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Tale of the Tait

Coaching Search 2014: David Beaty emerges as leading candidate; hire could come soon

10:48 a.m. Update:

It looks like the timeline for the the KU coaching hire has moved up drastically and, according to multiple sources, an announcement could come as soon as this afternoon.

It looks as if Texas A&M recruiting coordinator and wide receivers coach David Beaty has emerged as the clear leader for the job and may be named the 38th coach in KU history as soon as this afternoon.

According to a source, the KU assistant coaches were asked to leave the football complex today because someone of some importance was coming through later. According to online flight tracking, there is a plane en route to Lawrence from College Station, Texas.

Beaty was believed to be a strong candidate throughout the process, with his recruiting ties in Texas and past experience at KU giving him two important qualities for the job based on what KU athletic director Sheahon Zenger outlined as key factors before the search fully began.

Beaty, 43, worked on the staff of Mark Mangino at Kansas from 2008-09 and for one year under Turner Gill in 2011.

According to USA Today, he made $359,500 at A&M in 2013. He is expected to make at least twice as much as that plus incentives at KU.

Stay tuned for more updates as this story develops.

Original post, 9:39 a.m.:

It's Friday, and we've now had a full week of coaching search speculation and banter while Kansas University athletic director Sheahon Zenger has had a full week to conduct phone interviews and narrow down his list of candidates to replace Charlie Weis.

From what I've been able to gather, it sounds like this thing is close to wrapping up but that does not necessarily mean there's a clear No. 1 or No. 2 choice, just that they've done a fair amount of narrowing down candidates and are in position to conduct final interviews and use those to make their decision.

I think it's safe to say that between 7-12 coaches (perhaps one or two more) went through phone interviews with Zenger and members of the search committee this week — a couple are probably still doing that today — and I'm guessing that four or five of those will get an in-person interview, which could begin as soon as Sunday night but most likely will take place Monday and Tuesday.

There appears to be the sense that this thing could wrap up even before next Friday, but that, of course, depends upon how the in-person interviews go and assumes that no other new candidates join the party. It's hard to know whether that will happen, but it certainly could. As I was told from the beginning, the search committee would not be opposed to 11th-hour interest, provided it came from the right candidate.

It seems Clint Bowen, David Beaty, Tim Beck and Ed Warinner will get interviews. That has been reflected in the percentage wheel throughout this process. I still think there could be another serious contender or two involved here, but I've had a hard time pinpointing who that might be. If that's the case, it's most likely a sitting head coach, but my money would be on it being a name we might not have heard much, if at all, during the past week. In short, I don't think it's Willie Fritz, Bo Pelini, Jerry Kill or any of those other names you've all heard throughout this process.

I'm still working the phones to try to see if any of my sources have heard any other names pop up, so stay tuned throughout the day for updates, if available.

While we wait, let's look at a few of the factors that I think will be crucial during the interview process and probably already were during the round of phone interviews. Generally speaking, the second interview becomes an extended version of what already took place over the phone. I heard the phone interviews were around an hour, but you can bet the in-person interviews will be three times that long, if not longer.

• One thing I think the committee will really want to hear is who each candidate believes it can bring in as part of its coaching staff. This, obviously, is not a guarantee, but it's pretty common for guys who have head coaching aspirations to have an idea of who they'd like to have on their staff and many of them have even had conversations with these guys in the past. Something like, 'Hey, if I were to get this job or that job would you come with me as my OC?' They don't have to have signed contracts at the ready during the interviews, but I think one of the advantages of having a committee here is that you get several different opinions and reads on how confident a candidate is in the staff he could put together based on how he tells you who it might be.

• Another huge aspect is each coach's recruiting plan. This goes beyond just saying, “We'd hit Texas pretty hard” and stuff like that, and includes information on the types of kids and players they'd go after along with the crucial territories and any plans for how to make recruiting Kansas a priority and how to handle walk-ons.

• The committee also is going to want to hear about general football philosophies. For example, if a guy comes in and talks about running a pro style offense, he probably won't be seen in the most favorable light. But this step goes beyond just talking about offensive and defensive schemes. The committee also will want to hear how each candidate plans and expects to compete as a heavy underdog in a tough conference and how they would plan to narrow the gap between KU and the rest of the Big 12.

• Another important element of the interview could be to provide a detailed plan for how practices would be run. Again, the candidates probably won't have to go as far as drawing up a complete daily practice schedule — though that probably wouldn't hurt and a couple of guys probably will — but the committee surely will want to hear how practices will be run, what the tone of practices will be like and those on the committee familiar with how things ran under Turner Gill and Weis surely will compare what they hear in interviews to what they saw during the past four or five seasons. Clearly, what's been done in the recent past hasn't worked.

Don't get me wrong, I think the interviews will be very important because they'll allow the committee to get a real, live feel for the confidence, comfort-level and charisma of each candidate. But I don't think this is a deal where a guy can win the job simply by hitting a home run in the interview.

If this committee has done its job, which it seems is the case, then its members have talked to all kinds of people about each one of the candidates and done extensive background checks on each of them, involving everything from football to family to philosophy.

I think that may be why this search has gone at the pace that it has. After back-to-back swings and misses with the past two head coaches, they cannot take anything for granted this time around. And that has way more to do with the overall good of the program and the university than it does just for Zenger and his future.

Having said all of that, my latest percentage wheel has not changed much at all from yesterday morning. I know people expect Warinner to move up on my list, but, even with him coming in for an interview, I'm leaving him where he's been all along for now based on what I've been hearing.

If there's an 11th-hour candidate, that will certainly change things, but, as of now, it seems like Bowen and Beaty are the front-runners and pretty close at the top. It could come down to the interviews and whether Beaty gets an offer. If he does, I think he takes it. If not, I think it's Bowen.

