SI.com college football writer Stewart Mandel shares his commentary, analysis and random tidbits on the latest developments around the country.
11/01/2006 03:13:00 PM
Let the Spartans' Search Begin
It seems very likely that Michigan native Steve Mariucci will be strongly considered for the Michigan State job.
Jan-Michael Stump/US PRESSWIRE
That Michigan State has decided to part ways with John L. Smith is no shock. That the school went ahead and pulled the plug now with the Spartans still capable of becoming bowl-eligible is, however, a tad surprising. It shows that administrators -- like MSU fans -- no longer feel confident that Smith is capable of turning the program into a consistent winner, regardless of how the rest of this season plays out. After losing 46-21 to Indiana -- the Spartans’ fifth loss in six games -- it’s hard to argue.
Let me make one thing clear: Smith is a good football coach. That Louisville is in the position to be playing a game the magnitude of tomorrow night’s is a direct result of what Smith accomplished there from 1998-2002. Was he a good Big Ten football coach? Not in the slightest.
Smith’s unconventional, free-spirited persona never jibed in East Lansing, and I don’t think he fully grasped that at that level, every little thing a coach does -- like ripping your assistants during a halftime interview or slapping yourself at a postgame press conference -- gets magnified and scrutinized. While players like QB Drew Stanton always spoke highly of him, you never got the sense that they truly believed they could be a great team. At the slightest hint of adversity, the Spartans would collapse (except, of course, for that one glorious, historic comeback a Northwestern). Not exactly a great reflection of the coach.
With Smith’s ouster now official and the spotlight now shifting to Michigan State’s search for a new coach, all eyes will be focused first and foremost on one man: Steve Mariucci. It’s such a logical fit for both parties, it almost seems too easy. He’s a Michigan guy. He’s been a head coach at the highest level. He’s been a head coach at the college level (taking Cal to the Aloha Bowl in his one season there). And his best friend, Tom Izzo, is the Spartans’ basketball coach.
I don’t think it will be that cut and dried, however. With the end of the season still a month away, the school will take its time and conduct a full-scale search. For one thing, there are a couple pretty good mid-major coaches, Western Michigan’s Bill Cubit and Central Michigan’s Brian Kelly, right in their own state. Tulsa’s Steve Kragthorpe figures to be mentioned for every major job that comes open this season, as will major-conference coordinators like Texas’ Gene Chizik and Florida’s Charlie Strong.
In the meantime, don’t shed too many tears for Smith, because I have a feeling he’s not going to be jobless for too long. The Idaho native and former Idaho and Utah State head coach belongs in a conference like the WAC or the Mountain West, where his spread offense can put up 45 points a game and he doesn’t have to worry as much about pesky things like defense and special teams. As soon as one of those schools has an opening, Smith’s name should be at the top of the list.
Given Mooch's knowledge of the west coast offense, the depth at wide receiver, and a very capable passer in Brian Hoyer, I think hiring Mariucci would be a good fit right out of the gate. Not to mention he is the big name that MSU has needed for a long time. If not him, I'd shoot for Chizik or Charlie Strong, two defensive minded coaches that know how to recruit Texas and Florida respectively. Somebody please come and save my Spartans, I'm tired of seeing opposing fans giving me the choke sign!
I have heard Ron English's name thrown around. If he went to MSU, that would literally kill Michigan. It would set them back 10 years. He's one of the only reasons that they get the big recruits. Hopefully Michigan will win the National Championship, LLoyd Carr will retire, and Umich will hire English. And of course, MSU will hire Mooch. The best of both worlds!
