The Tulsa search has been fairly fascinating so far, and now moreso.
ESPN and CBS Sports are reporting Thursday that Frank Haith of Missouri has become No. 1 and New Mexico State's Marvin Menzies is No. 2, that it's Haith's if he wants it.
Again, all is abstract until a press conference is held and a wife looks at houses.
Haith's emergence - and a late-afternoon report on Thursday is that they're in final negotiations - is interesting, and appears Tulsa may be happy with its steppingstone status.
Never miss a local story.
His career has been an odd mix of success and controversy. In 10 seasons, he has one losing season, six of 20-plus wins, and one 30-win season, at Miami and Missouri.
The 48-year-old is 76-28 at Missouri, was 129-101 at Miami. Only twice has he not coached in the postseason.
But he just doesn't have the reputation go to with a pretty nifty record. Despite going 24-12 and reaching the NIT's second round this year, heat is on him for some bad losses.
And let's be clear: looking to bolt the SEC after three seasons for a transition to the American Athletic Conference is a point to ponder. Is he ready to rebuild his rep some and move on after a few years?
At Miami, he was suspended for five games for "failing to monitor the activities of his assistant coaches and attempting to cover up the booster's threats to disclose incriminating information." It's connected to the mess at Miami with ex-booster Nevin Shapiro. Haith's alleged involvement included a $10,000 payment to a prospect as well as some failure to oversee his assistants well.
He resigned after the 2010-11 season to take over at Missouri, for $9.6 million over six years, about $1.6 a year.
It's fairly clear he'd have to take a pay cut at Tulsa, which would really test the imagination to match his salary. Danny Manning was at around $500,000 when he left for Wake Forest, Tulsa prepared to bump that to a mil or so.
Indications are that Missouri fans might contribute to pay for any buyout.
For a guy who is 77-29 there.
Menzies wouldn't cost nearly as much and is certainly more likely to stay.
Ditto Mercer's Bob Hoffman. Menzies and Hoffman both make less than $300,000. Double their salary and put money into what's needed, what was promised to Manning, and be pretty sure you're going to keep a coach for a good while.
Of course, reports are reports, and don't think that Hoffman's out of the picture until a press conference is announced. There will be fallout from considering Haith, especially if he suddenly gets a raise at Missouri. Menzies and Hoffman are much better long-term for Tulsa.
The good news for Mercer: Unless New Mexico State decides to write a bigger check, Hoffman wouldn't be a candidate to succeed Menzies. NMS would have to throw another $100,000 on the table, most likely.
But there remains the potential trickle-down/over from the Tennessee opening.