After Scott Drew says no, where does Kentucky turn? The 4 best remaining head coach candidates

Kentucky's head coaching search has gotten more difficult as more top candidates say no to the job. The Wildcats aren't getting desperate yet, but there aren't many proven head coaches left in contention.
Baylor Bears head coach Scott Drew
Baylor Bears head coach Scott Drew / John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

Once John Calipari officially left Lexington for Fayetteville, all signs in Kentucky’s coaching search pointed to Baylor’s Scott Drew. Reportedly Drew met with athletic director Mitch Barnhart and Drew’s family visited Lexington to get a feel for the area, but on Thursday morning, it was announced that Drew was staying put in Waco. 

This news comes on the tail of Dan Hurley saying publicly that he plans to remain at UConn to chase his third straight national championship and Alabama’s Nate Oats saying no to the job. So far, it seems that the Kentucky coaching search has gotten a few head coaches a raise at their current school for flirting with the blue-blood job, but has yet to result in Coach Cal’s successor. 

At this point, Kentucky is running out of options. Kentucky needs a proven winner, but there are only seven active head coaches who have a national title on their resume; Bill Self (Kansas), Tom Izzo (Michigan State), Tony Bennett (Virginia), Drew, Hurley, Calipari, and Rick Pitino (St. John’s). 

Self and Izzo are not leaving and Tony Bennett isn’t exactly a desirable candidate anymore. Drew and Hurley have already bowed out of contention, Calipari isn’t turning around, and it would be just a bit complicated to reunite with Pitino. Yet, that could be the best option at this point because there just aren’t many viable options anymore. 

Remaining Kentucky head coach candidates

Rick Pitino, St. John’s

While it could be an interesting reunion, Pitino has shown his coaching chops since returning to college basketball, first turning Iona into a MAAC powerhouse and this past season nearly leading St. John’s to the NCAA Tournament in his first season. Pitino has said recently that he never should have left Kentucky, so it’s clear he’d be interested in coming back. 

Sean Miller, Xavier

Sean Miller was once a rising star in college basketball and over his 12 years at Arizona before he was fired in 2021, he had plenty of success. Miller has resurrected his career back at Xavier and is still on 55 years old with high-major experience. He never brought home a title to Tucscon, but did make three Elite Eight appearances. 

Billy Donovan, Chicago Bulls

Donovan turned Florida into a juggernaut, winning back-to-back national championships in 2006 and 2007, but left for the NBA in 2015. It’s understood that Donovan was tired of the 24/7 nature of recruiting so it’s hard to imagine he’d come back to the college game when it’s done nothing but get more chaotic in the nine years he’s been away. 

Bruce Pearl, Auburn

It still feels like Pearl is on the table as an option for Kentucky. He’s been able to recruit five-star talent to Auburn, but like the Wildcats, the SEC Champion Tigers exited the NCAA Tournament in Round 1. Would Kentucky really consider hiring a head coach who is coming off a loss to Yale? 

Pearl did make a Final Four at Auburn back in 2019 and has the personality to reinvigorate the fanbase.

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