Here's a look:

1. Clint Bowen 34%
1. David Beaty 34%
3. Other 22%
4. Ed Warinner 5%
5. Tim Beck 5%

Stay logged on to KUsports.com throughout the day for any news or updates that may come our way…

Reply 32 comments from Table_rock_jayhawk Glen Cody Riedy Kingfisher Nebraskanjayhawk8 Randy Bombardier Jim Jackson Hawknhutch Kent Gaylor Bruce Bertsch and 5 others

Coaching Search 2014: Another hypothetical example of the trickle-down effect

1:44 p.m. update:

There was a Tweet out there — isn't there always? — that said that the KU job had been offered to Ohio State assistant coach Ed Warinner.

I talked to plenty of sources today, both before and after the Tweet, who said no offer has been made and that KU athletic director Sheahon Zenger and the search committee were still in the process of trimming down their list and identifying the finalists.

Warinner may very well be in that group and there have been reports that said he was one of the guys who participated in the phone interview with members of the committee this week, but reports of an offer having been made to anybody are definitely premature.

I've been told from the very beginning that Warinner would likely get a chance to interview. That has not changed and he may well be one of the final few guys who gets a face-to-face interview with Zenger and company next week. Time will tell.

Stay tuned for the latest from the search, which is starting to catch some heat given how quickly Florida and Nebraska filled their openings. None of that should matter to KU, though, other than in the obvious way that the openings at Colorado State and Oregon State could impact what KU's doing.

Original post: 9:30 a.m.

It's a little early for an update but I was able to get on the phones a little quicker today and found out a few interesting tidbits that might impact the KU coaching search.

The first has to do with Texas A&M offensive coordinator Jake Spavital, who, according to a report from the Houston Chronicle recently interviewed for the head coach opening at Tulsa, which is his hometown.

The news of Spavital's interview was first reported by KRIV-TV and confirmed by the Tulsa World.

According to a couple of people I've talked with, it sounds very likely that Spavital will get that Tulsa job, which, obviously, would leave open the OC job at A&M. That's where things get interesting for Kansas and for two very different reasons.

  1. If Spavital leaves, one could make a case for Beaty being the obvious choice to replace him as the Aggies OC and that could come with a significant raise and be enticing enough to make him pull his name from contention for the KU job.

  2. On the opposite end of the spectrum, if Spavital leaves and A&M coach Kevin Sumlin chooses to put someone other than Beaty into the OC job, it would open up some questions as to why Beaty was passed over a second time for that OC job. When talking about Beaty as an option for the KU job, many have said it would be hard enough to envision KU hiring someone who's not even a current coordinator, but wouldn't the hire be even more difficult to sell with a guy who keeps getting passed up?

It's things like this that make the whole timeline of this hire very critical. The more these other moves happen around KU, the more possible it is that they impact the KU job. That's not to say each instance has a direct effect on what KU is actually doing, but, in the coaching world — especially as far as the fans and media are involved — perception is almost as important as reality.

And it's things like this that leave me believing Clint Bowen still has a very good shot of getting this job.

Here's a look:

1. Clint Bowen – 38%
2. David Beaty – 30%
3. Other – 23%
4. Ed Warinner — 5%
5. Tim Beck — 4%

Stay logged on to KUsports.com for more updates throughout the day.

Reply 127 comments from Raprichard RXDOC Terran Woolley Bob Stuber Jack Joiner Michael Lorraine Kingfisher Ted Toulouse Titus Canby Swishymcjayhawk and 43 others

Coaching Search 2014: Could elite openings elsewhere be a factor?

Kansas interim head football coach Clint Bowen looks out over the stadium as the rain comes down prior to kickoff against Oklahoma on Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014 at Memorial Stadium in Norman, Oklahoma.

Kansas interim head football coach Clint Bowen looks out over the stadium as the rain comes down prior to kickoff against Oklahoma on Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014 at Memorial Stadium in Norman, Oklahoma. by Nick Krug

When covering a coaching search, it's important to keep in mind the entire college football landscape because what happens one place with one opening can impact what happens at another in a hurry.

That's certainly true at Kansas University and has been during each of the past two searches the Jayhawks had for a head football coach.

I've spent parts of the past couple of days looking back at our coverage of the search in 2011 and it brought back some serious memories, a couple of headaches and a few laughs.

One of the things that stood out the most, though, were the jobs that were open last time and how, at the time, it seemed like some pretty big-time gigs.

Texas A&M, UCLA, Mississippi, Arizona State, Washington State, North Carolina and Illinois all had openings at the time Kansas did, and all of them looked to be pretty heavy hitters with whom KU had to compete. The funny thing about that list is it pales in comparison to the jobs that are open this time around.

Florida, Michigan and Nebraska all are looking for head football coaches right now, and, as if those three don't carry enough weight on their own, a few smaller schools, which might actually be trying to pick from the same candidate pool as Kansas (like it or not) also have openings. These include Tulsa, UNLV, Montana and SMU, which already has filled its opening with Clemson assistant Chad Morris.

Although there was more crossover between candidates at Kansas and other schools the last time around, it seems like jumping on their guy a little faster this time around might be a good move for the Jayhawks. When the dominoes start to fall with the big three, the trickle-down effect could impact KU's search in a big way and create unnecessary headaches for Sheahon Zenger and company.

The good news for KU here is that the top names that appear to be in the hunt for the Kansas job do not appear to be options for the big three. If they were, Kansas would be in trouble and likely would have to look elsewhere anyway.

The reason for KU to try to get its deal done before those schools do is because of the potential fallout from a hire by the big dogs. Let's say Michigan hired Brett Bielema away from Arkansas. (Yes, Bielema was in Lawrence on Wednesday but only to visit with and extend an offer to Lawrence High football standout Amani Bledsoe).

Bielema's departure would leave an opening at Arkansas, which could be filled by someone like Justin Fuente, of Memphis. Even though it seems like Fuente is pretty much out of the mix for the KU job, his departure would leave the Memphis job open and that could be appealing to any number of candidates involved with Kansas.

It's a bit of a paranoid way to look at things, but wouldn't that just be KU's luck to finally identify a guy they feel is a good option only to see him plucked away by someone else for more money or a better chance to win right away?

Last time around, when Tom Keegan and I were ranking the job openings from most appealing to least, it was tough to put KU anywhere other than the bottom. This time around, even though those three big-boy jobs are in a different stratosphere, the Kansas opening at least appears to be a middle-of-the-pack gig relative to what's available.

