The NCAA Tournament is reaching a climax here this weekend and so is the search for a new coach at Canisius College.
Canisius Athletics Director Bill Maher is in town to conduct interviews for the position that opened when Mike MacDonald was fired earlier this month after nine years at the helm. Maher is expected to interview 10 to 12 candidates and then bring three or four back to campus next week for a final round of talks.
Maher isn't discussing candidates and those contacted have all been tight-lipped about their status but multiple sources confirm the interview list includes: Iona assistant Nick Macarchuk and Marshall assistant Bob MacKinnon, sons of former Canisius head coaches; Connecticut associate head coach Tom Moore, West Virginia assistant and former Penn State head coach Jerry Dunn, Providence assistant and University at Buffalo graduate Steve DeMeo and Hofstra assistant Tom Parrotta, a former aide at Niagara.
"A lot of people are interested and that's good news," Maher said. "People are calling me to 'promote their guy' and they're saying, 'I know you're busy and I'm sorry to bother you.' But that's OK. I'd be a lot more worried if nobody was calling."
UConn's Moore has become one of the hottest names on the coaching carousel this month but figures to be a long shot for Canisius. He's also involved at Hartford and Fairfield and probably became a prime candidate at Northeastern when Ron Everhart left for Duquesne earlier this week.
Other possibilities being mentioned in connection to Canisius include Notre Dame assistant Sean Kearney, UB assistant Chris Hawkins and former Iowa State assistant Mike Mennenga. He left UB after last season to go to Iowa State but was let go earlier this month when head coach Wayne Morgan was fired.
Canisius has not contacted ex-Rutgers and Kent State coach Gary Waters although Waters remains intrigued by the job. Canisius, however, is expected to be paying only about $125,000 per year to its new coach and Waters was making $500,000 at Rutgers. It's unlikely he would take that drastic a pay cut.
Maher said he's had more than 70 inquiries about the post and that around 30 to 40 of them are from coaches who have legitimate Division I experience as a head coach or assistant. He said he expects to be here at least through Saturday doing interviews and could do more Sunday.
Schools routinely do interviews at the Final Four because the annual convention of the National Association of Basketball Coaches is held concurrently with the games being staged in the RCA Dome. Upstart George Mason plays Florida in Saturday night's opener with LSU meeting UCLA in the nightcap.
Maher said the Cinderella run of George Mason -- the first mid-major to qualify for the Final Four since 1979 -- is a boost to schools like his that harbor big dreams.
"The way George Mason has played really validates everything that people believe about running a program," he said. "If you do things the right way, work hard and get a good group of kids, anything can happen.
"A lot went right for them to beat the teams they did, but that's the great thing about this tournament. We saw it when Canisius won at Cincinnati [in the 1994 Bearcat Classic]. It's one game, one day. George Mason really gives all of us hope and something to shoot for."