The Tennessee men's basketball program took a somewhat surprising blow this week when Cuonzo Martin accepted the head coaching job at Cal. Though he was never really accepted by Volunteers fans, Martin led Tennessee to the Sweet 16 in 2014 and to three consecutive winning seasons in the SEC.
Now, Tennessee has lost four of its top five scorers, either to graduation or the NBA, and is left without a coach.
With a near-empty cupboard and a souring reputation in Knoxville for head coaches, the search for Martin's replacement will be tough. Gregg Marshall and Shaka Smart, the two most frequently named candidates for any vacancy, are long-shots at best. Here are some candidates who might be convinced to take a tough job:
Chris Mack (Xavier)
As a native Ohioan, it might take a lot to pry Mack from Xavier. But with four NCAA Tournament appearances in five seasons with the Musketeers, he might be worth whatever money it would take. Though he has a pretty good position right now, the Vols should be able to convince Mack that life in the SEC beats life in the new Big East. Mack likely already realizes that, considering his not-so-secret interest in the Cal job. Mack was the 2011 Atlantic 10 coach of the year and led the Musketeers to a third-place finish in their first Big East season.
Tad Boyle (Colorado)
Boyle took the head coaching job after the Buffaloes had suffered four consecutive losing seasons. What did he do? He led Colorado to at least 21 wins in each of his four years at the helm. Though he hasn't had much NCAA Tournament success, Boyle is an attractive candidate for his ability to turn a program around so dramatically. He also coached four seasons at Northern Colorado, going from 4-24 in his first season to 25-8 in his fourth. Boyle has some history with the Volunteers; he was an assistant under Jerry Green during the 1997-98 season.
Archie Miller (Dayton)
Consider Miller the Andy Enfield of the 2014 NCAA Tournament. His Elite Eight run with the Flyers catapulted him into the conversation for coaching vacancies everywhere, and as a result, he could be poised for a big payday. He's only been a head coach for three seasons and has no natural ties to Knoxville, but you can't underestimate a winning reputation. In addition to the Flyers' Elite Eight run this year, Miller was also the associate head coach for his brother Sean at Arizona from 2009-11, which included another run to the Elite Eight.
Howland presents Tennessee with the opportunity to land a coach who once took a famous program to three consecutive Final Fours. Howland took UCLA to the season's final weekend each year from 2006-08, won two Pac-12 Tournament championships and was named 2002 National Coach of the Year while at Pitt. The red flag on the 56-year-old coach is that he was fired from UCLA amid plenty of controversy. In his last four seasons with the Bruins, 11 players left the program and a shocking Sports Illustrated story highlighted Howland's lack of discipline. Of course Tennessee has dealt with controversial coaches before, and if Howland is truly interested, this could be a chance worth taking.