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Mid-Major Morning Mashups: The Coaching Carousel Begins Edition

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With the NCAA Tournament still in it's pre-Sweet 16 reprieve and just one NIT game on the schedule (farewell Kent State), the focus turned somewhat to the annual circus that is the college basketball coaching carousel. 

While IUPUI's Ron Hunter fired the first shot with his jump to the CAA with Georgia State, it was Fairfield coach Ed Cooley making the first serious waves when he was pegged to fill the void left by Keno Davis at Providence after the former Drake head coach was fired. It's the feel good story of course as Cooley was born in Providence and has never really strayed from the area with assistant coaching stops at UMass-Dartmouth, Stonehill, Rhode Island and Boston College before taking over as the head man at Fairfield where he 92-69 in five seasons. 

This is a good hire for the Friars, not only because of Cooley's local roots, but he has proven to be a quality coach. The Stags record improved each season under his control, culminating in a 25-8 record and a first place finish in the MAAC this season to go along with a conference coach of the year award. Give it a couple of season and Cooley should have the Friars at least back in the mix in the Big East.

Out west no move has been made, but things are certainly heating up in the coaching search for Utah, with Saint Mary's coach Randy Bennett the name that seems most likely to be leading the Utes in 2012 - at least at this point. 

Follow along after the jump for more on the latest coaching hires and more news leading up to NCAA Tournament action on Thursday.

Kevin McNamara of the Providence Journal: "Ed Cooley is coming home. Cooley, the ex-Central High star who grew up on the tough streets of South Providence, has been hired as the next men's basketball coach at Providence College. A news conference to announce Cooley's hiring is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday at PC's Mullaney Gym and is open to the public. There was no official word on the parameters of Cooley's contract but reached late Tuesday, the new Friar coach could not hide his excitement. Cooley and his representatives met with PC officials on Monday and the two sides came to an agreement fairly quickly. Cooley was at Fairfield on Tuesday morning where he met with the school president and then contacted members of his team later in the day..."Michael and I had been talking for awhile about our program and what we needed to be successful," Driscoll said, "and when we both came up with our top-five candidates, we had several of the same names. After meeting with Father [Brian] Shanley [PC's president] and discussing the criteria he felt was important, Ed's name was at the top of our list."

Mike Sorensen of the Deseret News: "After terminating a coach with no head coaching experience in Jim Boylen, Utah athletics director Chris Hill is unlikely to hire another assistant coach (sorry, Steve Wojciechowski) and also isn't likely to hire a coach with limited head coaching experience like Ray Giacoletti (sorry, Randy Rahe). Although Hill is keeping mum as usual about potential candidates, sources say he is determined to hire a coach who has been a successful Division I coach with success in the NCAA Tournament who also has Western ties. That limits the field considerably, although several coaches fit the bill including BYU's Dave Rose, Randy Bennett of Saint Mary's, Richmond's Chris Mooney (five years at Air Force, one as head coach), ESPN analyst Mark Gottfried (eight years as UCLA assistant before 14 years as head coach) and UNLV coach Lon Kruger (25 seasons as head coach, seven at UNLV). The day Boylen was let go, Hill said he was in no hurry to hire a coach and said it could even go into April. Because a couple of the aforementioned coaches are still playing in the tournament, it will likely be next week before any offers can be made."

Chris Tomasson Special to the Cleveland Plain Dealer: "Well after the final buzzer sounded Tuesday night, a bunch of fans were waiting in the bowels of the Coors Events Center, chanting: "We want Burks. We want Burks." The Kent State Golden Flashes didn't want Alec Burks. But, like it or not, they got him. The sophomore guard, who is projected to be a top-10 pick in June's NBA Draft, scored 25 points to lead Colorado to an 81-74 win over the Golden Flashes in a National Invitation Tournament quarterfinal. Just as Kent State's deepest run ever in the NCAA Tournament came to an end in 2002 one win short of the Final Four, its deepest NIT run ended at the same stage."

Thayer Evans of "The Spiders have once again spun an impressive web in the NCAA tournament. By beating Vanderbilt in the second round, they became the only school to win games as a No. 12, 13, 14 and 15 seed. They have a potential NBA draft pick, forward Justin Harper, and some size, but to upset top-seeded Kansas, they must hope the Jayhawks play down to them. That's not impossible, especially if the Spiders can somehow keep it close entering the game's final minutes. The Jayhawks' late-game struggles cost them under coach Bill Self in previous NCAA tournament losses to other mid-majors like Northern Iowa last year and Bucknell in 2005. If the Spiders pulled the upset, they just could make the Final Four with a potential matchup with Virginia Commonwealth looming in the regional final."

David Woods of the Indianapolis Star: "Do it once, and skeptics are ready to label you a one-hit wonder. Do it again, and disbelief diminishes. Do it again and again and again . . . "There's no difference between a power conference and non-power conference when you talk about Butler," TNT analyst Kenny Smith said last weekend. No. 8 seed Butler (25-9) meets No. 4 seed Wisconsin (25-8) in an NCAA Southeast Regional semifinal Thursday at New Orleans. After a prolonged run, the Bulldogs are losing their mid-major and underdog image in college basketball. Over the past five seasons, Butler's winning percentage (.822) is second only to Kansas (.886). The Bulldogs' three Sweet Sixteen appearances have been exceeded only by Kansas and North Carolina, each with four. "They have great basketball players, a great coach and a great understanding of the game," Smith said. "Don't forget they were in the national championship game last year against Duke University. "So Cinderella? No, they're the prince, waiting on Cinderella."

Tim Pearrell of the Richmond Times-Dispatch: "Smart has used the foundation provided by his mother and his grandfather to promote a family atmosphere with his players and coaches. His staff and managers often play pickup games ("Coach Smart is really intense and competitive, even though he doesn't have a jump shot," forward Jamie Skeen said. "He's strictly a (Rajon) Rondo." At 33, he's close enough in age that his messages about basketball and life resonate on a personal level. "He's more than a coach," said freshman guard Rob Brandenberg, who received a standing ovation in class Tuesday. "He's like a mentor to us. You can talk to him about anything." Smart said his world hasn't changed since VCU waxed vaunted programs Georgetown and Purdue, and put the spotlight on the school and himself. "I still get up in the morning and take a shower, put my pants on the same way, come to work and prepare our guys the best I can, kiss my wife and go to bed," he said."