David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports
I know what you're thinking - why did I stop at four?
Stanford basketball needs a new coach.
Whether they admit it or not is another problem, but let's set out to solve the first issue.
After Stanford's inglorious exit in the first round of the Pac-12 conference tournament, it's high time to start considering who might be a good replacement for Johnny Dawkins on the Stanford sideline. After combing the college basketball landscape, I've come up with four good options to replace Johnny D: New Mexico's Steve Alford, Harvard's Tommy Amaker, Bucknell's Dave Paulsen and Montana's Wayne Tinkle.
Let's start with Alford and the New Mexico Lobos. New Mexico has made two NCAA tournaments in the last three years, and there's no way they won't make it again this year - they're the #15 team in the country. Alford has turned a basketball program that was solidly mediocre into one of the Mountain West's premier programs. In the five years before Alford arrived, the Lobos won over 20 games once, and he led them to a 30-5 season in his third year on the job. Even though Alford was already established as a pretty good coach when he was at Iowa before coming to New Mexico, he's still getting the job done in Albuquerque.
Next up is Tommy Amaker, the coach for the Ivy League champion Harvard Crimson. Like Dawkins, Amaker was also a point guard at Duke, but he's been a head coach - and a pretty good one - since 1997. He helped bring Seton Hall to the Sweet 16 in 2000 before he moved on to Michigan two years later. He never went to the NCAA tournament as the head coach in Ann Arbor - although they did win the illustrious NIT championship in 2004 - but he's revitalized his career at Harvard after being essentially left for dead. Last year, the Crimson made it to the second round of the NCAA tourney and they've already earned a spot again this year after winning the Ivy league crown. While Ivy league ball is a lot different than the Pac-12, Amaker's understanding of balancing academics and athletics should make him an attractive candidate for the Cardinal.
Dave Paulsen at Bucknell is another guy who would look excellent in cardinal and white. Bucknell - one of those teams that seems to make the tournament every year but you know nothing about - has won the Patriot League twice and therefore made two NCAA tourneys in the last three years. That third year (the middle year) they lost in the Patriot League title game. Bucknell was just 14-17 three years ago, and now Paulsen has helped the Bison win more than 25 games the last three years. With that record, somebody is going to pay this man very soon.
The last interesting candidate for Stanford is Montana head coach Wayne Tinkle. While he may be known on the Farm as the father of Stanford women's basketball forward Joslyn Tinkle, he's also led the Grizzlies to four consecutive 20+ win seasons and two NCAA tournaments. This year, the Griz are once again in the mix for the Big Sky title and another NCAA tourney berth. And it's worth mentioning the last head coach to jump from Montana to Stanford: Mike Montgomery.
Want a simpler metric of why one of these four guys should be in charge of Stanford's program? Let's compare their records since the 2009-10 season.
Alford: 107-30, two NCAA tournaments (and another certain to come this year).
Amaker: 89-28, two NCAA tournaments (including this year).
Paulsen: 92-41, two NCAA tournaments (including this year).
Tinkle: 91-33, two NCAA tournaments (and a chance to make another this year).
Dawkins: 73-58, one NIT championship. No chance to make the NCAA tournament this year.
One of these things is not like the other.
And, as if Bernard Muir needed another reason to get rid of Dawkins, he should consider this: these four guys might not be available next year.
Instead, they'll be leading their teams toward the spot that Stanford used to occupy in the NCAA tournament.