Cal State Fullerton has officially started looking for a new basketball coach.
Athletic Director Ed Carroll Tuesday named a five-member screening committee to find a new basketball coach. He left no doubts, however, that he would much prefer if George McQuarn, who announced his resignation effective at season's end, reconsidered and the group could be dissolved.
Leanne Grotke, an associate athletic director, will be chairwoman. Jim Woods, Titan Athletic Foundation president; Bill Puzo, professor of geography and chairman of the Athletic Council; Maryalyce Jeremiah, women's basketball coach, and Ernest Gourdine, the interim director of the Television and Media Support Center, are also on the committee.
"We're disappointed George is leaving," Carroll said, "and if he should have second thoughts, we'd very much like to talk to him about staying."
McQuarn, 44, said Tuesday night that he still plans on retiring from coaching. He did admit, however, that Fullerton President Dr. Jewel Plummer Cobb told him that the coach had the option to change his mind at any time.
"Nothing's changed, though," McQuarn said. "And, at this moment, I don't foresee anything happening to change it."
So Carroll's going ahead with the search for a new coach. But he hasn't given up hope, either.
"It's never over until it's over," he said. "I think George's best coaching days are ahead of him and I'd much rather see him coaching at Cal State Fullerton than someplace else a year or two from now. I hope the team does well in the (Pacific Coast Athletic Assn.) tournament and he gets enough positive feedback to reconsider."
If McQuarn, who says he has no intentions of coming back to coaching in a year or two, doesn't change his mind, Carroll said he hopes to name his replacement "just before or just after" the PCAA Tournament, scheduled March 6-8 at the Forum in Inglewood.
"We would like to keep everything confidential until we name the finalists about Feb. 25, and then I hope to be able make them public," Carroll said. "It serves no purpose to bandy about a bunch of different names."
Many names have already been bandied about, of course. Assistant coach John Sneed, in his sixth season at Fullerton, has applied and will likely be a finalist. Assistant coach Ed Goorjian, a former head coach at Loyola Marymount, has decided not to apply. Gary McKnight, Mater Dei High School coach, has applied but probably won't be a finalist. Bob Boyd, the former USC coach who has resigned at Mississippi State, has said he is interested, but doesn't plan to apply.
Ron Adams, an assistant at Fresno State, may become another candidate, but says he has done nothing yet.
"I've had no contact with Fullerton in any way," Adams said Tuesday, "but, of course, I'm interested in any open Division I job. To be honest with you, if they want you, they usually invite you to apply these days."
Carroll said he was pleased with the "numbers of quality people" who had expressed interest and didn't discount the possibility of asking some candidates to apply.
"Realistically, I don't think we have a chance of recruiting a big-time Division I coach, basically because we can't afford to pay what they're used to," Carroll said. "Anyway, there are a lot of very good assistants out there."
Mark Warkentien, an assistant and reknowned recruiter at Nevada Las Vegas, is an alumnus of Fullerton and still owns a home in the Southland.
"Right now, we're gearing up for the NCAAs and we're pretty much consumed with that at the moment," Warkentien said Tuesday. "I guess any assistant in my position would have to be somewhat interested in a job like that. But to tell you the truth, I haven't really had the time to weigh it over in my mind."
Meanwhile, Carroll will keep hoping McQuarn does a lot of thinking between now and the Titans' last game.