Heavy hitters weighing in on CU hoops position

Some heavy hitters in hoops have been reaching out to Colorado

athletic director Mike Bohn in the wake of Jeff Bzdelik’s

departure.

Larry Brown has contacted him. So has George Karl. Bohn has even

touched base with Denver Nuggets All-Star guard and former

Buffaloes standout Chauncey Billups.

They all have their views on the head coaching vacancy after

Bzdelik left to take the head job at Wake Forest.

Colorado’s players are even weighing in on the opening, stumping

for associate head coach Steve McClain to be promoted.

Bohn is taking it all under advisement, assembling his search

committee to help him make the decision. He has no timetable for

filling the vacancy, just a desire to find a coach that can keep

the Buffaloes on the path of improvement.

Before Bzdelik’s departure, Colorado was on the cusp of turning

things around, going 15-16 last season with a win over Baylor and a

near upset of top-ranked Kansas.

“We do have a respect for the importance of trying to move

forward quickly,” Bohn said Wednesday. “But we want to make sure

we get the right coach.”

The players think that coach is already on the bench. In their

view, the hiring of McClain would prevent the splintering of the

team.

Big 12 freshman of the year Alec Burks recently expressed a

strong desire for McClain to get the job. Guard Cory Higgins

reiterated that stance Wednesday.

“It’s no secret, we’ve expressed this to many people,” said

Higgins, whose father, Rod, is the GM of the Charlotte Bobcats.

“We’d like coach McClain to be here. For me, the most important

thing was trying to keep (McClain) here to try to keep everybody

together.”

Might there be a fracturing effect should McClain not get the

position?

“Could be,” Higgins said. “A couple of our players have said

it publicly. That’s something that could very well happen. I hope

it doesn’t. I hope we don’t have to go down that path.”

Even Bzdelik backed McClain at his introductory news conference

in Winston-Salem, N.C., on Wednesday. McClain was brought in by

Bzdelik in 2007 after spending nearly a decade as head coach at

Wyoming.

“I hope so,” Bzdelik said, when asked about McClain stepping

in for him.

Bohn was noncommittal, saying the search was in its early stage.

He does plan to interview McClain, especially since the players are

high on him.

Among the other names popping up are Mike Dunlap, an assistant

coach at Oregon, and Northern Colorado head man Tad Boyle, who led

the Bears to a school-best 25 wins last season.

“Those are both intriguing candidates,” Bohn said. “But I

think it’s premature to talk about any candidate.”

Since the news on Bzdelik’s departure began to surface, Bohn has

been besieged by inquires. He’s taken every call.

Then again, who would turn down an audience with Brown?

“When Larry Brown calls, we like to hear what Larry thinks,”

Bohn said. “We’re trying to make sure we return all the phone

calls, respond to e-mails, do as much intelligence work as

possible.”

Bohn was touched by Karl reaching out to him through a text

message, especially in light of the fact that Karl is battling

throat and neck cancer.

“To hear from George is really awesome,” Bohn said.

It was Billups who first alerted Bohn that Bzdelik may be

leaving, the Nuggets star texting Bohn last Friday that something

could be up.

“Quickly found out there was some validity to it,” Bohn said,

grinning.

Now, he plans to use Billups – who remains the face of Colorado

basketball – as a resource going forward.

“He cares about this program,” Bohn said. “It’s refreshing,

inspiring to us to have that type of individual helping us.”

The uncertainty over the next coach may take a toll on the

Buffaloes in recruiting. Guard Levi Knutson is hoping that’s not

the case.

“It’s going to be hard to get the recruits we want in here,”

he said. “But we’re going to try to keep all of our guys together.

When a coach is named, we have a solid group of guys that have had

some success, so that recruits will want to come join us and have a

successful year.”

The talk around the Buffaloes following the season was the

possibility of making the NCAA tournament next season. They thought

they were on their way.

Bzdelik leaving, however, might put a crimp in those plans.

Higgins said he was “angry” over the situation, especially

going into his final year.

“But you can’t let that affect you,” he said. “I don’t have

time to be angry. I just need to move on.”