a column that was printed in the Herald-Dispatch of Huntington that morning.
Columnist Chuck Landon took a step-by-step approach in detailing the 41-day search that ended with Danny D’Antoni’s hiring. The gist of the story is the supposed controversy surrounding Jeff Neubauer, the head coach at Eastern Kentucky who was reported to be the leading candidate as of late Wednesday night.
According to the column, Neubauer was offered and accepted the job, but an influential booster convinced Marshall president Stephen J. Kopp that D’Antoni should be hired. A Marshall official then called Neubauer while he was driving to Huntington and told him they changed their mind.
D’Antoni was then interviewed, but not offered. Instead, the job was offered to Stephen F. Austin coach Brad Underwood, who turned it down. Officials then called Neubauer to re-extend the offer, but Neubauer flatly declined.
In response to an e-mail from The Register-Herald Friday afternoon seeking comment, Neubauer wrote: “Everything in Landon’s article about me is pure fiction.”
At Friday’s press conference introducing D’Antoni, Hamrick took the chance to attempt to clarify things.
“This job was offered to two people. Period. Two people. And they both have the same last name,” Hamrick said, obviously referring to Danny and Mike.
It’s been a dizzying week in Herd Nation, for sure.
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