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Published: Thursday, 3/25/2010

Search for Toledo coach continues

BY ZACH SILKA
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

The listing for the University of Toledo men's basketball coaching position was officially posted Tuesday, but the search for the Rockets' next coach is already in high gear.

Memphis assistant Willis Wilson is scheduled to interview for the position in the next few days, according to several people with knowledge of the situation.

Wilson could not be reached for comment. A secretary in the Memphis basketball office said Wilson was unavailable yesterday.

Bob Beaudine, the head of a Dallas search firm that is working with UT, declined to comment.

Prior to being hired at Memphis, Wilson was the head coach at Rice from 1992-2008, amassing a 219-246 record in his 16-season tenure - the longest of any coach in the Houston university's annals.

Wilson guided Rice to 60 wins from 2002-05, marking the second-most victories in a three-year span in school history. But he was not retained after the 2007-08 season, which saw the Owls fail to win a Conference USA game, endure a 20-game losing streak, and compile a 3-27 record that matched their worst single-season win total.

Wilson previously played and was an assistant at Rice, where he was a part of four NIT appearances in his coaching career.

He also served one year as an assistant under Mike Montgomery at Stanford during the 1991-92 season.

Former Iowa coach Todd Lickliter also has been in contact with UT officials regarding the coaching job, according to another person familiar with the search.

When reached by The Blade last week, Lickliter expressed interest in the position, but he could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Other candidates reportedly in the mix are Western Carolina head coach Larry Hunter, Wisconsin-Green Bay head coach Tod Kowalczyk, and Alabama associate head coach Dan Hipsher.

Hunter previously was the head coach at Ohio from 1989-2001 and led the Bobcats to the NCAA tournament in 1994.

Kowalczyk completed his eighth season in Green Bay and has put together a 136-112 record at the school. Under Kowalczyk, the Phoenix have placed in the top four of the Horizon League for seven consecutive seasons.

A former Fostoria and Bowling Green State University standout, Hipsher made coaching stops at Wittenberg, Akron, Dayton, and Miami (Ohio) before joining the Crimson Tide this season.

Although UT athletic director Mike O'Brien has not made such comments publicly, it is believed head-coaching experience is a must-have quality.

Contradicting an earlier report, a representative for Gonzaga assistant Ray Giacoletti said yesterday that his client is not a candidate for the UT job.

Brad Williams, an attorney based in Spokane, said Giacoletti has not had any contact with UT officials and is not interested in the position.

The UT coaching job has been vacant since Gene Cross submitted his resignation March 11 after posting an 11-53 record in two seasons.

A UT official told The Blade last week that O'Brien would likely follow the same timeline he used after firing Stan Joplin following the 2007-08 season.

O'Brien began interviewing candidates 10-14 days after Joplin's dismissal. It has been 14 days since Cross quit.

Contact Zach Silka at:

zsilka@theblade.com

419-724-6084.



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