Laing Kennedy's trigger finger is itching already.
Kent State's director of athletics doesn't believe he'll need a terribly long amount of time to find a replacement for men's basketball coach Gary Waters, who accepted a position as head coach at Rutgers last week after leading the Golden Flashes to their second Mid-American Conference Tournament title and NCAA Tournament berth in three years last month.
"I've been wrong before," said Kennedy, from his office on Monday afternoon, "but I think we'll move forward quickly, quite possibly within the next few days."
Shawn Hood, a former player on the stellar Cleveland State teams of the mid-1980s who served as an assistant on the Vikings staff from 1988-94, reportedly visited Kent State's campus on Monday. Hood was an assistant for a Wisconsin club that advanced to the Final Four a year ago under Dick Bennett, then remained on interim coach Brad Soderberg's staff last season after Bennett abruptly retired. Soderberg and his staff were not retained by the Badgers.
Kennedy would not confirm any new candidates on Monday, including Hood, who finished second to Waters in the running for the Kent State job in 1996.
"We are currently reviewing candidates, trying to come up with a short list," said Kennedy. "A couple of people do not want to disclose at this point whether or not they are interested, knowing that it will become public. But I'm confident they'll want to be considered."
Kennedy said he recently consulted Waters about possible replacements.
"I've talked to people that come from some very successful Division I programs," said Kennedy. "Quite remarkably, many of the people I've talked to are the people Gary suggested that I talk to."
The only candidate Kennedy would confirm is Garland Mance, a Detroit native and former standout player at St. Bonaventure from 1990-94 who has served as an assistant with the Flashes for the past six years.
Kennedy met with Mance briefly on Monday.
"Garland said he would like to be a candidate, and at this point he is considered a candidate," said Kennedy.
Mance first joined the Kent State staff under former coach Dave Grube, but was retained by Waters when he took over the program in '96. Since most of the current Flashes were recruited by Mance, they're obviously pulling for him.
"I've had a lot of supportive phone calls the last few days," said Mance. "I think the head coaching job at Kent State is a great opportunity, and I believe I can maintain the level of success that's been established. I'd like to sit down with Laing and discuss the pros and cons of the job, then see where it goes from there."
Other potential candidates include Mike Boyd, an assistant at Penn State for the past five years who actually served as head coach of the Flashes for 16 games in 1978 and later spent six seasons as head coach at Cleveland State; Steve Merfeld, the current head coach at Hampton and a former assistant at Bowling Green; Stan Heath, a current assistant coach at Michigan State; and Rich Walker, a current assistant at Iowa.
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