A Suggestion For Your Pointless Conversation
One of the most annoying conversations that I hear every year is the one about who's going to take over coaching at Wisconsin when Bo Ryan eventually retires. Trying to use today's information to figure out what to do at a point that's an undetermined number of years away, when the landscape of basketball and list of available candidates will have undoubtedly changed, is a waste of time. Unless I've missed something and Bo Ryan has made concrete plans to retire in the next two years, no one has the tools to answer this question right now.
That said, if people feel that they must keep speculating about former Wisconsin staff members heading back to Madison when Ryan decides to hang up his sport coat, don't we need to start including Saul Phillips in the discussion? I originally meant to comment on this after North Dakota State took down UWm on Bracket Buster Saturday a few weeks back, but now that Phillips has taken the Bison to the NCAA tournament during the first year that they're eligible (and just his second year as a head coach), it's officially ridiculous to ignore him.
I know it's easy to have the usual two man discussion involving Rob Jeter, whose likeable personality and local presence alway keep him on the radar, and Tony Bennett, a guy who's both a legendary former player from the state and a coach who racked up a bunch of coach-of-the-year awards last year at the most remotely located school in the Pac-10. But in just two seasons, Phillips has managed to take a division one newcomer school in a state that virtually no one actually lives in to the NCAA tournament. I obviously haven't seen enough of North Dakota State to truly understand what Phillips has his teams doing, but if you're just looking at his numbers, it's tough not to be impressed.
I'm not necessarily saying that Phillips is better than Bennett or Jeter, or that any of these three guys is necessarily the right choice for the Wisconsin job some day (remember, virtually no one was looking to hire Bo Ryan back in 2001). What I would ask, though, is that if you're going to have this insanely pointless hypothetical discussion, please at least make Saul Phillips part of it. After what he's done, it's only fair.