ATHENS — While the rumors surrounding Bobby Knight’s interest in the coaching vacancy at Georgia heat up, another potential candidate for the job isn’t interested in stirring up any unnecessary controversy.
Former Mercer standout and Columbus native Sam Mitchell’s name was linked to a potential opening at Georgia even before former head coach Dennis Felton was fired last week. But Mitchell said he has not been contacted by the school and would not throw his name into the discussion until the school let him know it was interested.
“I haven’t talked to anyone,” said Mitchell, who coached the NBA’s Toronto Raptors from 2004 through 2008. “I haven’t thought about it. My whole thing is, if at some point they were interested in me, the people they’re going to be interested in, they’ll call them.”
Several names, including Mitchell, Knight, VCU head coach Anthony Grant and Oklahoma’s Jeff Capel have been linked with the Bulldogs’ head coaching job, currently being filled on an interim basis by Pete Herrmann. But the school has not commented on any individual candidate.
Knight’s name, however, has sparked the most reaction from fans and media, with several ESPN commentators, including Dick Vitale, publicly lobbying for college basketball’s all-time winningest coach to get the job — something that didn’t sit well with Mitchell.
“I’m reading this stuff about Bobby Knight, and I feel bad for him because it’s sad,” Mitchell said. “I just think it’s pandering when you’ve got your friends calling and putting stories in the newspaper, and you’ve got Dick Vitale and all them saying, ‘Oh, I’ll come be his chauffeur’ and all that for a job.
“To me, it’s one thing if they say, ‘Hey, you know what? I would be interested in that job.’ But to have all these people doing this big PR machine, to me, it would turn me off if I was looking to hire a coach. And I’m saying that about one of the greatest college coaches ever, and I’m also saying that about myself or anyone else for any job. It’s OK to let people know you have interest, and that’s it.”
Mitchell, however, isn’t even interested in going that far.
At this point, he said, Georgia has not contacted him, and until the school does, he won’t discuss the position at all.
Still, that doesn’t mean he isn’t interested in coaching again.
Mitchell was 150-182 in parts of five seasons as the head coach of the Raptors, leading them to the playoffs twice. He was fired, however, on Dec. 3, 2008 after an 8-9 start to the season.
“I’m planning on coaching if or when somebody calls and offers me a job,” Mitchell said. “That’s the thing about my job. I can have all the plans I want, but I would love to coach next year, but I have the luxury of I still get paid next year if I don’t coach.”
Mitchell left Mercer as the school’s all-time leading scorer and played 13 seasons in the NBA with the Minnesota Timberwolves and Indiana Pacers.