Williams column: 2 more interviews coming, 20+ targets analyzed in Texas Tech coach search

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Members of the Texas Tech football team have the upcoming weekend off for the first time this season. For members of the Tech football coaching search committee, it's anything but break time.

According to people familiar with the search, Tech is preparing to interview two more candidates — Baylor associate head coach and outside linebackers coach Joey McGuire on Thursday and Oklahoma defensive coordinator and safeties coach Alex Grinch on Friday — in the hunt for Matt Wells' successor.

Talks with more targets could follow.

A source with knowledge of Tech's process told A-J Media the search is "exceptionally broad, nationwide" at this point, adding that more than 20 candidates have been closely scrutinized and a dozen have expressed interest directly or through agents.

More: 5 Takeaways from Texas Tech's 52-21 loss at Oklahoma

Oklahoma defensive coordinator Alex Grinch is expected to interview for the Texas Tech head-coaching job this week. The Sooners, like the Red Raiders, have an open date Saturday.
Oklahoma defensive coordinator Alex Grinch is expected to interview for the Texas Tech head-coaching job this week. The Sooners, like the Red Raiders, have an open date Saturday.

When Tommy Tuberville left Tech for Cincinnati in 2012, only 100 hours passed until Kliff Kingsbury was named his replacement. When Kingsbury was dismissed in 2018, only 102 hours elapsed before Wells was in place.

This time, it's 10 days and counting with an end not necessarily in sight.

UT-San Antonio coach Jeff Traylor, whose Roadrunners are 8-0 and ranked No. 16, interviewed last week and appeared in good position to get the job right off the bat. Then UTSA announced Sunday he had agreed to a 10-year, $28 million contract.

More on the search: Texas Tech willing to go big on staff resources for football

Tech was prepared to go far beyond beyond that in terms of average annual value. But in a business in which loyalty is often minimal, Traylor apparently was not comfortable with the thought of abandoning, after two years, the program that gave him his first college head-coaching job.

SMU coach Sonny Dykes, the early co-favorite with Traylor, could still be the guy. Aside from his history with Lubbock and the program, Dykes has been a head coach for 11 years and, given his 24-7 record since the beginning of 2019, he's going to be well-paid this winter — either by Tech, by SMU to keep him or by a TCU program looking to replace Gary Patterson.

As Tech's process moves forward, next up are two Big 12 assistants. There's a portion of Tech fans clamoring for McGuire on social media, given his success as a head coach at Cedar Hill and as a Baylor assistant, first under Matt Rhule and now for Dave Aranda.

Don Williams
Don Williams

By all appearances, McGuire would like a shot at the job. Having only five years on a college staff, none as a head coach or coordinator, he'll need to be persuasive in the interview.

"The key with him is what kind of coordinators can he bring, because he's not an Xs and Os guy and he's pretty open about that," a college football source told A-J Media. "He has to have people who are actual practitioners and ball coaches that can come with him. That's all key is what's the staff going to look like around him."

The belief that McGuire can recruit Texas high schools, make players give their all for him and create a winning culture are his selling points. And coaches such as Dabo Swinney and Urban Meyer have proven that one need not have been a coordinator to become a successful head coach.

More: Breaking down potential Texas Tech coaching targets

Those are the best-case scenarios. For cautionary tales, check Tech's recent past.

Red Raiders were over the moon about hiring Kliff, who had been on college staffs for only five years, and he went 35-40. And Mike Jinks was a successful Texas high school coach who, after three years at Tech, none as a coordinator, jumped to the top job at Bowling Green and was fired seven games into his third season with a 7-24 record.

Hocutt said in an emphatic tone last week that Tech has to nail the coach hire this time around, even if it takes until mid-December. So here are some possible targets Tech has taken or will take a look at: Texas A&M defensive coordinator Mike Elko, Liberty coach Hugh Freeze, Louisiana-Lafayette coach Billy Napier and Detroit Lions offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn, the former Tech running back.

The entirety of Lynn's 22-season coaching career has been spent in the NFL but, "He's being considered," a source said. "He's in the mix."

And then there's Mike Leach. The former Tech coach's name always comes up when the Red Raiders are looking for a coach — it will five years after he's retired, you watch — and so it has again.

The source with knowledge of Tech's search said Leach continues to be discussed seriously, though it's not clear whether Tech's internal dynamics will allow a second act to unfold. The Return of the Pirate would excite a lot of fans, and his bitter parting with the university nearly 12 years ago predated the tenures of Tech AD Kirby Hocutt and Tech President Lawrence Schovanec.

Leach, who went 84-43 in 10 seasons at Tech, is in his second year at Mississippi State. The Bulldogs are 5-3 with wins last month against Texas A&M and Kentucky, which were ranked No. 15 and No. 12 at the time.

Mississippi State coach Mike Leach is again being discussed as a potential candidate at Texas Tech. Leach coached the Red Raiders to an 84-43 record from 2000-09, but his tenure ended in controversy and he was fired over alleged player mistreatment.
Mississippi State coach Mike Leach is again being discussed as a potential candidate at Texas Tech. Leach coached the Red Raiders to an 84-43 record from 2000-09, but his tenure ended in controversy and he was fired over alleged player mistreatment.

Tech fired Leach in December 2009 over an allegation that he mishandled Adam James after the Tech tight end was diagnosed with a concussion. Among those who sided with Tech were four medical professionals, among them prominent concussion expert Dr. Robert Cantu, who co-founded the CTE Center at the Boston University School of Medicine.

Leach later sued Tech, claiming that he was still owed money for that year. Tech has contended that Leach was paid what he was owed to the point he allegedly breached his contract.

A source who speaks frequently with Leach is skeptical about the likelihood of a reunion.

When that person told Leach a few days ago he had been linked again to the Tech job, "He said, 'I wouldn't talk to them. They still owe me from 2009.' And so I wonder if (Tech) might approach him, but he's not interested until he gets paid. He wouldn't even think about coming back until they paid him what they owed him for 2009.

"And I think he's pretty happy there. He's got a wonderful house. He bought a nice house on a private lake with a dock, and it's not very far from the campus, and since he's had two good wins, he's probably pretty satisfied there.

"I think (Tech) would have to pay him up front before he'd even talk to them, truthfully."

As you can see, there's a lot of potential candidates to work through and much to sort out. And this search isn't nearly as open-and-shut as the last two.

This article originally appeared on Lubbock Avalanche-Journal: 2 more interviews coming, 20+ targets analyzed in Texas Tech coach search

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