Pat Baldwin rumored to be front-runner

According to a source close to Milwaukee Athletics, the search for head coach of the Panthers may be reaching its final stages. The source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that the search may be zeroing in on Northwestern assistant coach Pat Baldwin.

This follows along with what I’ve been hearing from the group of coaches who have been talking me through the coaching candidates. None know for certain, but the rumor in that group this weekend was that Baldwin had emerged as the front runner for the position. Some speculated as to why, others had reviews of his capabilities.

One coach said, “[Amanda]Braun and Baldwin worked together at UW-Green Bay in the early 2000’s. She has a familiarity with him that she doesn’t have with other candidates.” This coach worked in the Horizon League while Baldwin was an assistant under Tod Kowalczyk for two years in 2002-03 and 2003-04.

This is an advantage that Baldwin does have over other candidates. In addition to the two years at Green Bay, Baldwin was an assistant for seven years at Loyola under Jim Whitesell. In his final year on staff there, Baldwin was promoted to associate head coach. After the season, Whitesell and his staff was fired and Baldwin found a spot on Paul Lusk’s staff at Missouri State, spending two years there before being hired by new head coach Chris Collins at Northwestern.

With nine years as an assistant in the Horizon League and 15 years overall, Baldwin seems to be a prime candidate for a head coaching job in the Midwest. Several of the Division I coaches who have been following the search, however, aren’t so sure.

“I really like Pat [Baldwin]. He’s easily one of the nicest guys you’re ever going to meet in the profession. But he’s not a good coach,” said one current Division I head coach whose name has not been tied to the Milwaukee opening.

Another coach was more succinct in his evaluation of Baldwin in a text message: “Great guy, poor coach.”

One coach, who worked in the Horizon League for years and knows Baldwin well, said, “You can tell that Braun’s trying to win the press conference, not the basketball games. Pat Baldwin is a good man and he’s easy to root for, but hiring him would be a setback for UW-Milwaukee on the court.”

There was one coach who didn’t think Baldwin lacked talent, but had another grim point that will hit home with Milwaukee fans. “Chris Collins is a hot name right now. Whether or not he’s the heir apparent for Coach K at Duke, he’s in line to get a much better job than Northwestern in the next couple years. If he goes and Baldwin is even kinda-sorta successful at Milwaukee, you have to believe he’d be first in line to succeed Collins at Northwestern.”

The likelihood of Baldwin being the man to replace Collins at Northwestern should he be the Milwaukee coach remains to be seen. It is true that Collins is a hot commodity on the coaching carousel, and it can’t be discounted that Baldwin is an alumnus of Northwestern and one of the greatest Wildcats to play basketball at the school. He was also on staff, leading the team to their first NCAA Tournament in school history.

Another coach had something else to say about Baldwin’s ability, “I’ve never worked with him so I don’t know about his talent, but take a look at his record. Wherever he goes, the teams don’t really win. Not until this year.”

It may just be that a few coaches have formed an unfavorable opinion of Baldwin’s coaching talent, so I took the last one’s advice and analyzed his record.

Before joining Collins at Northwestern, Baldwin was on board for Paul Lusk’s first two seasons at Missouri State. Baldwin’s profile on Northwestern’s website credits him with recruiting Marcus Marshall, a 6’3″ guard who was 2013 MVC Freshman of the Year. Marshall just finished his college career at Nevada, leading the Wolf Pack to the NCAA Tournament and scoring 19.7 points per game as a fifth-year senior transfer. So it looks like Baldwin had a pretty big recruiting score with Marshall.

Before Missouri State, his tenure at Loyola wasn’t one that was all that impressive. The team had a couple good years, topping out at 21-11 in Blake Schilb’s senior season of 2006-07. The next four years were tough, with the Ramblers finishing no higher than seventh. Baldwin’s profile on Northwestern’s website does not credit him with recruiting any specific players, but it does tout his coaching with Schilb and Milwaukee native J.R. Blount.

His tenure at Green Bay may be too short to get any real idea, but Baldwin was part of a quick turnaround that saw the Phoenix go from 10 to 17 victories and from 4-12 in the Horizon League to 11-5.

It’s important to take these coaches’ opinions with a grain of salt. While none of these quotes come from coaches who are involved in the search at Milwaukee, it’s also true that none of the coaches quoted here have worked with Baldwin directly.

One coach believed that the university was going to make a minority hire since the dust had settled after LaVall Jordan was hired. State Senator Lena Taylor, an alum and longtime supporter of the basketball program, publicly called out Braun, calling her a racist during a press conference where Braun explained her firing of Rob Jeter.

Fans have unanimously called for the best coach. Some have taken to social media to implore the athletic director to not consider race in making the hire.

The source close to Milwaukee Athletics had heard interviews would be conducted in Chicago, possibly as early as the weekend but likely Monday. This source also heard that Milwaukee may have reached out to TJ Otzelberger, who took the head coaching job at South Dakota State after missing out to LaVall Jordan at Milwaukee last spring.

The source also believed that Amanda Braun might be using Parker Search for the second time in as many years to set herself up for a hire elsewhere down the road, since they’d know her well. I do want to reiterate that the source was just speculating on this point, but it is curious as to why she would hire a search firm for a second year in a row. It’s not a stretch to think that Braun would have all the names she’d need to make the next hire.

It’s been one week since news broke that LaVall Jordan was going to be hired as the next head coach at Butler, and with summer recruiting in full swing, the longer the wait the worse it is for Milwaukee Basketball.

Should Pat Baldwin be the hire for Milwaukee, he should get all the help he needs to move the program forward. The Panthers are in a very precarious position, and it’s going to take the entire university – not one man – to move this team in the right direction. At mid-major schools it takes a village, and if Baldwin’s the new sheriff in town, he’s going to need a posse to make Milwaukee one of the top teams in the Horizon League.

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