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Men’s team awaits decision on new coach

Coach Lelo Prado has led the Bulls to a 18-8 overall record and 4-2 in conference play. USF took two of three from Notre Dame this weekend. ORACLE FILE PHOTO/SEAN REED

It’s been 16 days since the Bulls decided to part ways with men’s basketball coach Robert McCullum.

While Athletic Director Doug Woolard is scouting potential replacements nationwide, the team hasn’t been able to avoid speculation about its next coach.

“I haven’t been trying to pay attention to it all, but it seems like it just pops up every time I go on the Internet,” center Kentrell Gransberry said. “When I go onto or read the school newspaper, it is always popping up. So I have to read what’s beingwritten.”

Winthrop coach Gregg Marshall has emerged as the leading candidate to become the eighth coach in the program’s 35-year history.

Since joining the Big East Conference, the Bulls have compiled a record of 4-28 in league play and have failed to capture a conference victory away from the Sun Dome. USF was the only team to fail to qualify for the conference tournament in each of the past two seasons.

In four years at USF, McCullum’s overall record was 40-76 and the Bulls collected just 10 conference wins.

After Marshall led the Eagles to their third-straight Big South Conference championship and their first ranking in the Associated Press Top 25, Woolard has been trying to persuade Marshall to leave South Carolina, where he has coached for the past 25 years.

Marshall was named Big South Coach of the Year, becoming the first to win the award four times, while leading the Eagles to a perfect 14-0 record in conference play and an overall record of 25-4. All four losses came on the road to Top 25 teams.

During the NCAA Tournament, Winthrop upset Notre Dame in the first round, but fell short of reaching the Sweet 16 with a 75-61 loss to Oregon. Marshall has led the Eagles to seven straight NCAA Tournament appearances.

Friday afternoon, Marshall and his wife, Lynn, toured the USF campus and the athletic facilities. Marshall returned home for the weekend and is expected to make a decision as soon as today.

The team has received calls from friends and family about the coaches rumored to be coming to South Florida, but the team isn’t aware of which candidate Woolard is leaning toward.

“My family has been asking me questions about what is going on and I just tell them, ‘You know more about what’s going on then I do,'” Gransberry said. “It’s just funny because I know just as much as they do.”

Woolard is not commenting on prospective candidates.

Along with Marshall, South Alabama’s John Pelphrey, Connecticut associate head coach Tom Moore, former St. John’s coach Fran Fraschilla and Virginia Commonwealth’s Anthony Grant have all been listed as candidates for the coaching vacancy.

“I haven’t been trying to pay attention, but the rumors are everywhere,” point guard Chris Howard said. “My friends call me and say, ‘So and so is definitely going to get the job,’ but I’m not to concerned about it. When it happens, I’ll know.”

Although the final decision is up to Woolard, the team feels confident he will choose the best candidate for the job.

“Honestly, I’m excited to see what happens because I know Mr. Woolard will make the right choice,” Howard said. “But it will be good to put all of this behind me and just start playing basketball.”