OKLAHOMA CITY — So it doesn’t sound like Oklahoma State athletic director Mike Holder is seriously entertaining the idea of Doug Gottlieb as the Cowboys’ head coach.
“Would he be considered? Why not?” Holder told a handful of media on Saturday morning. “But I think the kicker for him is, you’ve got to get over the fact that he’s never coached a game. That’s huge.”
That is huge, of course, that the former Eddie Sutton point guard and current CBS Sports talk show host and college basketball analyst has never been on the bench for a high-level game, that he’s never run his own program, that he’s never recruited or greased boosters or kicked someone off the team.
But it would be a mistake for Holder to discount Gottlieb solely on the basis that he’s never been a head coach.
“The advantages that Doug would have for a guy like that, having played there, he knows exactly what it takes to have success at Oklahoma State,” Northern Iowa coach Ben Jacobson told The Franchise in between NCAA Tournament press conferences at Chesapeake Arena on Saturday. “He’s got that built-in advantage.”
“I would think it would be very difficult,” Texas A&M coach Billy Kennedy said. “Although, Doug’s been around the game in different ways, with his dad’s involvement in the AAU programs and him being around the game working in the media side of it. It’s a little bit different than most true media guys walking into the profession.”
Something else Gottlieb has: a groundswell of support from OSU fans. That, too, should not be discounted because, well, that’s ultimately what got Travis Ford fired on Friday, isn’t it?
Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger was at Florida when he recruited Gottlieb — both out of high school and then later when Gottlieb got in trouble and had to leave Notre Dame. Kruger said Fred Hoiberg is “a great example” of someone who had no real coaching experience before he returned to Iowa State and led his alma mater to new heights.
“It would depend on the guy,” Kruger said. “I mean, obviously it’s going to be a new experience in one way, but on the other hand, some guys are wired to do it and I could see them doing it very capably.”
VCU coach Will Wade was an assistant coach for 10 years before he became a head coach. In an industry as competitive as college basketball, paying one’s dues seems the right way to go. If Gottlieb really wants to be head coach at Oklahoma State, maybe his best path is to step away from the sweet gig he has with CBS and bite the financial bullet and go apply for an assistant’s job somewhere.
“I don’t know if that necessarily has to be the case,” Jacobson said. “… If Doug was thinking about, um, I don’t know, pick a random school — Miami — if Doug wanted the Miami job whenever it is (Jim) Larranaga decides he wants to retire, what would be the logic to putting Doug at the top of that list? Because he hasn’t coached and all the things he hasn’t done yet. He hasn’t earned his way. But if you’re talking about an alma mater, the guy who played there and played at a high level, he’s stayed around the college game, then, to me, that could make some sense.”
VCU’s Will Wade told The Franchise that maybe it’s not actually coaching that is the hard part, but rather the more mundane elements.
“The coaching part is just coaching,” Wade said. “It’s really all the other decisions. You have to make 150 small decisions every day that impact — I’ve got 32 people who work for me in my program. I’ve got all these decisions that impact everybody’s family schedules. So it’s being able to make those decisions, you’ve got to make ‘em quick and move on with ‘em. I think just learning to make those decisions is something that I had to learn as a head coach, and certainly it’s a learning curve for any coach.”
“Yeah,” Kruger said, “but that’s all doable. I think the No. 1 thing is just having relationships with your players where you can get ‘em to go out and play as well as they can and be competitive like crazy.”
Gottlieb is intelligent and has the type of engaging personality that he could probably count that as a strength.
What about the real issue: recruiting?
“You’d need a staff that can help you do that, for sure,” Kruger said. “Fred, when he came back (to Iowa State), didn’t have any necessarily built-in recruiting ties. But you identify a staff. They did a great job recruiting there.”
“Just the culture of recruiting, the relationships in recruiting, would be his biggest challenge,” Kennedy said. “Because he hasn’t done it daily.
“I was in it and I became the head coach at Texas A&M from Murray State and it took me a couple years just to develop the relationships with the guys in Texas. And now we’re getting those kids. So it’s not an overnight thing — for me, anyway. He may be better than me from that standpoint.”
Anyone who knows Gottlieb personally probably doesn’t have any reservations about his ability to build relationships.
Jacobson recalled his former boss, Greg McDermott, returning to his own alma mater, Northern Iowa. McDermott had coached five years as an assistant and was head coach at Wayne State and North Dakota State for seven years first. But Jacobson said McDermott going back to UNI, just like when Hoiberg went back to Iowa State, afforded him some unique and inherent advantages.
“You’re talking recruiting, you’re talking relationships on campus, you’re talking fans and boosters,” Jacobson said. “Those things are already built in. And sometimes that stuff can take a year or two years. You can go down the wrong path if you don’t know those, and Doug knows those.”
According to quotes published in the Oklahoman and the Tulsa World, Holder acknowledged the affection many OSU fans have for Gottlieb.
“If I didn’t know better, I’d think my wife was his agent,” Holder said. “She loves Doug Gottlieb. And she’s been a fan of his (from) the first time he got on the radio down in Oklahoma City.
“Really, if you’re a Cowboy, how can you not like him? I’m so proud of what he’s done (and) been able to accomplish and the image he presents for our institution. Every time he’s on the radio or the television, I mean, what a great representative for us. He loves our university and he loved his time here, and his wife’s from Drumright and he wants to raise his family in Stillwater.
“I’ve heard it all. Who wouldn’t get excited and fired up about that? But I tell my wife all the time: ‘Robbie, he hasn’t coached a game.’ Now, she’ll point out, neither did Fred Hoiberg or Steve Kerr. She knows the list of all those people. But I think it’s important for us to be rational about how we approach this.”
Jacobson and Wade know Gottlieb from his broadcasting their games. Kennedy, like Kruger, recruited Gottlieb when Kennedy was an assistant at California.
“It’d be different for him, having not been in it,” Kennedy said. “But, he’s a little bit different than most media.”
“He knows his stuff,” Wade said, “and if he was the guy there, he’d surround himself with really good people. It’s his alma mater. He’s gonna do everything he can for it to be successful, there’s no doubt about that.”
“Those opportunities are rare,” Kruger said. “If you can get it, sure, that’s fantastic. Yeah, more power to him.”