MADISON, Wis. (AP) Marquette’s interim athletic director says the school is trying to move as quickly as possible to hire a replacement for Buzz Williams.
Bill Cords told The Associated Press in a phone interview Monday that the level of interest to replace Williams has been ”very rewarding.”
Williams was formally introduced Monday as the head coach at Virginia Tech. He left Marquette after six seasons.
Cords, as expected, is not revealing who is on his wish list of candidates and any information about interviews.
”We’re trying to move as quickly as we can, as effectively and efficiently as we can,” Cords said. ”We’re going to get the best guy.”
VCU coach Shaka Smart, an annual name on the coaching rumor circuit, might be a possible candidate. Smart is a native of Madison, which is also home the Wisconsin Badgers; Marquette is located about 80 miles away in Milwaukee.
VCU athletic director Ed McLaughlin told The Associated Press on Monday night that Smart had promised to let him know if any schools reached out to him, and said he had not heard from Smart about being contacted. McLaughlin said no schools have sought his permission to speak with Smart.
Former UCLA and Pitt coach Ben Howland has also reportedly expressed interest in the position.
Williams was 139-69 in six years at Marquette, including a trip to the NCAA regional finals just a year ago. He left on a disappointing note after the team finished 17-15 and had an eight-year run to the NCAA tournament snapped.
The Golden Eagles were the preseason pick to win a Big East reconfigured into a basketball-only league this season, but ended up sixth in the 10-team conference. Williams had expressed frustration a couple times after home games in adjusting to the new time commitments and travel schedules.
Still, the move from a program that prides itself on a rich basketball tradition to the last-place team in the ACC and a school where football is the most popular sport caught some Marquette fans by surprise.
”When you have a good coach, there are other people that want to try to get him” Cords said. ”It’s kind of an annual ritual you go through.”
Asked why he thought Williams left, Cords said he appreciated Williams having raised the level of the program, but otherwise deferred to his former coach.
The departure clouded an already uncertain period given Marquette is also operating with an interim president. Cords, who previously served as athletic director from 1987-2007, said he is staying on through next spring.
”Those things are factors, but at the same time, I think that the program speaks for itself,” he said, adding later that the school was going to get ”really good leadership in terms of a president here hopefully soon.”
Marquette won the 1977 national title under coach Al McGuire, and boasts Dwayne Wade, Doc Rivers and Maurice Lucas among prominent former players who have made it to the NBA.
”We feel things are moving well … and we believe we have a great program,” Cords said. ”And there’s a level of interest that is very rewarding.”