Names have been thrown around the twitter and message board world for the last week or so since the departure of assistant coaches Tim Fuller and Steve Massiello at Louisville. Today, two of those names will be made official with the hiring of New Mexico assistant Wyking Jones and former Florida assistant Richard Pitino at a 12:30 press conference.
We all are familiar with the younger Pitino, who was on the Louisville staff previously before joining Billy Donovan‘s staff prior to the ’09-’10 season. Jones, on the other hand, is an less familiar name among Louisville fans, but not in the recruiting world.
Jones spent the last two season under Steve Alford at New Mexico, but previously worked for Nike as a travel team manager. The Nike connection is key with this hire. Coaches must have a connection with the underworld of shoe companies and AAU programs this day and age. Jones gives Pitino that very connection. Like Tim Fuller, Pitino will expect Jones to be his liason between the Louisville program and the recruiting world which in turn might help secure 2012 guard Rodney Purvis and open doors for other top recruits in the future.
Jones also has an acting background. That’s right, an ACTING background, starring in movies The Wood, The Benchwarmers, and Brown Sugar. Put it this way, if any of these potential recruits wanted to meet Taye Diggs or Omar Epps, Jones could probably make that happen. I don’t know why any recruit would want to do that, but I’ve heard of stranger stuff happening. At least he can help guys sell those charges better.
One guy that Jones may have an inside track on is 2013 F/C Aaron Gordon from San Jose, CA who is ranked in the top 10 of his class currently and lists New Mexico as a potential suitor. Jones played ball at Loyola Marymount in the mid-90’s, so add that to his Hollywood connections and Louisville could have an “in” for West coast recruits with Jones now in the fold.
That leaves one more opening on the staff for Pitino to fill. The rumored name has been Kevin Keatts of Hargrave Military in Virginia. Keatts was recently in town as an assistant coach for the gold team at the Derby Classic and was said to have interviewed with Coach Pitino during that visit. Keatts has won two national prep titles (’04, ’07) and has put guys like David West and Josh Howard in the pros from that school.
I was sitting near the Gold bench for the KDF Classic on Friday and watched Keats and his interaction with the players. It was just a couple hours of one night, but I liked what I saw. It looked like he had a nice rapport with the kids on both teams. Keats was joking around, but at the same time demanding respect – something that is tough to balance with 18 year old athletes. What Pitino expects from both his coaching staff and players will not be too overwhelming for Keats, who runs a strict program at Hargrave.
If the third spot isn’t filled by Keats, look for VCU assistant Will Wade to be a possibility. According to reports, Wade had an interview with Pitino in recent weeks which went well, but reports also indicate that Keats would be the preferred choice for the Cards.
Get ready for some serious hyperbole/rhetoric/bulls**t from Pitino today in his news conference about “how great the staff is”. Time will tell whether he is correct or not. News conference is scheduled for 12:30 today.