December 13, 2004 CORAL GABLES Miami defensive coordinator Randy Shannon was the first candidate to receive a face-to-face interview for the head coaching position at Ole Miss.
"I'm on my way to the airport to interview," Shannon said in a tongue-in-cheek manner to reporters in mid-December, as he left UM's Greentree facility.
Before making that statement, Shannon had implied that there was no truth to the rumors that he was being considered for the Mississippi job. He said the only reason his name was mentioned was because he had been recommended to Ole Miss officials by the Black Coaches Association, which provides a list of minority candidates to Division I-A schools with vacancies.
But Shannon actually was on his way to an airport to interview for the job at Mississippi, which fired David Cutcliffe following a 4-7 season, his first losing campaign with the SEC program.
According to sources, Ole Miss athletic director Pete Boone and school chancellor Robert Khayat flew to Miami's Opa-Locka airport to meet Shannon on the private jet of Ole Miss' most influential booster, Richard Scruggs, who likely participated in the interview.
"I have had preliminary discussions with some schools, but I would rather not comment on which schools I have talked to," Shannon said. "I am the defensive coordinator at Miami, and the only thing I am concerned with is preparing for the Peach Bowl and recruiting the best players to attend Miami."
Sources said Shannon, the winner of the 2001 Frank Broyles Award as the national assistant coach of the year, also recently interviewed for another Division I-A head coaching job but did not receive an offer. Meanwhile, Ole Miss officials also talked with Southern Cal assistant head coach Ed Orgeron, a former UM assistant from the successful but troubled Dennis Erickson era.
Shannon just completed his fourth season as the Hurricanes' defensive coordinator, and many at Miami believe he would be the successor to UM coach Larry Coker if he was willing to hang around long enough. Previously, Shannon was the Miami Dolphins' linebackers coach in 2000 and a defensive assistant for the same team in 1998-99. Before this year, his UM defenses annually ranked among the best in the nation.
Coker long has believed that Shannon is ready to become a head coach, but he has advised him to wait for the right job. Last year Shannon was offered the defensive coordinator position at N.C. State, but he stayed after UM countered with a significant pay raise.
Following those talks, however, Shannon made clear to everyone that he won't be a UM lifer, at least not as an assistant. He definitely is interested in becoming a head coach in the very near future, so nobody will be surprised if he makes that jump this year.
Basketball: Big Men Must Produce
The one thing Miami's non-conference schedule taught first-year basketball coach Frank Haith about his team is that when his three-guard lineup of Robert Hite, Anthony Harris and Guillermo Diaz is hitting its shots, it's not easy to beat the Hurricanes. Florida Atlantic, Florida International, Massachusetts and even Florida can testify to that.
Of course, Haith also has seen the alternative. UM's embarrassing 60-50 loss to South Carolina State occurred on a night when Diaz, who is averaging 15 points a game, went scoreless.
That game proved to Haith that he absolutely needs his trio of guards who have combined to average 51 points per game, or 70.9 percent of the team's scoring to show up consistently. The coach also knows he needs more productivity inside. Getting both will go a long way toward helping the Hurricanes match the talent level of the teams in the ACC.
"We're getting fairly consistent contributions from our backcourt, but that's not always going to be enough every night," Haith said. "We've got to get our front-line guys going to help out."
Haith isn't asking for much. He realizes he inherited a talent-strapped team. So he'll settle for put-back baskets coming from offensive rebounds and post players knocking down open jumpers.
Senior forward Will Frisby has the best low post moves on the team, and he showed signs of being an offensive factor early. He scored 18 points in Miami's loss to South Carolina State, 14 in the overtime loss to Xavier. But Frisby, who is averaging nine points in his 23 minutes as UM's sixth man, since has watched his productivity dwindle.
Anthony King, a sophomore center who is averaging 5.7 points to go along with his 9.9 rebounds and 4.1 blocks, is in the starting lineup for the defensive presence he brings. Junior forward Gary Hamilton provides another big body, but he's unpolished on offense as well.
"I get chip-ins and put-backs, but that's not enough," said King, who did contribute UM's first triple-double in a victory over FAU. "If we're going to be a successful team, all of us big men have to bring more offense, contribute some points."
Fordham transfer Glenn Batemon possesses good hands and efficient post moves, but he's slowed down by his weight (340 pounds) and doesn't effectively run the floor. Freshman Raymond Hicks hasn't yet reached the point where he's ready to contribute.
"They are what they are," Haith said. "We just have to work with them to help them get better."