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It's only been a week since Gene Cross submitted his resignation as the University of Toledo men's basketball coach, but already some intriguing names in the coaching ranks are lining up for the job.
Former Iowa coach Todd Lickliter and current Indiana-Purdue-Fort Wayne coach Dane Fife expressed interest when contacted by The Blade yesterday.
Cleveland State coach Gary Waters could not be reached for comment, but he is said to have interest in the UT opening, according to several people close to him.
A CSU athletic department spokesman, however, denied that Waters, 58, is looking to leave the Horizon League institution.
"He's on the road recruiting, but I can tell you he's not interested," CSU assistant athletic director of communications, Brian McCann, said yesterday. "That's a rumor that came out during the [Mid-American Conference] tournament, and there's no truth to it."
The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer reported Saturday that UT athletic director Mike O'Brien's top three candidates were Waters, Akron coach Keith Dambrot, and Western Michigan coach Steve Hawkins.
Lickliter, 54, was fired at Iowa on Monday following a 10-22 season, his third year at Iowa.
Before taking over as Hawkeyes coach, Lickliter put together a solid six-year run at Butler, where he led the Bulldogs to the NCAA tournament twice. Butler also made two NIT appearances under Lickliter.
Before that, Lickliter served as an assistant under Thad Matta at Butler and was an assistant for two seasons from 1997-99 at Eastern Michigan.
Lickliter said yesterday that he's had no contact yet with anyone from UT.
"It's a really good job," he said. "I'm very familiar with the MAC, so it'd be a great opportunity and I'll leave it at that."
Fife, the youngest coach in Division I men's basketball at age 30, is coming off IPFW's first winning season since becoming a Division I program in 2001.
The Mastodons have shown steady improvement every year under Fife since he was hired in 2005 after a two-year stint as an assistant under Mike Davis at Indiana.
Fife said he's had no contact yet with UT but would consider an offer to coach the Rockets.
"When you have a job like Toledo, I think you're obligated to listen," Fife said. "Most coaches in my situation would do the same. Now that doesn't mean I'll make the move, but Toledo is a really good job. That's the way I see it, and that's not to say mine isn't."
A UT official who spoke to The Blade on the condition of anonymity said no coaching interviews have taken place and that O'Brien will likely follow the same timeline he used after firing Stan Joplin after the 2007-08 season.
O'Brien began interviewing coaching candidates 10 to 14 days after Joplin's dismissal, so it's likely he will begin the same process in the next few days.
Although O'Brien has not made such comments, it is believed head-coaching experience is a must-have quality for the next coach.
Cross had never been a head coach before accepting O'Brien's offer to lead the Rockets on April 11, 2008.
Other than Waters, Lickliter, and Fife, other possible candidates for the UT job with head-coaching experience are Pittsburgh assistant Tom Herrion and Gonzaga assistant Ray Giacoletti.
Both of their teams are playing in the NCAA tournament this weekend.
Giacoletti, 47, has been a head coach at Utah, North Dakota State, and Eastern Washington and is reportedly a candidate to take over the head coaching duties at Hawaii.
Herrion, 42, was the head coach at the College of Charleston from 2002 to 2006 before being let go and taking over as associate head coach with the Panthers for the last three seasons.
"If the right situation arose, I would listen," Herrion told the Charleston (S.C.) Post and Courier in January, 2009. "But it would take quite an offer. I am very aware of how fortunate I am to be in the situation I'm in."
UT acting head coach Bob Sundvold, who has been a head coach at Missouri-Kansas City and Division II Central Missouri also expressed interest in having the "acting" label dropped from his title.
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