La Salle coaching search nearing finish line

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Assistant coach Ashley Howard of Villanova waving to the crowd after cutting a piece of the net as Villanova celebrated winning the East Regional of the NCAA Tournament.

The La Salle men’s basketball head-coaching search has been in the interview phase this week, according to multiple people keeping in close touch with the process.

Villanova top assistant Ashley Howard and prominent La Salle graduate Tim Legler, an ESPN basketball analyst, are seen as top candidates to replace John Giannini, who was let go last month after coaching the Explorers since 2004. Howard said right after the national-title game that La Salle had held off on formally talking to him until Villanova was finished in the NCAA tournament. An initial interview is believed to have already occurred since the Wildcats returned from winning the national title.

It’s safe to say that Howard, a former La Salle assistant, has a lot of support locally. Former Explorers player Bobby Johnson, the father of B.J. Johnson, who just finished his own La Salle career, tweeted this week about Howard: “Let’s make the man the head coach at La Salle.”

“Philadelphia basketball wants this,’’ a veteran Division I assistant, a Philadelphia native who has been out of town but is looking to get back, said, referring to Howard’s getting the job.

Camera icon Courtesy of ESPN
2005 photo of ESPN analyst Tim Legler.

Legler also has received prominent support, but he will have to sell his alma mater on taking someone who has never coached college ball. The school was absolutely interested in his candidacy, according to a source with close knowledge of the search.

Hofstra coach Joe Mihalich, a former longtime La Salle assistant and graduate of the school, was approached to gauge his interest but is not involved in the interview process, according to someone with knowledge of that interaction.

Several other names have been mentioned as being part of the mix, including Robert Morris coach Andy Toole, a Penn graduate, and Duke assistant Nate James. Interviews were believed to be going on through Thursday. So the smart money has La Salle not quite at the finish line, suggesting a timetable that could produce an announcement next week.