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Albuquerque Journal, N.M., Rick Wright column: Schmidly's Coaching Hires Have Been a Lively Mix
[January 01, 2010]

Albuquerque Journal, N.M., Rick Wright column: Schmidly's Coaching Hires Have Been a Lively Mix

Jan 01, 2010 (Albuquerque Journal - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- To put Mike Leach on UNM President David Schmidly's tab, as either credit or debit, requires an asterisk. Contrary to online chatter I've seen the past few days, Schmidly was not yet the president at Texas Tech when Leach was hired as Red Raiders football coach.

Even so, Schmidly, at the time a Tech vice president, has said he participated in the process that brought Leach to Lubbock in December 1999. That's no surprise, given Schmidly's deep involvement in athletics at every successive stop in his academic career.

Schmidly thus has helped produce a series of fascinating, and mostly successful, hires at three different universities. Good guys or bad, well-behaved or not, high-profile hires made under Schmidly's watch have won lots of games and put plenty of hineys in plenty of seats.

Thus far, Mike Locksley can just be the exception that proves the rule.

We'll start with Leach*, who was fired by Tech on Wednesday after a highly successful but controversy-marred tenure.

Good hire? Leach's won-lost record (84-43), his teams' 10 consecutive bowl appearances (if we're counting Friday's Alamo Bowl) and his deserved reputation as an offensive genius all argue for that.

Bad hire? Leach's clashes with Tech administration, his perceived lack of sportsmanship (running up the score, etc.) and his 1950s-era discipline-byisolation of injured wide receiver Adam James -- the offense that got him canned -- suggest he wasn't worth the aggravation.

Next, and most famously, there's Bob Knight.

After Indiana fired its legendary but tempestuous men's head basketball coach in 2000, Schmidly -- hired as Texas Tech's president in August of that year -- collaborated in bringing Knight to Lubbock in 2001.

Good hire? Knight's presence bought Tech megatons of national publicity. The Red Raiders made four NCAA Tournament appearances during his 6 1/2 -year tenure.

Bad hire? Knight stepped down in the middle of the 2007-08 season without having approached the level of success he'd achieved at Indiana.

During the Tech years, Knight had an angry run-in with a university chancellor. While hunting with a friend, he had a videotaped shouting match with a man who accused him of shooting too close to the man's house.

Next: Mike Gundy, hired as Oklahoma State's football coach while Schmidly was president there.

Good hire? Gundy has gone 36-26 in five seasons at OSU. Today's Cotton Bowl game against Ole Miss will be the Cowboys' fourth straight bowl appearance. A former OSU star quarterback and assistant coach, Gundy seemed a natural choice -- controversial only because of the perception he was handpicked in 2005 by Boone Pickens, the Oklahoma State grad who later made a record donation of $165 million to the OSU athletic program.

Bad hire? Gundy's 2007 tirade aimed at a Daily Oklahoman sports writer remains an all-time YouTube Classic. "Come after me! I'm a man, I'm 40!" he bellowed, in response to a column critical of one of his players. "... Makes me want to puke." Next: Sean Sutton and Kurt Budke, hired under Schmidly as Oklahoma State's men's and women's basketball coaches. Unable to match the success at OSU of his father, Eddie, Sutton resigned under pressure after two seasons. Budke, lured away from Louisiana Tech, has made the Cowgirls a consistent winner.

Next: Steve Alford, hired under Schmidly's watch as UNM's men's basketball coach in April 2007. Alford was an All-America player for Knight at Indiana, and the Knight-Schmidly connection obviously played some role in the transaction.

Good hire? Alford has clicked from the start at UNM. Thus far, he's 59-22 with a share of a Mountain West Conference title. His third Lobo team is ranked 19th in the nation entering Saturday's game against Dayton.

Bad hire? There's no evidence to support that verdict, though some Lobo fans harbor concerns Alford will bolt as soon as the luster on his resume -- tarnished a bit during his previous stop at Iowa -- is restored. Alford has yet to get UNM to an NCAA Tournament. He's no Bob Knight, temperamentwise, but he did loudly berate Southern Mississippi players for not shaking hands and TCU's Zvonko Buljan for chippy play.

Finally: Locksley, hired in December 2008 as UNM's football coach.

Good hire? There's no evidence to support that verdict, either. Schmidly, a pretty good baseball player in his youth, has seen his batting average dip.

Bad hire? The evidence is piled too high and too deep to detail here. But Locksley, 1-11 in his inaugural season amid a wild mix of off-the-field missteps, will get his chance to bring Schmidly's average back up.

To see more of the Albuquerque Journal, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to Copyright (c) 2010, Albuquerque Journal, N.M.

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