Buzz Williams a long shot for USF


Late Saturday night, USF Director of Athletics Mark Harlan tweeted “We are off and running to find a great leader for our program. Great places attract great people… More to come.”

On Tuesday, USF Associate Athletic Director for Communications Brian Siegrist confirmed to the Tampa Bay Times that Harlan’s official first day on the job has been moved to Monday.

Harlan was adamant that he felt more comfortable being officially on staff as USF moves forward in its search for a new men’s basketball coach. 

Thus far, no official candidates have been released, but names such as Florida assistant coach John Pelphrey, former UCLA and Pitt coach Ben Howland, South Carolina’s Frank Martin and Marquette coach Buzz Williams floated across the Internet and social media.

On Wednesday morning, ESPN college basketball analyst Dick Vitale joined “The Sports Page” on AM 620 WDAE and said USF is interested in Williams.

“I don’t know how valid it is because you hear rumors, but (the person I am talking to) is pretty legit,” Vitale said. “I’m hearing a strong rumor about Buzz Williams. That would be hitting a grand slam.”

With Williams, USF would gain a proven winner with a 139-65 career record at Marquette, including five consecutive seasons with 22 wins or more. The Golden Eagles made the NCAA Tournament in each of those five seasons, until they went 17-11 this season.

By comparison, Stan Heath was the first USF coach to have two 20-win seasons.

The Golden Eagles’ five tourney appearances under Williams include back-to-back Sweet Sixteen’s in 2011-12 and an Elite Eight in 2013.

Williams’ success at Marquette began after former Golden Eagles coach Tom Crean left for the Indiana Hoosiers, one of college basketball’s most prestigious programs.

But unlike Crean’s situation, the USF program isn’t nearly at the level of prestige Indiana has, or even Marquette for
that matter.

Coming to USF doesn’t make nearly as much sense as staying at Marquette – but that’s only if the university is willing to pay for the rising coaching star.

According to public records obtained by the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Williams made a base salary of $1,888,881 in the year ending June 2012, with an additional $1 million paid for professional services. 

Those same tax records didn’t disclose what the professional services were, but a university spokesperson told the newspaper that kind of arrangement was not unusual for a college coach.

Without knowing what makes Williams tick it’s all speculation, but he would have to want a change of scenery, a chance to build his own legacy at USF and more money in order to become a Bull.

The renovation of the Sun Dome and the Muma Center, the Bulls’ practice facility, wouldn’t matter as much as it would to a coach coming from a smaller program with dated facilities or none at all.

Marquette has an athletic building, the Al McGuire Center – similar to USF’s Lee Roy Selmon Center – and the basketball team has its own locker rooms, court and weight room just like the Bulls do all updated or built within the last
ten years.

Williams and the Golden Eagles play at BMO Harris Bradley Center that is shared with the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks. Marquette averaged more than 15,000 fans this season while USF averaged 4,406 per game in the 10,400-seat Sun Dome.

USF hiring Williams is a long shot, but if the contract reads nearly double the $1.2 million a year salary Heath received, it could possibly happen.

However, Williams would have to really want to carve his own lane in college basketball, and salivate at the challenge of filling up the Sun Dome with a consistent winner.