So it’s come to this for Oklahoma State basketball: hiring Doug Gottlieb actually has become an easy decision.
After Brad Underwood spouted almost a year’s worth of rhetoric on the topics of loyalty and family and the OSU heritage and culture, athletic director Mike Holder finds himself once more without a basketball coach.
The catalog of Holder’s mishandling of OSU hoops has grown beyond taking over after Sean Sutton had been designated as coach-in-waiting, beyond a burdensome 10-year contract for unproven Travis Ford. Now it includes an inability to work with a coach who seemed all-in in Stillwater for more than one year.
Maybe Holder just isn’t cut out for hiring a basketball coach. Hey, we all have something we’re not good at.
In Gottleib, though, Holder can accomplish three things:
1, He can hire a coach who desperately wants to be in Stillwater. Gottlieb played there, and his wife has family nearby, and that’s of significant value to both of them as young parents.
2, He can bring in OSU’s next hoops coach on the cheap. How cheap? Well, given Gottlieb’s experience in the big chair, real cheap, say $800,000 a year, maybe less if Holder’s feeling miserly, maybe more if he’s feeling generous. Gottlieb wants the job that bad. (His tweet Saturday, a meme depicting Dorothy Gale saying “There’s no place like home” shows how bad). How important is it for Holder to pinch pennies? Pretty important, given he reportedly drew a $2.2 million line in the sand for Underwood, which Underwood stepped over on his way out the door.
3, He can satisfy a large and loud faction of the OSU basketball fan base who want to #BringDougHome. That, in turn, will sell tickets, at least next season.
Clearly, bringing in a proven coach who will move the needle for the Orange Nation isn’t in Holder’s budget.
Think about Nos 2 and 3: if Holder doesn’t spend much money on paying Gottlieb, 41, and then cashes in on Gottlieb’s popularity as a Cowboy point guard-turned-media personality, that’s a win-win no matter how many games O-State wins next season.
And because Holder — who turns 69 in August — won’t have to search for Gottlieb’s replacement any time soon, he can, if he wants to, settle nicely into retirement after Gottlieb gets going.
After all, who would want to go through this again so soon?
Holder’s legacy is secure: Karsten Creek is a jewel, and the athletic village is, other than a new baseball stadium, complete. (In reality, if OSU donors really wanted a new baseball stadium, they’d have built one years ago, so Holder’s good there, too.)
And then there’s this: Gottlieb, for all his talkativeness, is an exceptionally smart person. His first order of business would be to hire a sage mentor (like James Dickey) to show him the ropes of running a major college basketball program. His next task would be to hire an ace recruiter or two (former Cowboys Corey Williams and Win Case come to mind) to go get players. That’s how you win college basketball games, get good players and don’t screw up.
The bottom line is this: Holder almost can’t go wrong hiring Gottlieb.
Because if Gottlieb doesn’t win, Holder already will have secured his legacy and will be retired, or close enough — and then Gottlieb becomes the next AD’s problem.
Columnist John E. Hoover is co-host of “Further Review with Hoover & Rew” and can be heard every weekday on The Franchise in Tulsa from noon to 3 p.m. with co-host Lauren Rew. In Oklahoma City, catch him Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday mornings at 10:25 and every Friday afternoon at 4:05. Listen at fm107.7 in OKC, fm107.9/am1270 in Tulsa, on The Franchise app, or click the “Listen” tab on The Franchise home page.