Anyway, it doesn't seem like timing will be an issue here. I still think this thing wraps up mid-to-late next week. And I still think the names who were on my percentage wheel last night are the most likely names KU will go with.

I made a few more calls today and got a little more input on the situation. Nothing earth-shattering, but enough to move the needle a little bit. The order of today's percentage wheel has not changed much, but the values have.

Here's a look:

1. David Beaty – 35%
2. Clint Bowen – 31%
3. Other – 20%
4. Tim Beck — 9%
5. Ed Warinner — 5%

______

• As you can see, the gap between Bowen and Beaty has narrowed a little bit (at least in my mind) and I think Bowen is still very much alive in this thing. This may seem obvious, but it really could all come down to how Bowen handles the formal interview, whenever that takes place. Sometime early next week seems likely. It's obvious that Bowen has some pretty good support among KU folks and Zenger has seen what he can do with the team, in the locker room and on the sideline. So those things are all known already. What is not completely known by Zenger and the search committee is the breadth and quality of Bowen's vision for how to rebuild KU — although I do know they've had general talks about this topic during the past few months. Answers to questions about his staff, his recruiting plans and things of that nature could be crucial and Bowen may have to be nearly perfect in there to get his shot. If he is and if he's able to really impress Zenger, it could still be him.

• I went ahead and took Fuente off of the wheel completely because I had heard that whatever interest there may have been between Fuente and Kansas had cooled during the past couple of days and he's working on a new deal at Memphis. Here's what Memphis AD Tom Bowen (no relation) said in a recent statement:

“Our administration has been working proactively with Coach Fuente and his representatives on a new contract for several weeks. He has been very engaged and deeply appreciative throughout the process. We are very close to finalizing an agreement and look forward to making a formal announcement at an appropriate time. (We) are extremely excited about continuing to build the Memphis Football program under Fuente’s leadership."

Fuente also commented on the rumors surrounding his candidacy for various jobs during an interview on The Geoff Calkins Show earlier this week:

“Making absurd, definitive statements, in my opinion, is not the smart way to go,” Fuente said. “If something where there’s mutual interest comes along, then I’ll visit with them and we’ll think about it, measure everything out and make a calculated decision. But the thing I would say is I have a lot of sweat equity invested in this program. I have a lot of pride in what we’ve done. We have a fantastic coaching staff. I think we have a great support system to truly build a football program. So it’d have to be something pretty special for me to even look at it.”

• One thing someone pointed out to me that could be relevant if KU were to hire Beaty is that, although his recruiting ties in Texas would be huge, he would not actually be the guy able to recruit the state as much as his assistants because of the rules for how much head coaches can be on the road. Sure, he would be able to get out there and talk to kids and parents, but I don't think he'd be able to put in the same number of hours and visits as his assistants. Head coaches are allowed just one in-school visit with prospects and college programs are allowed a maximum of six in-person, off-campus visits with each prospect from Dec. 1 to Feb. 1, with the month-long dead period basically running during winter break. Such factors would make the staff Beaty brings to KU even more key. Something to consider with that is how well those guys — whoever they are — would know and/or be able to sell Kansas compared to Bowen and the staff he might put together. That's clearly not a make or break either way, just something I hadn't really thought of.

• More tomorrow as we do our best to stay on top of the situation and reach out to as many sources as we can to try to gain some insight into what direction KU might go with this hire.

Stay tuned….

Reply 45 comments from Logan Johnson Kyle Sybesma Randy Bombardier Erich Hartmann Brandon Avey Jay Hawkinson Bob Stuber Cody Riedy Texashawk10_2 Swishymcjayhawk and 13 others

Is the Big 12 really rooting for Missouri football this weekend? You bet.

All right, so the Kansas University football season is officially over and all of the attention around here seems to be on the coaching search that is heating up by the minute and figures to take a few wild twists and turns in the next 10 days or so.

But just because the Jayhawks are done playing football does not mean college football is over. Far from it, in fact. Even for the most die-hard KU fans.

After all, with this being championship weekend and so many different games having all kinds of playoff implications, it might be fun to sit back and watch a little football without having a dog in the fight.

The biggest game on the Big 12 radar, without question, is Kansas State at Baylor. The winner guarantees itself at least a share of the Big 12 title and could, with a TCU loss to Iowa State — however shocking that would be — win the title outright.

For Baylor, the game looms large because a strong victory over K-State could be the statement win the Bears need to convince the college football playoff committee that they should be included in college football's first ever final four instead of TCU, which has maintained a slight lead over BU in the standings despite having lost to Baylor earlier this season for the Horned Frogs' only loss.

That's as much at the center of the national conversation regarding college football as any other game this week and is a big reason that ESPN chose to go to Waco, Texas, for Gameday instead of going to one of the true championship games in the ACC (Georgia Tech vs. Florida State), Big Ten (Ohio State vs. Wisconsin), Pac-12 (Oregon vs. Arizona) or SEC (Alabama vs. Missouri).

Is there a way that both TCU and Baylor could get into that final four? Sure. It might be a bit of a long shot, but it would be one of the most incredible scenarios for the Big 12 Conference. Here's why:

Oregon (10-1) and Florida State (11-0) seem to be in pretty good shape and will both be in without question if they win their title tilts. Let's say that were to happen. The only way that Baylor and TCU then would both be able to get in would be for Alabama (10-1) to lose. And who would Alabama have to lose to? Yep, former Big 12 member Missouri, which sits at 9-2 entering the SEC title game.

Go figure. All of a sudden, after a couple of years of not worrying a lick about them, the Big 12 is suddenly rooting like mad for Missouri again. As much as it seems like that might sting the Big 12, it actually stands to hurt the Tigers more. See, if Missouri wins, that could conceivably keep the mighty SEC out of the playoff picture altogether, which not only would eliminate the conference's title hopes but also would cost each member of the SEC some money.

In that scenario, Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi State and Missouri all would have two losses. Auburn and Ole Miss already each have three. Sure, the Tigers would be the champs of the SEC, but would the committee really put a two-loss Missouri team — with home losses to Indiana and Georgia, no less — in the final four ahead of a host of one-loss teams? Never say never, but the smart money is on no way.

