In hiring a new hoops coach, how risky will La Salle get? | Mike Jensen

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Who will be the next coach of the La Salle men’s basketball team?

When you’re selling paintings to help make budget, you’re going to need to be creative in finding your next men’s basketball coach.

That’s where La Salle is right now, assessing the future while deciding the next coach of the university’s signature sports program after parting ways with John Giannini.

It shouldn’t be surprising at a place where hoops matter that there are all sorts of legit candidates with previous ties to the school.

It’s hard to say how long a Hail Mary pass the school is looking to make, but the longest one might be to an alum who maybe has the highest profile of any La Salle grad not named Bill Raftery.

The smart money locally would tell you that La Salle is, in fact, interested in ESPN NBA analyst Tim Legler as a possible next head coach, and let’s also go with the working assumption that Legler would be interested in the job at his alma mater.

That’s a long way from a completed pass, but your name has to be called in the huddle first. Legler’s name comes up in the huddle.

In Boston on Sunday, I saw Fran Fraschilla, another ESPN analyst. He’d tweeted about Legler after the La Salle job opened, “I’ve spent LOT of time talking hoops and watching @LegsESPN coach. Former @NBA player. @LaSalleMBB star and Academic All American would be tremendous at alma mater. Has incredible passion for his school. And, recruits know him.”

I chased down Fraschilla in the press room and asked him to elaborate, which he gladly did.

“I’ve run the Under Armour high school stuff the last three years, and Legs actually coached with me,’’ Fraschilla said. “He threw himself into summer basketball. … I think he always felt he would give up TV for coaching in a heartbeat. It’s why he got involved on the grassroots circuit. It’s why he knows the game from the NBA down to the high school level. He’s a junkie, and he also has the advantage of being a personality, someone that kids would know from watching on TV.”

Fraschilla would be willing to hire a coach who hasn’t been involved at La Salle’s level?

“Fred Hoiberg, a home run,’’ Fraschilla said, mentioning the current Chicago Bulls coach, who had been at Iowa State. “Chris Mullin and Patrick Ewing, inconclusive. Penny Hardaway, let’s wait and see. But I watched Freddy Hoiberg; [Legler] has so many of Freddy’s characteristics when Freddy went to Iowa State.”

“This is not rocket science. This is just basketball,’’ Fraschilla added. “And as long as he surrounded himself with people that know first the Philadelphia basketball community, and then the Northeast. Is it a risk? Of course. But anybody who has ever been a first-time head coach, whether you come in as an assistant coach from a Power 5 school or come in from D-III, everybody has an adjustment. I was scared to death the first five games I was a head coach. It took me five games to figure out I think I can do this. The first five games, I was just relying on my players to help me through it.”

So that’s it? Hire Legler? Let’s act as La Salle athletic director Bill Bradshaw’s shadow search committee. Knowledge of which floor the gym is on inside Tom Gola Arena is a good thing since you have to know what you’re getting into there.

I’d call Ashley Howard yesterday to see if the top Villanova assistant is interested. The former Giannini assistant is ready to move a seat over and is a fit here and at a whole lot of places. Billy Lange, once a Speedy Morris assistant, now a top Sixers assistant and top Markelle Fultz tutor, is absolutely a fit here if interested. Former Explorers assistants Harris Adler and John Gallagher had great years, Adler as an Auburn assistant and Gallagher as Hartford’s head coach.

You want to make sure you get a head coach who cannot fail, call Joe Mihalich at Hofstra, see if the La Salle grad is interested in finishing his career at his alma mater. It’s almost impossible for a coach to represent a school better than Mihalich would represent La Salle. And everyone knows Mihalich can coach.

Let’s throw one more name out there. I called a local Division III coach and asked which area D-II or D-III coach was suited for D-I. I got the answer that was in my mind, Jim Rullo at Neumann. The former Drexel player also had coached Malvern Prep.

“It would leave a few people shaking their heads, but he would win,’’ the coach said.

Why?

“Defense,’’ the coach said. “His teams are more than defensively sound — they are intimidating. Their footwork, positioning and rotations are tremendous, and that translates at any level.”

If that sounds too risky, realize you never would have hired John Beilein when he was toiling in D-II. Whatever happened to Beilein anyway?

Bottom line: La Salle can throw long or short here, but there is no shortage of interesting possibilities. Committee meeting adjourned for the day.