Because of space limitations, my story on UConn AD Warde Manuel timeline to hire a new coach was edited to fit. Here’s the full story …
EAST HARTFORD – The search is officially on.
UConn athletic director Warde Manuel told reporters on Saturday that the interview process toward hiring a new head coach will “ramp up in earnest” starting today and that there may even be a face-to-face interview with a candidate or candidates.
After firing Paul Pasqualoni just four games into the season on September 30 and elevating offensive coordinator T.J. Weist to interim head coach to finish out the year, Manuel has spent the last couple of months putting together a list of candidates and is set to get the process moving.
“I’m ready to talk,” Manuel said a couple of hours before UConn blew out Memphis 45-10 to end a 3-9 season Saturday at Rentschler Field. ”I’m ready to sit down and talk directly to candidates about the job.”
Manuel said that the candidates he’s interested in all have either head coaching experience or experience as a coordinator and has an “impressive list” of candidates.
To get a feel for what kind of coach he should bring to Storrs, Manuel said that he spoke with over 25 former players, dating back to the 1960’s to a player from last season’s squad, to get a perspective of what these former players want to see from this program.
“They all said, ‘Find someone who wins,’ “ Manuel said with a smile.
Just three seasons removed from an 8-4 season, a tie for the Big East championship and a BCS appearance against Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl, UConn has struggled, posting back-to-back 5-7 seasons before this year’s 3-9 mark.
“I’ve said all along that this is a great job,” Manuel said. “This is a great place. This is not rebuilding job, this is a ‘building on’ job. Building on the great talent we have on this team, it’s building on the championship success of this program.”
According to SBnation.com, Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster will reportedly interview for the job, although Foster recently tweeted that he has not been contacted by anyone. In addition, SB nation.com is also reporting that UCLA offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone, Michigan State defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi and Ball State head coach Pete Lembo are also allegedly on Manuel’s short list of candidates.
Other names that have been reported include Towson head coach Rob Ambrose – who was the Huskies former OC and whose teams spanked the Huskies 33-18 in the season opener – former University of New Haven head coach Mark Whipple (who was strongly believed to be the next UConn coach before Pasqualoni was hired), Boston College defensive coordinator Don Brown, Bowling Green head coach Dave Clawson, and former Ole Miss head coach Houston Nutt, who made news a month ago when he reportedly called some high school coaches in the state to allegedly check out the high school landscape and the skill level of players.
“This is a great job,” Manuel said. “This is a championship institution. We’ve have great facilities and tremendous support from our fans.”
With a recruiting “dead period” coming up between December 16 and January 15 where staffs can only contact a potential recruit just once a week by phone, it seems logical that Manuel wants to speed this hiring process up as much as he can and have his new coach in place within the next 10 days.
“I’m not putting a timetable on making a decision, I’m looking at finding the right person for the job, however long that takes,” Manuel said. “The number of candidates could vary, so I’ll talk to those that I’ve selected that are interested in talking to me about the position and I’ll make sure I do my due diligence and talk to those that I’m interested in talking to.”
“I’m going to be able to pay what I believe somebody is worth as head coach at the University of Connecticut,” Manuel said. “What that is and how that will turn out, I don’t know.”
Manuel refused to comment on whether or not Weist would be interviewed for the job – likely meaning that he won’t – but that he was very impressed with the way he kept the players focused during the season.
“This has been a difficult season but the last two games I’m very proud of T.J. and the team,” Manuel said. “I’m very proud of the effort and the character that this team has shown throughout the year.”
In his post-game press conference, Weist expressed his desire to keep building on what he started this season.
“How badly do I want to be a head coach? I couldn’t want it more than anything in my life, besides my family,” Weist said. “Because I think it’s an honor to coach here. It’s a very special team. It’s my profession and it’s what I want to do. I couldn’t want it any more.”