With a win over Wisconsin, Ohio State could crash the party, but, with TCU already in and Baylor picking up momentum from a victory over a Top 10 opponent, the two Big 12 teams could stay ahead of the Buckeyes.

So there ya go. Plenty of reason to pay attention to college football this weekend, even though the Jayhawks are done playing.

I know how most of you KU fans work and I know it's tough to ask you to root for Missouri in anything. But if you're pro-Big 12 and would like to see two of the nine teams that beat Kansas stay alive for the national title — not to mention see a little more cash come to the KU athletic department — you'll do just that and do it with joy of knowing that even a Mizzou victory would actually wind up hurting the Tigers in the long run.

Good luck with your decision and enjoy what promises to be a great weekend of college football.

Reply 47 comments from Dirk Medema Rockn_chalkn_ku Andrew Horigan John Boyle Lcjayhawk Plasticjhawk Sean Swindler Michael Lorraine Joe Ross Allison Steen and 20 others

Coaching Search 2014: There’s a new No. 1 on the updated percentage wheel

Kansas University wide receivers coach David Beaty, right, delivers instructions to KU wideout D.J. Beshears on April 18 at the KU practice field. Beaty rejoined the Jayhawks’ staff after serving as offensive coordinator at Rice last season.

Kansas University wide receivers coach David Beaty, right, delivers instructions to KU wideout D.J. Beshears on April 18 at the KU practice field. Beaty rejoined the Jayhawks’ staff after serving as offensive coordinator at Rice last season. by Kevin Anderson

When Charlie Weis was fired on Sept. 28 and this whole Kansas University football coaching search first got rolling — the third such endeavor by KU since 2009 — there was one name that I always used to answer the question, “So who's gonna be the next coach?”

It might be time to put that name back at the top of the list.

Based on what I learned from a handful of conversations I had throughout the day Tuesday, I'm elevating Texas A&M assistant coach David Beaty to the No. 1 spot in my percentage wheel.

Here's a look:

1. David Beaty – 37%
2. Clint Bowen – 25%
3. Other – 16%
4. Justin Fuente – 10%
5. Tim Beck – 7%
6. Ed Warinner – 5%

As you already know — and many of you have so kindly pointed out — this does not mean Beaty is absolutely the guy or even in the lead or anything like that. The percentage wheel merely keeps tabs on what I think might happen and it's sounding a little more likely by the day that Beaty could be the guy the Jayhawks wind up with as the 38th head coach in program history.

If that's the case, the Jayhawks certainly would be making a solid hire.

I knew Beaty briefly during both of his stints as the KU wide receivers coach — once under Mark Mangino (2008-09) and again in 2011 under Turner Gill — and I liked everything about the guy.

He's a good guy. He's genuine. There's not an ounce of phoniness to him and he has incredible people skills, with the ability to relate to people from all walks of life, from a 16-year-old three-star recruit to a 72-year-old millionaire donor and everyone in between. He's one of those guys who seems to call everyone “partner” and finds a way to make them it when he does. Some might even say the Texas version of Bill Self, personality-wise, at least.

His recruiting ties throughout Texas are already well documented — he's a native of Garland, Texas and worked at four different Texas high schools from 1994-2005 — but it's probably worth noting that he has the deepest ties in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, which has been a hotbed for Kansas during the past decade and definitely will continue to be so into the future.

Beaty owns a highly intense personality, one that's rooted in down-home goodness and having fun. That's not to say he's a pushover. Not by any means. In fact, his receivers at Kansas always talked about how demanding he was and that he emphasized that they do all of the little things right — particularly with regard to blocking — and often did not accept anything less than perfection. At the same time, he respected them enough to make them feel appreciated and knew how to reward their solid efforts.

A lot has been made about Beaty being “the next Art Briles,” but that's a lot of pressure to put on one guy given the fact that many believe Briles is as good as they come in the college football coaching profession these days. The reason that probably comes up so often is because Beaty was a successful high school coach in Texas and followed that success to the college ranks, where he's done well both as a position coach and a recruiter.

One former Big 12 assistant I spoke to about Beaty said he believed without hesitation that Beaty was ready to make the leap to the head coach's office and added that if that's who the Jayhawks end up hiring they will have made a very quality hire.

In 2010, Beaty was the offensive coordinator at Rice and he held the co-offensive coordinator title during his second stint at Kansas under Gill while coaching wide receivers at both schools. He's been the A&M receivers coach for three years and is in his second season as A&M's recruiting coordinator.

It's possible there was some hope early on that KU might be able to convince Beaty to come to Lawrence as the offensive coordinator, but I'm betting A&M would step up and battle to keep him if that were the only offer on the table. If KU offers him the head coaching job, there's probably not much Kevin Sumlin could do to make A&M sound more appealing than that.

Former Kansas receivers coach David Beaty, right, will return to the KU coaching staff in 2011.

Former Kansas receivers coach David Beaty, right, will return to the KU coaching staff in 2011.

• As you can see, I've also added former Nebraska offensive coordinator Tim Beck to the percentage wheel after being told not to sleep on the guy during this search and removed Matt Wells from the list.

• As for the one removal, I didn't hear much, good or bad, when asking around about Wells on Tuesday and I also noticed that Jon Kirby over at JayhawkSlant.com was planning to remove him from his board.

• I don't think Clint Bowen is done at this point. That's why he's still in the No. 2 spot on the percentage wheel. But his best shot right now seems to be if one or two other guys pass or remove themselves from contention. Let's say Beaty elects to stay at A&M (perhaps with a raise and a new title) and Fuente waits for a better job to come open to make his leap. If that were to happen, I think Bowen would be the guy.

• There's always the chance that someone new could enter the picture and that's why I've got "Other" up there so high still. All of that 11th hour talk that I heard on Sunday was pretty interesting.

• It's still early, but this thing seems to be moving pretty quickly. That makes sense because of all of that prep time Sheahon Zenger, Chuck Neinas and company had as the season played out and, it also makes sense because KU would be smart to move as fast as possible given the fact that big-time jobs Florida, Michigan and Nebraska are all open at the same time and what goes on there and the trickle-down effect that would follow could impact Kansas if they wait around too long.

