Information as to who might take over for Craig Robinson since he was fired Sunday night has been coming at a furious pace. I break down the five most likely candidates below, in order that I want them.
1. Ben Howland (Former head coach at Northern Arizona, Pittsburgh, and UCLA)
Howland was in the mix to fill openings at Marquette, Wake Forest, Missouri, and Tennessee a couple months ago, but all of those programs decided to go in different directions. He had expressed interest in only going to a school where he can win immediately, but circumstances have changed. So the question is, would the Lebanon native want to return home and take another Pac-12 job, even if it is a massive rebuild? There is also the line of thought that athletic director Bob DeCarolis would not fire Robinson so late after the season unless he had a big name coach lined up to fill the spot. That could very well be the case as John Canzano has reported that both sides are mutually interested. Still, part of me believes that getting someone that has been to three straight Final Four's to come to Corvallis is too good to be true. With some wanting Oregon's Dana Altman to resign in light of the recent forcible rape allegations surrounding three of his players, Howland may want to see how that situation plays out before deciding.
2. David Grace (Current assistant coach at UCLA, former Oregon State assistant)
This seems to be the top choice by the current players, most of which were recruited by Grace. Add that to the fact point guard Hallice Cooke has said he would reconsider transferring if Grace was hired, and that DeCarolis could get him fairly cheaply, he seems to be a viable option. It sounds like he wants this job more than any of the listed candidates and sees Oregon State as a destination job, not as a stepping stone. At the same time though, going right back to a Robinson guy wouldn't ignite a ton of excitement, and would seem more as a lateral step then one going forward.
3. Eric Musselman (Former Arizona State assistant coach, Sacramento Kings and Golden State Warriors head coach)
If he can't get Howland or Grace, I think DeCarolis goes after either a mid-major head coach or power conference assistant with NCAA Tournament experience. Musselman would bring the latter. Before his last job in Tempe, he was the head coach for the Sacramento Kings and Golden State Warriors. The Sun Devils have made the NIT and NCAA's in the two years since he was brought on, and his ability to tell recruits exactly what it takes to make it to the NBA gives him an advantage in the living room. Would have no problems with this hire.
4. Wayne Tinkle (Current Montana head coach)
Here's that mid-major head coach. Tinkle is rumored to be one of DeCarolis' top targets for the job, and for good reason. He's taken Montana to three NCAA Tournaments and one CBI appearance in the last five years, and actually beat Oregon State during the 2010-11 season. One of his former assistants, Freddie Owens, was actually hired away by Robinson before this season, and it would be interesting to see whether Tinkle would keep Owens on staff or if he would follow Robinson to whatever job comes next. Tinkle was heavily considered for the recent opening at Washington State before athletic director Bill Moos decided to go with former Oregon head coach Ernie Kent. Oh, and he was also named the nation's Sexiest College Basketball Coach last February by College Insider.
5. Damon Stoudamire (Current Arizona assistant coach)
Rumors have been swirling that Stoudamire is on the short list to replace Robinson, and while the hire would certainly draw attention, I'm not sure it's the right one. Oregon State took a risk in hiring a relatively unknown coach the last time around, and I'm not sure we want to do that again. Stoudamire does have NCAA Tournament experience, going there with Memphis before landing in Tucson. He is young and grew up in the state, but comments made by former Arizona coach Lute Olson earlier in the week made it sound like Stoudamire might not even take the job if offered. Out of the five options, I think this one is the least likely.