The school is making enough cash available to be competitive with the other power-five conference schools that have a coaching vacancy.
Huskies athletic director Jen Cohen left Seattle Thursday to find the next Washington men’s basketball coach.
A source with knowledge of the process said the school is committed to offering candidates an annual salary between $2 million and $3 million, which is in line with what similarly-sized schools have doled out recently for a new coach.
This week Missouri lured Cuonzo Martin away from California with a seven-year deal reportedly worth $21 million.
Keep in mind, college basketball’s highest-paid coaches in 2016 are Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski ($7.3 million annually), Kentucky’s John Calipari ($6.6M) and Louisville’s Rick Pitino ($6M), according to USA Today’s coaching database. However, the average salary of coaches ranked between fifth and 15th was $3.3 million.
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The Huskies were paying Lorenzo Romar $1.7 million per year before firing him Wednesday. Per terms of his contact, he’s due a $3.2 million buyout from the school.
Washington could have saved $800,000 if it had released Romar on April 1, but Cohen was committed to starting the search as soon as possible.
Expediency might prove to be vital considering the Huskies are competing with a handful of schools at power-five conferences for a men’s basketball coach, including Indiana, which released Tom Crean on Thursday.
His departure theoretically moves the Hoosiers to the top of the pecking order, according to Pac-12 Networks analyst Kevin O’Neill.
“Washington and Indiana aren’t going after the same coaches,” O’Neill said. “I just don’t see that. The coaches Indiana are going to be able to attract aren’t necessarily people who would consider Washington.”
Among the power-five conference schools searching for a men’s basketball coach, O’Neill ranks UW fourth behind (in order) Indiana, North Carolina State and Illinois. The Huskies are ahead of Louisiana State and Cal, he said.
Despite a six-year NCAA tournament drought, O’Neill believes Washington is a desirable destination.
“It’s a great job,” O’Neill said. “It’s not yet on the level of the elite jobs, but it has great potential.
“Seattle and the state of Washington are great recruiting areas. You’re in a great league. Got an unbelievable university and a great athletic program. Everything is in place. It’s not like a lot needs to be done.”
Cohen indicated she’s crafted a list of candidates.
“I’m going to collect a lot of information from people that care about this program — former athletes and others — get information from them on what they’re looking for, and then I’m going to go out and get the best coach for Washington that’s the right fit,” she said. “There will not be a big search committee.”
Crean, 50, is now on the market and becomes a potential candidate for UW.
He had mixed success during a nine-year tenure at Indiana that included four NCAA tournament appearances and three trips to the Sweet 16. He was 166-135 with the Hoosiers and is 356-231 during an 18-year coaching career that began at Marquette in 1999.
Washington’s wish list might start with Wichita State’s Gregg Marshall and Dayton’s Archie Miller, who are this year’s hot coaching prospects. However, they’re linked to Indiana and N.C. State, respectively.
Saint Mary’s Randy Bennett has emerged as the leading candidate at California, LSU appears to be zeroing in on UNC-Wilmington’s Kevin Keatts while Illinois is reportedly armed with $25 million and looking to attract a high-profile coach.
If the coaching dominoes fall as speculated, it leaves Washington possibly picking between Boise State’s Leon Rice and Nevada’s Eric Musselman.
Rice, a 53-year-old Washington State graduate and an assistant at Gonzaga from 1998-2010, has compiled at least 20 wins in the past five seasons at Boise State. The Broncos (20-11) play at Illinois on Monday in the second round of the National Invitation Tournament.
Musselman, a 52-year-old former NBA coach and an assistant at Arizona State from 2012-14, is 52-20 in two years at Nevada. This season he guided the Wolf Pack (28-6) to the NCAA tournament following a 10-year absence.
A source with knowledge of the UW coaching situation Thursday said Mississippi State’s Ben Howland would leave the Bulldogs after two years for the Huskies and a chance to return to the Pac-12.
Howland has comprised a 30-33 record at Mississippi State, but he enjoyed immense success during a 10-year tenure at UCLA. He led the Bruins to seven NCAA tournaments, including the national-title game in 2006 and the Final Four in 2007 and ’08.
“UW is going to have their choice of candidates,” O’Neill said.