Stay tuned…

Reply 107 comments from Allison Steen Texashawk10_2 Michael Lorraine Randy Bombardier Kingfisher Onlyoneuinkansas Lcjayhawk Plasticjhawk Stupidmichael Houtexhawk and 32 others

The Day After: Three victories in four days for KU hoops

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) pumps his fist after a bucket and a Michigan State foul during the first half on Sunday, Nov. 30, 2014 at the HP Field House in Kissimmee, Florida.

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) pumps his fist after a bucket and a Michigan State foul during the first half on Sunday, Nov. 30, 2014 at the HP Field House in Kissimmee, Florida. by Nick Krug

The Kansas Unviersity men's basketball team picked up some Orlando Classic hardware over the holiday weekend, with three victories in three days over Rhode Island, Tennessee and No. 20 Michigan State.

More important than anything that will end up in KU's trophy case, however, was the chance for the Jayhawks to play big-time minutes together in a short period of time, which allowed the players to bond, the coaches to feel out what they've got and the product as a whole to look a lot different — and better — than it did in the week that led up to the early-season tournament.

Kansas was sharp in many different ways during its three victories, with different players stepping up at different times and different aspects of the Jayhawks' style coming through at the exact right times. Perhaps more important than any of that was the fact that the tournament title came with victories over three pretty good teams. That experience and the confidence that comes from it, no doubt will do wonders for this team as it continues to grow and come together.

Quick takeaway

Don't get me wrong, winning three games in four days against good competition is no easy feat, but, the way I see it, the best thing for the KU men's basketball program is that the victories came without the Jayhawks playing their best basketball. They were plenty good, of course. And a couple of individuals — namely Perry Ellis, Frank Mason and Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk — delivered pretty solid performances day in and day out, but, for the most part, the Jayhawks still showed some room to improve in plenty of areas. Most notable among them were KU's transition offense, freshmen still trying to find their way. It's early, so that's to be expected. But if/when the Jayhawks start to put those things together and stack them upon their already solid foundation, this team has a chance to be scary good.

Kansas forward Landen Lucas (33) and forward Perry Ellis look to smother a shot from Tennessee forward Armani Moore (4) during the first half on Friday, Nov. 28, 2014 at the HP Field House in Kissimmee, Florida.

Kansas forward Landen Lucas (33) and forward Perry Ellis look to smother a shot from Tennessee forward Armani Moore (4) during the first half on Friday, Nov. 28, 2014 at the HP Field House in Kissimmee, Florida. by Nick Krug

Three reasons to smile

1 – It may still change, but it sure looks like Bill Self has figured out his starting lineup. Frank Mason, Wayne Selden, Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk, Perry Ellis and Landen Lucas have been pretty solid together to start games and they bring different styles and skills that really complement one another while allowing Self to still leave plenty of firepower on the bench. I've been skeptical of Lucas' role on this team, but if he plays all season like he played in Orlando, his role will be there and it will be important.

Kansas forward Perry Ellis (34) delivers a put-back dunk over Rhode Island forward Jarelle Reischel (2) during the first half on Thursday, Nov. 27, 2014 at the HP Field House in Kissimmee, Florida.

Kansas forward Perry Ellis (34) delivers a put-back dunk over Rhode Island forward Jarelle Reischel (2) during the first half on Thursday, Nov. 27, 2014 at the HP Field House in Kissimmee, Florida. by Nick Krug

2 – Forget Perry Ellis' actual numbers. They were great. But forget that he averaged 19 points and 9 rebounds in the three wins in Orlando and focus more on how he got them. Ellis was aggressive throughout all three games and he attacked the rim, scored in a variety of ways and operated with an attitude that Self has been looking for for quite some time — the mindset that when the ball comes off the rim on the opponent's end, Ellis should have as much right to the ball as anyone on the floor. That was, by far, the most impressive part of Ellis' MVP performance in Orlando and if he can keep that up and perhaps even improve upon it — and there's no reason to think he won't now that he's done it and seen the reward — Ellis is going to be even more of a nightmare for KU's opponents than people already thought.

Kansas guard Frank Mason pulls away a rebound during the second half against Tennessee on Friday, Nov. 28, 2014 at the HP Field House in Kissimmee, Florida.

Kansas guard Frank Mason pulls away a rebound during the second half against Tennessee on Friday, Nov. 28, 2014 at the HP Field House in Kissimmee, Florida. by Nick Krug

3 – Plenty was made about Frank Mason's 10 rebounds in the victory over Michigan State, but this was not just a one-game thing. Mason was great on the boards all weekend and, at 5-foot-11, brings something to the floor that very few people expect. KU's starting point guard has ripped down 24 rebounds and ranks as the team's fourth leading rebounding, just one board behind Jamari Traylor. It's easy for guards to want to leak out and get going toward the offensive end when shots go up, but Mason clearly does not think that way. He almost always stays back to crash the defensive glass and the Jayhawks are better because of it.

Three reasons to sigh

1 – It's no secret that freshman Kelly Oubre is still trying to figure things out. It's also no secret that KU is just six games into the season and people should probably let him do just that. Still, Oubre struggled in Orlando and continued to look lost out there at times. He moves as if he's thinking about every step and has not yet allowed himself to play free and loose, which has even created problems for him as an offensive player, which was supposed to be his strength coming into college. Oubre was not the only one who looked a little lost last weekend. Jamari Traylor also had plenty of forgettable moments, most of them coming in the form of those 'Why did he just do that?' or 'Did he really just do that?' plays that cause you to forget how athletic and powerful he is and force you to wonder where his mind is at times?

Tennessee players celebrate  a charge from Kansas forward Jamari Traylor during the second half on Friday, Nov. 28, 2014 at the HP Field House in Kissimmee, Florida.