They need a young, energetic coach? Well, John L. wasn't young by age...but that guy's the most energetic and young at heart coach I've seen. It doesn't make him a successful Big 10 coach, but energetic is what they had, they need something else. They need to work on physical strength & endurance conditioning as well as the other things you guys have mentioned already because they started games off great but became run down and exhausted by the second half (cept for the NW game I guess). Get a diciplinarian, jerk of a coach like Bear Bryant that the players look up to and respect. Obviously they're not gonna find someone as genius as Bear, but I hope you got my point. I love John L.'s personality, but I don't think his players really took him seriously, understandably. Thanks for the memories at State John L! As a Michigan fan, but more importantly as a huge college football fan, it'll be sad to see him go. I like Mooch for the job for exactly the same reason as "anonymous." Good Luck Spartans!
Michigan State is one of those programs that really has no chance regardless of who coaches. Michigan isnt a big football state, so they ahve to recruit out of state, which means they recruit over Michigan (not easy). Once out of Michigan they look aroudn the Midwest where they have to recruit over Ohio State, Penn State and Notre Dame. They provide little upside to any big name recruit and therefore will always be in the bottom half of the big ten.
Mandel, a little over a week ago, on the firing of North Carolina head coach John Bunting, "Presumably, however, UNC would not have fired its coach with six weeks remaining in the regular season if it didn't plan to do something productive during those six weeks."
Doesn't the same reasoning hold true for MSU? Mariucci is available now and willing to play second fiddle at what is, after all, more of a basketball school.
I don't think Mooch is the answer. Tom Izzo loves him but so what? MSU needs wins in football not a pal for Izzo. He was pathetic with the Lions in the discipline dept. & that is what the Sparties need the most.....discipline!
Stewart you neglect on great candidate for this job. The head coach at Cincinnati, Mark Dantonio. This guy was the defensive coordinator at Ohio State when they won the national title and has begun to turn around a program that ranks behind (in Cincinnati): The Bengals, UC basketball, Xavier Basketball, The Reds, and so on.
Need I mention that before he headed to OSU he was the defensive coordinator at ... Michigan State.
Michigan State needs to go after a big name Charlie Weis esque candidate. Somebody like Norm Chow from the Titans would be ideal. They need somebody who will come in and demand winning and not care who he offends to make it happen. Just like Saban rubbed some people the wrong way it didnt matter because he got results and that is who MSU needs except this time the person they hire like Saban has to be willing to commit to be there for a very long time.
Mooch would not be a good fit. His dink and dunk version of the WCO won't fly in the Big 10, and the Lions made the same dumb mistakes every week, just like the Spartans. Plus, do he and Izzo become a package deal?
While Mariucci seems to be a perfect fit, everyone in the state of Michigan remembers how passive his attitude seemed with the Lions. MSU has seen that in their last two coaches. Getting someone young and energetic or someone who has really driven a successful college team is important. Butch Davis?
I don't feel sorry for Jonh L. the least. He was 3-0 and about to be 4-0 except for he wet his pants in the second half against ND. If he would have coached one iota vs. the Irish, they would have won. Then beat the Illini the next week and who knows from there. He deserves to coach a JV team after that ND game. What a loser. THat's what the L stands for in John L.
Mooch is to obvious a choice, I have seen the talk about Michigan's Ron English...god that would be spectacular (but a pipe dream). Brian Kelly would be someone to consider...hell what about Norm Chow let him finish grooming Vince this year...or better yet Wayne Fontes well seriously...the best canidate to consider might be either a UofM, OSU, Iowa, or Penn State assistant....who that is, is I wish I new.
You said that Smith never jibed with MSU because he was too free-spirited and whatnot. Mariucci was known for being a hands-off pro coach with a goofy laissez-faire attitude towards discipline. So why do you endorse Mooch as a tough, Big Ten-minded head coach?
I think that John L Smith should have been able to complete the years remaining in his contract. I mean, he had a good first year and no one was complaining. I think people needed to wait until he got all of his own players in there and after a few years, then make a judgment. I think Michigan State should be ashamed for not honoring his contract. He has been a moulder of young men and that should count for something too. I think that all Michigan State is concerned about is winning. They have proved that they are just another football factory.