Before the ink has had time to dry on the Dave Odom retirement stories, that great pastime of American sports journalism has begun.
We don't really know who the next basketball coach is going to be at South Carolina and probably won't for months, but let's throw some names against the wall and hope, down the road, one of them sticks.
Then we can come back to you, the loyal reader, and say, 'We told you so!'
Here's what is certain to be a partial list of names -- VCU's Anthony Grant, Charlotte's Bobby Lutz, Toronto Raptors assistant and former Gamecock star Alex English, Baylor's Scott Drew. In the last few days, Miami's Frank Haith and Ole Miss' Andy Kennedy have been mentioned. And I say "mentioned" because that's what sometimes happens in this process. Someone -- anyone -- mentions a name and suddenly that person is on the list of "candidates."
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Oops, forgot one. Wichita State's Gregg Marshall.
It's no secret the USC job is the one Marshall, who turned Winthrop basketball into a mid-major "name" program, wanted perhaps more than all others. A native of Greenwood who cut his basketball teeth in the Palmetto State at College of Charleston, then established his coaching identity in Rock Hill, seems a natural.
If his contract with Wichita State has a list of schools he could leave the Shockers for, you can bet USC is on it. But what it would take to get out of that contract, only he knows.
Unfortunately for Marshall, the timing stinks. He's just past the halfway point of his first season at Wichita State, and, although it's been done before (Buzz Peterson left Tulsa for Tennessee, Bob Huggins left Kansas State for West Virginia), pulling up stakes after a season isn't in the best interest of a lot of folks, especially the program he's currently coaching.
It would look even worse for him to bail on a team that's 1-6 in the Missouri Valley Conference, a game out of the conference cellar and 8-10 overall.
But that's not to say it can't happen. If USC calls, Marshall's not going to hang up the phone, and shouldn't.
Marshall was hit with a barrage of phone calls last week after Odom's announcement and plans to release a statement today about the job. Here's my guess what it will say.
When Marshall's name came up with other programs while he was at Winthrop, Marshall had a policy of not talking about them. As recently as last year with New Mexico, South Florida and others, Marshall kept his thoughts to himself and left the speculation to us ink-stained wretches longing for the scoop.
He's not going to want questions about USC thrown his way after every game while he's still trying to coach the Shockers, recruit, maintain fan support and try and get a program, left in shambles by Mark Turgeon, back on its feet.
He's going to say, "I'm the Wichita State coach and I'm not talking about any other jobs."
What else could he say?
USC Athletics Director Eric Hyman isn't ready to offer anyone the job. Unlike some, Hyman may not even have a list to throw at the wall. One of the good things about the timing of Odom's announcement is it allows Hyman time to take a look around the country, watch coaches coach, get a list together and start gathering string on candidates. But the protocol in a situation like this calls for an athletics director to avoid talking with any coach who is currently employed until after the season ends. It's only fair.
Some of the message boards last week in Wichita were laughable. Some posters were saying Marshall was "gone" without ever considering that in order to be "gone," a job had to be offered.
If Marshall had stayed at Winthrop, the speculation would be a lot more heated. If you'll recall the last time the USC job came open, Marshall wasn't considered. But that was 2001, after Marshall's first three seasons and three straight Big South titles.
He had received some interest from other programs, but then-USC athletics director Mike McGee thought he could pull another coup as he'd done with Lou Holtz and football (and we know how that turned out) and hire a "big name." No hot young mid-major coach for McGee.
If Hyman had been looking last year, Marshall would have been more than the hot mid-major coach. The Eagles capped the finest three years in program history by beating Notre Dame in the NCAA tournament and finishing No. 22 in the final AP poll. Marshall's name would have been on the wall.
But in 2001, the names thrown at the wall ranged from Tubby Smith to Mark Few to John Calipari to Jim Calhoun. And Gamecock fans were convinced their program could lure such a name.
The Gamecocks got Dave Odom, who is an under-rated coach, an outstanding human being and someone who has been a great ambassador for USC. Odom was an excellent choice.
But like Eddie Fogler, George Felton, Bill Foster -- anyone not named Frank McGuire -- Odom found that winning basketball games at USC isn't easy, especially in a league like the SEC, in a division that contains Kentucky, Tennessee and Florida. McGuire had a couple of good seasons in the ACC, but he didn't have to run that gauntlet for his entire USC career, because he and then-AD Paul Dietzel decided the athletic program was big enough to go at it alone, still one of the dumbest moves in the history of college athletics. McGuire was gone before the school joined the SEC.
And it's that name that keeps sticking to the wall for Gamecock fans.
McGuire set the standard for USC hoops more than 30 years ago, winning more than 200 games in 10 years and putting USC basketball on the national map. The Gamecocks had about as much NCAA tournament success then as they've had since, which is to say not much, but at least McGuire made Gamecock basketball relevant for Gamecock fans who'd rather tailgate for a spring football scrimmage than watch basketball.
And just like Clemson football fans long for tobacco-spitting, yarn-spinning Danny Ford, the Gamecock faithful have a vision of the next dapper Irishman walking the sidelines, tugging at the cuffs of his expensive shirts and winning basketball games.
Maybe Hyman will find that coach.
Settle in for an interesting spring, and check the wall in the coming weeks. More names to come.