Tennessee players celebrate a charge from Kansas forward Jamari Traylor during the second half on Friday, Nov. 28, 2014 at the HP Field House in Kissimmee, Florida. by Nick Krug

2 – When Wayne Selden went scoreless in KU's 27-point win over Rider earlier this season, KU coach Bill Self barely blinked because Selden finished with nine assists, made a conscious effort to get others involved and took just four shots. Still, Self said there probably can't be too many games in the future where the team's starting two guard goes scoreless. Selden was not scoreless against Michigan State — he hit 5 of 6 free throws — but he did miss all 10 shots he attempted and, at this point, that has to be at least minor cause for concern. So far this season, Selden is hitting just 27 percent of his shots (13-of-49) and has struggled to finish in the paint and from distance (he's just 5-of-19 from three-point range). It's not time to panic yet, but it's obvious that coming up empty is bothering Selden and the longer this goes the more it becomes a concern.

Kansas guard Wayne Selden Jr. (1) gets airborne before pinning a layup by Michigan State guard Travis Trice (20) against the backboard for a block during the second half on Sunday, Nov. 30, 2014 at the HP Field House in Kissimmee, Florida.

Kansas guard Wayne Selden Jr. (1) gets airborne before pinning a layup by Michigan State guard Travis Trice (20) against the backboard for a block during the second half on Sunday, Nov. 30, 2014 at the HP Field House in Kissimmee, Florida. by Nick Krug

3 – He played through it and claimed to be fine, but the lingering shoulder issues plaguing freshman point guard Devonte' Graham are not exactly great news. Graham played just 27 minutes all weekend and had at least a couple of moments where he got hit or tweaked the shoulder that caused KU fans to hold their breaths. KU has the depth to weather an injury like this, but, more for Graham's sake, you have to wonder just how bad it is and how long it will stick around.

Kansas guard Devonte Graham (4) tosses a pass as he is defended by Rhode Island guard E.C. Matthews (0) and guard Jarvis Garrett (1) during the second half on Thursday, Nov. 27, 2014 at the HP Field House in Kissimmee, Florida.

Kansas guard Devonte Graham (4) tosses a pass as he is defended by Rhode Island guard E.C. Matthews (0) and guard Jarvis Garrett (1) during the second half on Thursday, Nov. 27, 2014 at the HP Field House in Kissimmee, Florida. by Nick Krug

One for the road

KU's championship-game victory over Michigan State:

· Made the Jayhawks 5-1 for the third straight season and the 10th time in Bill Self's 12 seasons at Kansas.

· Brought KU to a 45-26 record against ranked teams in the Bill Self era and 1-1 against top-25 squads this season.

· Cut Michigan State’s lead in the all-time series to 6-5 and snapped KU’s three-game losing streak to the Spartans.

· Improved Kansas to 3-1 this season in games played at neutral sites.

· Improved Self to 5-6 against Michigan State, 330-70 at Kansas and 537-175 overall.

· Pushed KU’s in-season tournament record to 35-6 under Self.

· Made KU's all-time record 2,131-823.  

Next up

After a few days off early in the week, the Jayhawks will return to action at home on Friday, when they take on Florida at 8 p.m. Think about this: By Friday night, Self will have squared off against John Calipari, Tom Izzo and Billy Donovan in the first seven games of the 2014-15 season. You gotta love college hoops.

By the Numbers: Kansas beats Michigan State, 61-56, to win the Orlando Classic

By the Numbers: Kansas beats Michigan State, 61-56, to win the Orlando Classic

By the Numbers: Kansas beats Tennessee, 82-67, in Orlando Classic semifinals

By the Numbers: Kansas beats Tennessee, 82-67, in Orlando Classic semifinals

By the numbers: Kansas beats Rhode Island 76-60 in first round of Orlando Classic

By the numbers: Kansas beats Rhode Island 76-60 in first round of Orlando Classic by KUsports.com graphic

Reply 9 comments from Darwin Dandy Glen Texashawk10_2 Erich Hartmann Jayhawkmarshall Matt Tait Chris Spangenburg

Coaching Search 2014: News, nuggets and nonsense as things heat up

Here's the latest info I'm hearing about the KU coaching search, which, without a doubt, has turned up a notch during the past several days now that the end of the 2014 season has arrived.

If you'll recall from previous interviews we did with KU athletic director Sheahon Zenger, this week is about phone interviews and lining up the list of finalists for what figures to be a serious few days next week.

No word on exactly how many guys will be involved in this week's phone interviews, but the safe guess is in the 12-15 range (probably no more than 20), with the ideal goal being to narrow that list down to 5 or so by the end of the week so things can get serious next week.

I've been told that there is a chance that new candidates could get involved at the 11th hour — many believed that's what happened with Weis, but Zenger told me at one point after Weis was hired that the former Notre Dame coach was on the radar from the outset during the last hire — but given the fact that Zenger, the search committee and consultant Chuck Neinas have had weeks to get their ducks in a row, it would have to be a pretty amazing candidate to get involved in this process so late.

Anyway, as I mentioned on Twitter, I spent a good chunk of Sunday on the phone talking to sources and trying to find out where this whole thing is at, and here's a few quick nuggets along with a little word association game with some of the more well-known names believed to be in the mix.

Take it with a grain of salt, because until we're able to hear from Zenger himself, there's no telling what's true and what's not, plus, as you've seen before, things can change in a hurry with these coaching searches.

• I've been told that there are a few players who are projected returning starters who would consider leaving KU if Clint Bowen is not hired as the head coach. Such threats pop up everywhere during almost every coaching transition and cooler heads often prevail, but this one may have legs given how passionate this roster is about playing for Bowen. It might not get to that, and even if it does, a few of these guys could change their minds. But the names I'm hearing are pretty significant players.

• There's so much talk out there about how much KU could and/or would pay for its next head coach and that dollar value is a little fluid. If the right guy came along, Zenger surely would look at paying a little more than is ideal. Similarly, if the right guy could be had for a bargain price, don't expect Zenger to overpay him just to make the job seem better than it is. That's exactly what happened with Turner Gill and it was a big-time mistake. He should've never been paid $2 million with resume. He likely would've come for half that, since his Buffalo salary was $450,000. All that said, I think the number Zenger would like to settle on is in the $800,000-$1 million range with some hefty incentives added in. There are a lot of good coaches who could be had for that price and, perhaps more importantly, setting it there could weed out some of the guys just looking for a money grab. Remember, Zenger is one of the lowest paid AD's in the Big 12 and that doesn't stop him from working as hard as the others.

