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Bill Haisten: As Tuesday feels like New Coach Day at TU, the search process continues

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An Oklahoma State basketball assistant in 1999-2008, Kyle Keller now is the sixth-year head coach at Stephen F. Austin of the Southland Conference. Two seasons ago, his Lumberbacks upset Duke. Keller now is believed to be involved in the University of Tulsa's search for a new head coach.

During a review of text-message correspondence with various contacts who have various types of relationships with the University of Tulsa basketball program, I found these greatest hits from one somewhat connected person:

“I think it’s going to be Billy Gillispie. I would bet a decent sum of money on that.”

“Mike Anderson is a real candidate, I’ve been told.”

“Steve Lutz — I think it’s him.”

“I’m being told (Eric) Konkol got it.”

Speculation has been wild, and it looks as though it will continue at least until Tuesday.

Here are the known facts of the matter: Frank Haith resigned on March 12, at the end of an 11-20 season that included a 4-14 American Athletic Conference record and the Golden Hurricane’s worst home-game attendance in 42 years; and Monday is Day 9 in athletic director Rick Dickson’s search for the next University of Tulsa basketball coach.

Another fact: Never before has so little information been leaked regarding a coaching search. Dickson must have issued a gag order on university personnel.

There always is a network of people who share what they learn, however, and from that network there are three most frequently mentioned names. Each is a current Division I head coach: Stephen F. Austin’s Kyle Keller, Louisiana Tech’s Eric Konkol and Texas A&M-Corpus Christi’s Steve Lutz.

By midnight Saturday, there was the belief that Monday would be TU’s New Coach Day and that a news conference would occur at the Reynolds Center.

By Sunday night, it seemed highly unlikely that Dickson’s process would be finalized before Tuesday.

While you and I watched NCAA Tournament games on Sunday afternoon, it is believed that Dickson conducted Zoom meetings with at least two TU candidates.

Here’s another truth: It wouldn’t be shocking if Dickson were to hire a coach who hasn’t yet been on anyone’s radar.

Since it is believed that Dickson is being assisted by Chicago-based search firm DHR International, a totally surprising candidate might get involved — and might even win the TU derby.

That’s what happened in 2014. I was on the TU beat at that time and thought I knew everything about everyone who had even the slightest chance of succeeding Danny Manning as the Hurricane coach.

While in Dr. Bruce Horn’s dentist chair for a late-morning appointment, I received a two-word text message: “Frank Haith.” It is believed that the DHR Global people had presented Haith to TU as an interested party.

Later that same day, Haith was touring the TU campus. It was done. He had made the stunning and baffling move from Missouri to the University of Tulsa. For the Tulsa World, this was my first paragraph: As the surprising successor to 6-foot-10 Danny Manning, 5-foot-10 Frank Haith will help usher in a new era of college athletics at the University of Tulsa.

While it feels like Tuesday is the realistic date for the introduction of Tulsa’s new head man, it’s no more than an educated guess.

TU fans should say a prayer that Dickson’s process is as successful as Iowa State’s 2021 process. By the end of the 2020-21 season, the Cyclone program was even more broken than TU’s is today. Those Cyclones were 2-22 overall and 0-18 in the Big 12.

Steve Prohm was fired and T.J. Otzelberger was hired three days later. On Sunday night, Otzelberger’s Cyclones defeated Wisconsin and punched their ticket to the Sweet Sixteen.

Dickson’s quest is to find a coach who can immediately do for the Golden Hurricane what Otzelberger did for the previously downtrodden Cyclones. A Sweet Sixteen might not be a realistic goal in 2022-23, but everything related to Tulsa basketball has to look better than it did in 2021-22.


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Sports Columnist

I joined the Tulsa World in 1990. Prior to becoming a sports columnist in 2016, I was the only sports writer in Tulsa World history to have covered OU, OSU, the University of Tulsa and Oral Roberts sports on an everyday basis. Phone: 918-581-8397

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