Thursday’s NIT final between Valparaiso and George Washington may have an unusual subtext to it. Coaches of both teams may be candidates for Georgia Tech’s opening.
Valparaiso coach Bryce Drew and George Washington coach Mike Lonergan are among the more successful mid-major coaches, as their teams’ appearances in the NIT final might suggest. Lonergan has led the Colonials to three consecutive seasons of 22 wins or more and an NCAA appearance in 2014. George Washington is 96-70 in his five seasons (including 73-32 in the past three). The Colonials were 75-73 in the preceding five seasons for former coach Karl Hobbs.
Lonergan was previously at Vermont, where he had four 20-win seasons in six years. He was reportedly a candidate for the openings at Rutgers and Pittsburgh earlier this month.
Drew has been highly successful at Valparaiso, with four regular-season titles in the Horizon League in five seasons and two NCAA appearances. He has been connected with a number of jobs, including Mississippi State last year.
It’s unclear how much either coach would excite athletic director Mike Bobinski. Drew would be making a big jump, and his recruiting base is Chicago (although he has evidently recruited it well). Lonergan’s best finish in the Atlantic 10 thus far was a tie for third in the 2013-14 season, although George Washington is in a pretty tough league with Dayton, VCU and Saint Joseph’s, among others.