• When word broke that Will Muschamp was out at Florida and Bo Pelini was out at Nebraska, KU fans — and many others — jumped on both names as potential hires for the Jayhawks. Don't count on it. I've been told that Muschamp's ties to Florida, which is where Kansas got Weis, hurt his chances, and, as of Sunday night, there had been no contact between Pelini and KU of any kind. That could change, of course, and, if Pelini were to show interest in the job, it seems KU would gladly have a conversation with him. Think of it as Bruce Weber being hired by Kansas State in basketball. A few years ago, when Weber had Illinois rolling and before Bob Huggins and Frank Martin breathed life into the KSU program, a guy like Weber would've never been within reach for the Wildcats. But things happened, the timing was right and K-State landed a solid coach they may not otherwise have had a shot to get. All that said, I'd bet against Pelini coming to KU, largely because of his less-than-friendly reputation and how that might go over with the fans and big donors.

• Along those same lines, and philosophically speaking, I don't think the fact that those guys were fired is what hurts their chances. Hiring a guy who recently was fired seems to be a non-issue with this search, provided it's the right guy.

• One last thing regarding Pelini and the Nebraska job…. The more openings like that the pop up the more the KU pool of candidates gets watered down. That's not to say that the Cornhuskers and Jayhawks would be going after the same guys — that's probably not the case at all — but let's say Nebraska hired a guy like Justin Fuente from Memphis or Scott Frost out of Oregon. The replacements for those guys could be in KU's pool and could impact the hire here. One thing KU has going for it in that regard is the timeline. I still think this thing will be wrapped up sometime next week given the fact that Zenger & Company have had the advantage of that nine-week headstart.

• OK.... Let's finish this update off with a little 10-words-or-less exercise on some of the guys believed to be in the mix. DISCLAIMER: Clearly, this is not everyone who might be involved in this process, just a few of the names who have been thrown around most often.

~ David Beaty – Texas ties have him very much in the hunt
~ Tim Beck – Some concern about what Pelini firing does to him
~ Clint Bowen – Definitely still in it and a likely finalist
~ Dana Dimel – Can't see it
~ Justin Fuente – Strong candidate. Heard there's interest both ways
~ Willie Fritz – Relevant this week but doubt he survives to next week
~ Jim Harbaugh – NFL teams trying to trade for him?
~ Jerry Kill – Too many factors point to no
~ Jim McElwain – $7.5 million buyout & interest from bigger schools
~ Chad Morris – SMU bound, for those who hadn't heard
~ Will Muschamp - He'll be a DC somewhere bigger & try again later
~ Bo Pelini - Could get involved late, but would he?
~ Ed Warriner – He'll get a chance to make his case
~ Matt Wells – Hot name but still a little green

• Finally, my first percentage wheel of the 2014 coaching search… This one's not easy, folks.

  1. Clint Bowen – 45%
  2. Other – 22%
  3. Justin Fuente – 13%
  4. David Beaty – 12%
  5. Matt Wells – 5%
  6. Ed Warinner – 3%
Reply 129 comments from Bryce Landon Glen Erich Hartmann Micky Baker Texashawk10_2 Lcjayhawk Jay Hawkinson Jmfitz85 Bob Bailey Kellerman411 and 45 others

What caught my eye at Wednesday’s KU football practice: Nov. 26

On a cold, blustery Wednesday afternoon at Memorial Stadium, the Kansas University football team went through its final Wednesday practice of the 2014 season.

Just two practices remain before Saturday's game at Kansas State, which will bring to a close another KU football season filled with a couple of close calls and more disappointment.

There was nothing disappointing about the start of Wednesday's practice, which featured a World Cup-esque penalty-kick shootout-style punting drill involving some of the most unlikely candidates.

Ben Heeney and Nick Harwell were the captains for their respective squads in the best-of-five contest and Heeney was allowed only to pick offensive starters and Harwell only defensive starters. From there, the two sides took turns fielding punts from the mechanical punter to see which side could pick up the most grabs.

First up were Tony Pierson for Team Heeney and Dexter McDonald for Team Harwell. Pierson, as he's done several times throughout his playing days, dropped back and smoothly corralled the ball as it fell into his arms. McDonald, despite hearing from teammates how the pressure was on, followed suit and both teams were on the board.

Next up Jimmay Mundine for Team Heeney and Courtney Arnick for Team Harwell. Mundine also made his grab look smooth and Arnick, though under it in time, bobbled his try and watched it fall to the ground. 2-1, Heeney.

Now's when the fun really began. Next up: offensive lineman Junior Visinia for Team Heeney and defensive lineman Tedarian Johnson for Team Harwell. As the ball soared through the air and tracked into Visinia's area, the big freshman stuck his two hands out and speared the ball like a pig at a luau. No points for style here. A catch is a catch, and Junior's grab got the team fired up.

Needing to match Visinia to keep things tied, Johnson ran way too far in on his while it was in the air and watched it soar 15 yards behind him when it came down. 3-1, Team Heeney.

With Team Harwell needing to win the next two just to draw even, offensive lineman Larry Mazyck squared off for Team Heeney against D-lineman Keon Stowers for Team Harwell. Mazyck looked smooth as all get-out as he made his way to the ball but may have been a little too smooth on the catch and it fell to the ground, keeping Team Harwell alive. Stowers, however, could not capitalize, as his “ole'” attempt at the floating punt came up empty. Team Heeney put this one away, 3-1, with one kick left on the board.

Naturally, the KU offense exploded with joy over the victory and then went into the meat of practice.

Here's what caught my eye from the rest of the time I was out there:

• New father DeAndre Mann was a full participant and ran plenty of reps with the first string. Mann's absence has hurt the Jayhawks a little lately in that it's left the bulk of the running duties in the hands of true freshman Corey Avery. Avery has done well, but that's quite a load to handle and Mann's size, maturity and style certainly would've helped the KU running game. Maybe Saturday will be the day he gets a little momentum back to take into the 2015 season.

