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HOT TAKE TUESDAY: Murry for USF

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Do you want the “interim” label removed?

NCAA Basketball: South Florida at Memphis Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

In the comments after USF’s win, I was surprised to see many posters expressing their desire to see interim coach Murry Bartow - former UAB coach, and therefore USF nemesis, back in the day - be considered for the permanent position at USF. I too am warming to this idea, and here’s why:

  • He’s getting great effort out of his players. The results have been ugly at times, but you have to respect that Bartow has the team playing hard. It would have been easy for everyone to mail in the rest of the season, but they continued to work hard, and were rewarded with a conference win. The players seem to be buying what he’s selling, and there have been no further defections (other than all of us at The Daily Stampede). And let’s face it: getting good results out of a depleted roster is a damn good skill for a USF men’s basketball coach to have.
  • He has experience. Orlando Antigua left the USF program in a shambles, both in terms of the roster, and the unresolved academic scandal that lingers over the program. It is my opinion that the program needs a veteran for its next hire, not a whiz kid assistant who needs to learn on the job. Besides, that’s what Antigua was, and when replacing a fired coach, there is a tendency to try a different profile. I have no idea what Mark Harlan is thinking, though.
  • He’s delightfully candid. Perhaps this is a function of being a temporary employee, but his candor with the press has been amusing. His reaction to Malik Fitts’ breakout game at Memphis was “Well, I didn’t expect him to do that,” as part of a more refined reply. After the East Carolina win, he said “fortunately we’ve got another easy one coming up in Cincinnati,” a team that just pummeled the Bulls 94-53. This is not Greenbergian wit, but it does make following a bad team a little more bearable. The local press likes him, and this team needs all the positive ink it can get.
  • He gets USF. Bartow spent 18 years as a player, assistant, or head coach of UAB, and faced USF in all most of those seasons. (Edited to add: I forgot UAB was in the Great Midwest from 1991-1995.) More than any other potential candidate, he has seen USF’s history, strengths, and weaknesses first-hand. And he seems to want the job.
  • He likes our freshmen. The roster isn’t entirely devoid of talent. Bartow has praised Michael Bibby, Malik Fitts, and Tulio da Silva, saying they have potential. And, as stated above, they seem to like playing for him. If Bartow can keep some of these young players committed to USF, the rebuilding project will be a lot further along than it would be otherwise.
  • He’s only 55. I know it seems like Murry Bartow has been around for-evvvvver (rolling eyes), but he’s still at a productive age. He’s younger than Charlie Strong. Perennial USF head coach candidates Stan Jones and Anthony Grant are 56 and 50, respectively. He might not be an expert on the Twitters, but age alone should not be a disqualifying consideration.
  • He’s affordable. Let’s face it, this is a concern. USF wouldn’t have to pay a buyout to another school, or win a bidding war, to secure Bartow’s services. With the academic scandal and fan apathy making USF an even less appealing gig than usual, spending $2 million on a glamour hire doesn’t seem like a good investment anyway. Especially considering Mark Harlan’s prior targets for this offer were Dave Rice and Craig Neal, two guys with track records not much better than Bartow’s. Speaking of which:
  • His career winning percentage is .563. You’d take that for USF, wouldn’t you?

I know there are counterarguments. This hire wouldn’t excite the sleepy fan base. It’s fair to wonder if Bartow could effectively recruit the kind of players USF needs to succeed. To put it mildly, my fellow TDS writers are not entirely on board with the idea. Harlan may not even be considering it. But USF could do a lot worse. I believe Murry Bartow could at least get the program turned around to respectability, navigate whatever penalties USF may suffer from the academic scandal, and pull the occasional upset.