Billy Wright is out as the Western Illinois head basketball coach, and it has everyone on campus wondering who will be taking the reins of the Leatherneck basketball program.
The Billy Wright era did not go as planned. In his six seasons with the Leathernecks, he compiled only 53 wins, and 13 of those were against non-Division I programs. He was also less than stellar in postseason play, having earned one victory in his tenure with the team. So everyone’s asking, who’s going to be the coach come next season? I’m going to break down some candidates and what I think they should do with their head coaching hunt.
Option No. 1: Take an unproven Power Five Assistant Coach This seems like the most logical move for a university that wants a complete culture change within its basketball program. They should look to bring in a young assistant from a solid program to help bring back the winning culture. One name that comes to mind is Geoff Alexander. He is an assistant at Illinois. He has two degrees from WIU and coached here. He was at Evansville before Illinois and could slide right in and help bring the program back to its winning ways.
Option No. 2: Bring in the hometown kid I know what you’re thinking, who from Macomb is coaching in the college ranks? The answer is Chris Tifft. He is a Macomb kid who played at Nevada, and he is currently coaching at Central Michigan. Before that, he was at SLU and TCU. He has head coaching experience at Lamar College and he very well may be Macomb’s prodigal son.
Option No. 3: Bring in a former Leatherneck While this option might not be the most appealing due to the recent success of the program, it is a legitimate option. One name that could be connected to Western is Ceola Clark III. Ceola played for Western the last time they won The Summit League regular season title in 2012- 13 and has professional experience playing overseas. The only downside is he does not have any coaching experience, but he does know how to win in The Summit League.
Option No. 4: Let’s get weird There’s plenty of head coaching openings after every season, but obviously, only a select few get their shot. And for many, they only get one shot at their big break. However, one man has gotten many chances due to the enormous amount of success he has had in Division I basketball, and currently not coaching in the NCAA. His name is Rick Pitino. Pitino has made seven Final Fours and has two national championships to his name. He was dismissed from Louisville in 2017 and is currently coaching in Greece. Pitino has been rumored to be interested in a return to Division I basketball if given another chance and Western should seriously look into his situation. A proven winner at big time universities looking for redemption seems like an easy choice, but will Western be able to deal with the publicity that comes with it? Only time will tell.
Option No. 5 Be a pioneer The fifth and final option is to start the new wave, and you do that by hiring the first ever female head coach in Division I history. A name they should target is Edniesha Curry. She is currently an assistant at Maineand is the only female assistant at the Division I level. Curry, a former WNBA star, has been through the NBA assistant coaches program and has played at the highest level possible. Not only is she very knowledgeable about the sport, but she could also put Western in the history books by being the first female head coach in Division I history.
Western Illinois will do what’s best for the university, and I expect plenty of names to be linked to do this job. However, I really hope they are bold. Go after the big fish and don’t be afraid of the attention. People tend to flock to where the noise is anyways. Have you ever seen people go to a party with no music? Western people have a chance to make a name for themselves and the more noise they make, the more successful they’ll have.