Well, this just got interesting.
This afternoon, Penn State Basketball and Football Sports Information Director Brian "Stretch" Siegrist announced on Twitter that the search for the next Nittany Lion men's basketball coach is "in full gear," as Athletic Director Tim Curley has retained the consulting services of former college coach Eddie Fogler.
Fogler was an All-New York City guard in the mid-1960s who went on to play the point on two North Carolina Final Four squads (where he was apparently Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany's roommate). After college, he coached high school for a year, then went on to a 15-year stint as one of Dean Smith's assistants at his alma mater.
In 1986, Fogler took the Wichita State head coach. He moved on to Vanderbilt in 1989, then to South Carolina from 1993 to 2001. Overall, Fogler finished with 6 NCAA Tournament appearances, 5 NIT appearances, and an overall coaching record of 265-197.
Why does this matter?
It doesn't, particularly. Fogler is perhaps best known not for his playing or coaching career, but for his new gig as an advisor to schools who need to find new basketball coaches. In the past several years, Fogler has assisted various schools, some of which have made very high profile hires. With his guidance, Auburn came to terms with Tony Barbee, Indiana hired Tom Crean, and Kansas State promoted Frank Martin. Most recently, Fogler assisted Georgia Tech athletic director Dan Radakovic in finding and hiring Paul Hewitt's replacement, Brian Gregory.
There's a lot to like about Curley enlisting the help of Fogler. For one, he's the most prominent search consultant in the country when it comes to basketball, a clear sign that Curley's operating a serious search with some financial backing. You don't hire a consultant if you're going to lowball offer candidates. This is about looking at a pool of candidates, narrowing down the list, and systematically targeting the strongest option available.
Given the list of candidates he's placed, we're looking at hiring a mid-major head coach with a track record of success (see Crean, Barbee, and Gregory) or a top assistant from a brand name program (Martin). All good options.
Perhaps most importantly, Eddie Fogler has no connection to Penn State in any capacity. He didn't grow up in Pennsylvania, he's not an alumnus, and he's never coached here. He's the most unbiased outsider you can find. Considering our last two men's basketball hires and their brutal overall records, this can be nothing but a good thing. With all due respect to Dan Earl, the next men's coach won't be coming from the Bruce Parkhill coaching tree. Fogler is well connected to some of the most successful programs in the country - there's no logical reason to stay in-house with that network at our disposal.
What makes Fogler so attractive to Penn State? In a March 6th interview with the Charleston (S.C.) Post and Courier, he promoted the essential elements of the Penn State brand - Success with Honor:
After your last game at South Carolina, you said "I'm leaving college basketball with my dignity, my integrity and my sanity." What did you mean?
I felt I had a good career, was a good coach. There were some better, probably more worse. I feel in my 15 years as a head coach, my 15 years as an assistant, I did it the right way. I was taught to do it the right way. I played for a coach who taught me how to do it and that was Dean Smith ... Winning was important, but students were more important. Going to class, getting degrees, and doing it under the NCAA rules was important to me. I think I did it the right way. I felt good the way I was leaving the game.
He also has an opinion on non-traditional basketball schools in power conferences:
What does it take to sustain success at programs like Clemson and South Carolina, which are not traditional basketball powers but are in power conferences?
I'd say, first of all, (Clemson's) Brownell and (USC's) Darrin Horn are very good coaches. I think they have the ingredients of what you look for when you watch their teams play. Therefore it all comes down to recruiting. A good coach or a great coach with not good enough players doesn't make it.
Fogler says all the right things. His values are in line with and his track record seems to speak for itself. This can be nothing but a good sign for the future of Nittany Lion hoops.