Towson basketball coaching search: Lonergan, High profile assistants at top of their list

March 21, 2011 | Drew Forrester

With the NCAA tournament now narrowed down to 16 teams, several high profile assistant coaches can formally be pursued by Towson University as the Tigers look to fill their recently-vacated men’s coaching position.

But pursuing a coach and convincing him the Towson job is worthy of considering and then, creating the right financial package for him — those are three different things altogether.

One coach who would be a terrific fit at Towson has reportedly informed the university through a search-consultant that he’s not willing to take the job unless a 5-year deal is struck. A source tells that Vermont coach Mike Lonergan was contacted by Eddie Fogler a week ago but that Lonergan was steadfast in his desire to have at least a five-year contract with a variety of additional bells and whistles included to make sure he’d be given the best chance for success at Towson.

“Lonergan would be a great fit,” the source says, “but he made it very clear to Towson that he’s not coming there just to take a job and skip out on Vermont. He’s put together a terrific program at Vermont and he goes to work every day knowing he’s the top dog in the state when it comes to college basketball. Mike’s no dummy. He has a great thing going at Vermont and he’s not taking the Towson job just to prove himself…because he has nothing to prove.”

There have been whispers over the last week that Lonergan is going to be interviewed for the vacant Providence job, a position he’d clearly covet over Towson or any other CAA school for that matters.

Indeed, Lonergan has long been rumored to be “the next man up” at a Big East or ACC job, although going from Vermont to Towson would certainly be a stepping-stone move that would include a substantial pay increase and additional compensation opportunities in the Colonial Athletic Association. But would Lonergan, who twice before was snubbed by the Tigers during a coaching search, be willing to come to town and be “interviewed” for a position that he’s obviously more than capable of handling? That could be a sticking point.

“If they really want Mike Lonergan at Towson, they have to show him that,” the source says. “Just calling him and telling him ‘we’re interested, why don’t you come to town and talk with us?’ isn’t going to do it. Mike is on just about everyone’s radar screen when it comes to a new coaching hire and he’s not settling for anything that isn’t a significant upgrade for him and his family.”

Three high-profile assistant coaches are on the Towson radar and can now be contacted since their respective programs have been eliminated from the NCAA tournament. Dalonte Hill, an assistant at Kansas State, is a Washington DC native who is very familiar with the recruiting wars in the Baltimore/Washington area, something Towson Athletic Director Mike Waddell has previously noted as an important element in his coaching search. Texas assistant Russell Springmann is also of interest to Towson. Springmann grew up in Silver Spring and, like Hill, knows the local high school and amateur scene quite well. Xavier’s Pat Kelsey is also on the Towson short list according to a source.

The issue at hand for guys like Hill and Springmann? Money. They’re both in the range of $300,000-400,000 per-year in their current jobs with additional bonus monies attached for conference and NCAA tournament success. While most assistants long for the opportunity to run their own program, the majority of them aren’t willing to take a substantial cut in pay or compensation opportunities to do so.

One source familiar with the Towson list and the efforts to contact potential candidates says both Springmann and Hill are “great names” but neither are likely to be swayed to move East.

“Towson would do well to get Russell or Dalonte, but I can’t see either one of them packing up and making a lateral compensation move,” the source claims. “They’d need to be offered something in the $600,000 range that Hofstra was waving around last spring when Tom Pecora left for Fordham. A $600,000 contract at Towson for 4-5 years? Now that would be worth considering.”

Industry insiders tell that Towson’s budget for a new basketball coach is in the neighborhood of $1.6 million for four years. While that’s a healthy, competitive salary package for a school that averages 1,500 fans per-game, it might not be enough to get an in-demand assistant like Springmann or Hill to take their offer.

Kelsey, 35, is an associate head coach at Xavier and was a candidate for the UNC-Wilmington job last April and was also rumored for open positions at Charlotte and St. Johns before they were filled.

Towson also reportedly has showed some interest in Houston Fancher, a former Appalachian State head coach most recently with the University of Tennessee coaching staff, but Fancher is now the interim head coach for the Volunteers after Bruce Pearl’s dismissal on Monday. Fancher and Waddell worked together when the latter was on the Appalachian State athletic staff earlier last decade.

A source tells that Towson is also interested in discussing their vacant coaching position with Pat Skerry, an assistant at the University of Pittsburgh.  Skerry has CAA experience with William and Mary (2000-2003) and has been in the Big East for the last four years, including three at Providence before joining the Pitt staff in 2010.  Skerry, known as one of college basketball’s best recruiters, has spent all of his coaching career on the eastern seaboard and the northeast.