Listen to Andrew Phegley and me break down Donnie Jones’s firing from UCF basketball, speculate recklessly about his replacement, and much more as I guest-hosted the Knightline Podcast with him over the weekend:
It was no surprise to anyone – myself included – that UCF decided to fire Donnie Jones following his team’s loss in the first round of the American Athletic Conference Tournament in downtown Orlando last week.
What was surprising was the bluntness of Athletic Director Danny White’s statement to Mike Bianchi afterwards:
“You can’t just hire a coach to turn around a program and then see what happens,” White says. “It has to be all hands on deck. There are things we have to do administratively to support the coaching staff. We have to have a larger operating budget. We have to travel better. (White says UCF will start chartering flights for road games instead of flying commercial). We have to fix some of the smaller capital projects associated with basketball like the weight room and the locker rooms.”
Count me among the guys doing a slow-clap after that quote. As I mentioned to Andrew above on the Knightline Podcast, this much we can read into it:
- Danny White is a basketball guy.
- Danny White was appalled at the state of the basketball programs’ investment levels and facilities when he arrived here.
- Danny White will not have a sub-par basketball program on his watch.
So the next hire will be key, obviously.
I have to give credit to Donnie, who was always a class guy. He may have been handcuffed by the sanctions that hurt his ability to recruit (which was one of the primary reasons he was brought here), but at the end of the day, and as Jones honestly admitted, results are results, and he didn’t get them. He’ll land somewhere – All the good guys do.
We know how well connected White is in the basketball world, being a former player at Notre Dame, and having his father as the A.D. at Duke. He may go for a younger coach like Matthew Driscoll at UNF or Steve Pikiell of Stony Brook, but as I mentioned in the podcast, I tend to think that Duke assistant and former Arkansas head coach Jeff Capel might be a very attractive candidate for UCF, although he still has NCAA-related baggage from the end of his tenure at Oklahoma, which resulted in three years’ probation on the heels of a 30-win season.
I also speculated about another name that popped up: P.J. Carlesimo. P.J. is a guy near and dear to my heart, as he put Seton Hall basketball on the map (I’m a New Jersey native and have a few family members who went there) in the late 80s and early 90s. He also has plenty of NBA experience, and though he’s older at 66, he might find a place like UCF a great place to get back to his roots and have one last go at the college level.
Of course, we might not have heard of the next UCF head men’s basketball coach, but we might in the next couple of weekends.
As far as Danny White is concerned, he now has the unenviable task of hitting Ctrl-Alt-Del on his football program and both of his basketball programs in his first half-year on the job. As I had mentioned earlier in the week, and as we’ve found out over the last two weeks, he’s not effing around.