Auburn basketball coaching search: Who are the candidates to replace Tony Barbee?

Kevin C. Cox

Are we in Bruce Pearl-or-bust territory?

The deed is done. Tony Barbee is out as Auburn's basketball coach. But, as defenders of any embattled coach will always tell you, you don't improve a program with a firing; you only improve it with a good hiring. So now that the Tigers are in the market, who are the leading candidates? Right now, the following names seem to be the most serious mentioned by various media reports:

Bruce Pearl

Currently: Unemployed; Last job: Tennessee head coach

Career record: 231-99; At Tennessee: 145-61 (65-31 SEC)

For most Auburn fans, at least most of the vocal ones, the list of candidates begins and ends with Pearl. He had mid-major success with Wisconsin-Milwaukee, leading the Panthers to the Sweet 16 in 2005. In six years at Tennessee, he led the Volunteers to the NCAA Tournament six times, reaching two Sweet 16s and one Elite Eight, and the Vols won the SEC regular-season title in 2007-08. He knows how to coach and recruit in the SEC and would be the closest thing to a home run Auburn could find.

Of course, there's a reason Pearl is unemployed. He left the Volunteers on NCAA probation due to recruiting violations, and his three-year show-cause penalty isn't up until Aug. 23, meaning he can't recruit for the next six months. Would the Tigers want a coach with recent NCAA troubles? As Kevin Scarbinsky notes, they may be able to pull it off.

In fact, if there's a school that can justify hiring a coach with any sort of NCAA baggage, it's Auburn, which has not one but two former NCAA employees on staff in Senior Associate AD Rich McGlynn and Associate AD Dave Didion.

If they were to sign off on Pearl, it would go a long way toward convincing Jacobs to go after him.

Auburn doesn't have a ton of basketball success to its name, historically or in recent years, and that will make the job unattractive to a lot of top coaches. But, Pearl is looking to get back in the game, he knows the region and the conference, and Auburn has a beautiful arena to dangle in front of him. If the Tigers pull it off, it would be quite a coup.

Michael White

Currently: Louisiana Tech head coach

Career record: 70-29 (35-13 WAC/C-USA)

White is a young guy -- he turned 37 on March 2 -- so he should be able to connect with players students and bring some excitement to the program. He spent four years in Alabama as an assistant at Jacksonville State, and he was on the Ole Miss staff for seven seasons before getting his first head coaching job. The Bulldogs have won back-to-back conference titles and are 52-13 in the last two years under him. Auburn has swung and miss with hot mid-major coaches before -- ahem, Tony Barbee -- but aside from his relative lack of experience, there isn't a lot of apparent downside to White.

Rick Stansbury

Currently: Unemployed; Last job: Mississippi State head coach

Career record: 293-165 (122-102 SEC)

Stansbury isn't the most popular name, but it's hard to argue with his results. His entire head-coaching career has been at Mississippi State, and the Bulldogs advanced to six NCAA Tournaments during that time. They never made it past the second round, but with zero tourney trips in the last decade, Auburn can't really complain about something like that right now. Under Stansbury, State won the SEC regular-season title once (2004), tournament title twice ('02, '09) and Western Division title four times ('03 '04, '07, '08, '10).

But like Pearl, Stansbury carries some NCAA baggage, too. He was involved with violations as an assistant at Austin Peay in the late-80s, and even though the Bulldogs were clean on paper, rumors have swirled about money being funneled to recruits. But if he was paying players and getting away with it, maybe that's a good thing!

Donnie Tyndall

Currently: Southern Miss head coach

Career record: 197-104; At Southern Miss: 53-15 (25-7 C-USA)

Tyndall isn't as young as White, but at 44, he isn't exactly ancient. After turning around Morehead State and taking the Eagles to the Big Dance twice, he's done a nice job in two years at Southern Miss. The Eagles tied with three teams for first in regular-season Conference USA play last season, and they advanced to the NIT quarterfinals. This year, they won the conference crown outright. He was an assistant at LSU from 1997-2001, so he has some SEC experience.

Jeff Capel

Currently: Duke assistant; Previously: VCU, Oklahoma head coach

Career record: 175-110

Capel played at Duke from 1993-97, and he has nine years of experience as a head man. In his time at VCU, the Rams won the CAA regular-season and tournament titles in 2004. Two years later, he was hired at Oklahoma, where he went 69-33 with NCAA second-round and Elite Eight appearance in his first three years. But the Sooners quickly fell off a cliff. In Capel's final two seasons, they were 27-36 overall and 9-23 against Big 12 competition. He's been on Mike Krzyzewski's staff since 2011, which certainly can't hurt his basketball mind.

Before Auburn hired Jeff Lebo in 2004, the Tigers interviewed Capel for the job. However, he withdrew his name from consideration, supposedly because of advice from his mentor, Krzyzewski. If Coach K told him to pass on the Auburn job back then, it's doubtful that the Tigers have done anything since to change his mind.

Star-divide

Who's your top choice? Vote in our poll and share your #takes in the comments.

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