• Former KU linebacker Brandon Perkins (2002-05) showed up to practice to surprise interim coach Clint Bowen and the attempt worked. Bowen lit up when he saw Perkins and immediately had memories of a five-sack game for Perkins against Louisiana Tech in 2005. When Bowen asked Perkins what he was doing in town, the former KU linebacker said, “I came back for you, coach.” Perkins ranks fourth on KU's all-time sacks list with 20.

• Call it a hunch, but look for T.J. Semke to make an impact in Saturday's game. Listed behind Stowers as a second-string nose tackle along with Andrew Bolton, Semke looked to have a little extra nastiness to him during Wednesday's practice and seems like the kind of guy who would do well in a game like Saturday's.

• Finally, KU will practice on Thanksgiving but will go in the morning so the players can spend the afternoon of the holiday with their friends and families. Several guys from out of state will either spend the day with their teammates who have families nearby or with members of the KU coaching staff.

Reply 1 comment from Jim Stauffer

What caught my eye at Wednesday’s KU football practice: Nov. 26

On a cold, blustery Wednesday afternoon at Memorial Stadium, the Kansas University football team went through its final Wednesday practice of the 2014 season.

Just two practices remain before Saturday's game at Kansas State, which will bring to a close another KU football season filled with a couple of close calls and more disappointment.

There was nothing disappointing about the start of Wednesday's practice, which featured a World Cup-esque penalty-kick shootout-style punting drill involving some of the most unlikely candidates.

Ben Heeney and Nick Harwell were the captains for their respective squads in the best-of-five contest and Heeney was allowed only to pick offensive starters and Harwell only defensive starters. From there, the two sides took turns fielding punts from the mechanical punter to see which side could pick up the most grabs.

First up were Tony Pierson for Team Heeney and Dexter McDonald for Team Harwell. Pierson, as he's done several times throughout his playing days, dropped back and smoothly corralled the ball as it fell into his arms. McDonald, despite hearing from teammates how the pressure was on, followed suit and both teams were on the board.

Next up Jimmay Mundine for Team Heeney and Courtney Arnick for Team Harwell. Mundine also made his grab look smooth and Arnick, though under it in time, bobbled his try and watched it fall to the ground. 2-1, Heeney.

Now's when the fun really began. Next up: offensive lineman Junior Visinia for Team Heeney and defensive lineman Tedarian Johnson for Team Harwell. As the ball soared through the air and tracked into Visinia's area, the big freshman stuck his two hands out and speared the ball like a pig at a luau. No points for style here. A catch is a catch, and Junior's grab got the team fired up.

Needing to match Visinia to keep things tied, Johnson ran way too far in on his while it was in the air and watched it soar 15 yards behind him when it came down. 3-1, Team Heeney.

With Team Harwell needing to win the next two just to draw even, offensive lineman Larry Mazyck squared off for Team Heeney against D-lineman Keon Stowers for Team Harwell. Mazyck looked smooth as all get-out as he made his way to the ball but may have been a little too smooth on the catch and it fell to the ground, keeping Team Harwell alive. Stowers, however, could not capitalize, as his “ole'” attempt at the floating punt came up empty. Team Heeney put this one away, 3-1, with one kick left on the board.

Naturally, the KU offense exploded with joy over the victory and then went into the meat of practice.

Here's what caught my eye from the rest of the time I was out there:

• New father DeAndre Mann was a full participant and ran plenty of reps with the first string. Mann's absence has hurt the Jayhawks a little lately in that it's left the bulk of the running duties in the hands of true freshman Corey Avery. Avery has done well, but that's quite a load to handle and Mann's size, maturity and style certainly would've helped the KU running game. Maybe Saturday will be the day he gets a little momentum back to take into the 2015 season.

• Former KU linebacker Brandon Perkins (2002-05) showed up to practice to surprise interim coach Clint Bowen and the attempt worked. Bowen lit up when he saw Perkins and immediately had memories of a five-sack game for Perkins against Louisiana Tech in 2005. When Bowen asked Perkins what he was doing in town, the former KU linebacker said, “I came back for you, coach.” Perkins ranks fourth on KU's all-time sacks list with 20.

• Call it a hunch, but look for T.J. Semke to make an impact in Saturday's game. Listed behind Stowers as a second-string nose tackle along with Andrew Bolton, Semke looked to have a little extra nastiness to him during Wednesday's practice and seems like the kind of guy who would do well in a game like Saturday's.

• Finally, KU will practice on Thanksgiving but will go in the morning so the players can spend the afternoon of the holiday with their friends and families. Several guys from out of state will either spend the day with their teammates who have families nearby or with members of the KU coaching staff.

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KU linebacker Ben Heeney goes beardless for K-State

KU senior Ben Heeney, without his signature beard, at Wednesday's meeting with the media.

KU senior Ben Heeney, without his signature beard, at Wednesday's meeting with the media. by Matt Tait

With one game left in his KU career, senior linebacker Ben Heeney did something drastic to try to bring a little luck the Jayhawks' way…. He shaved his beard.

The bearded Heeney has been a fixture around KU football for the past couple of seasons and the Hutchinson native has been known as much for the look as his dominating play on the field.

Wednesday, at the final media session of the season, though, Heeney walked in with a fresh shave an evil-genius smile.

Heeney said this week was the first time half of his teammates had seen him without the beard and even shared stories of veterans having to do a double-take when they walked past him in the locker room.

"Everyone's been turning their head because they didn't expect it to happen," he said. "I just kind of want to play a game without it and see what happens. I'm not just a beard, I'm also a human being."

Heeney said he had some fun with the shaving session earlier this week and left various forms of mustaches and snapped pictures of those with his cell phone before saying goodbye to the facial hair for good — at least for now.

"It was kind of spur of the moment and I was just like, 'Man, it's not bringing any good luck,' so I just wanted to shave it off and play a game without it and see if it brings any luck. Everyone's always been so all-about it, I was just kind of like, 'All right, this isn't all I am.'"

Reply 1 comment from Jmfitz85

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