Now that teams are falling out of the NCAA tournament, the Arizona State coaching search can kick into high gear. Background checks of candidates are now starting.
One candidate, Lionel Hollins, the assistant coach of the NBA’s Memphis Grizzlies, said ASU officials have contacted his agent and indicated that a background check will be undertaken.
Another possible candidate is still involved in the NCAA tournament — Mark Turgeon, whose Wichita State team is a surprise member of the Sweet 16. At least two others have seen their teams eliminated: Jamie Dixon of Pittsburgh and Mark Fox of Nevada.
Dixon said Monday night he has been given a contract extension offer to stay at Pittsburgh.
“I haven’t had time to look at it,” Dixon told the Pittsburgh Post Gazette. “We’ve been in discussions. That’s all I can really say about it.”
Dixon, who currently makes in the range of $550,000-$600,000, said he had not been contacted at this point by ASU.
Another coach whose name has been mentioned is Randy Bennett, a former star player at Westwood High School who is now the coach of St. Mary’s of California. Bennett signed a six-year contract last year after leading St. Mary’s to the NCAA tournament.
Asked if he might express interest in the job, Bennett said Monday, “I don’t know. I’m pretty happy with the situation I have now.”
Other possible candidates include former coaches Rick Majerus and Steve Lavin and Texas Tech coach Bob Knight.
Another coach linked to the ASU job in media reports has been Lon Kruger, the UNLV coach and father of ASU guard Kevin Kruger.
Kruger has denied interest in the job. His son echoed those thoughts Monday.
Speculation that his father and ASU officials have discussed the job “couldn’t be further from the truth,” Kevin Kruger said. The player added that his father has a strong team returning and that overall, “He couldn’t be happier” with his situation.
Kevin Kruger also expressed regret that the Sun Devils didn’t come through for former coach Rob Evans, who was fired March 10.
Even though ASU had a young team, “We had the talent,” Kruger said. But, “We didn’t have enough players buy into what he was trying to do.
“Every one of us should feel responsible for what happened.”
As for ASU’s future, he said, “We have a nice freshman class coming in,” and that the Sun Devils could contend for an NCAA tournament bid.