NORFOLK — His flight from Nashville delayed, Old Dominion athletic director Wood Selig arrived later than usual to the Monarchs' home basketball game Saturday against Northeastern. But the one-day sojourn to Music City was well worth the time.
There Selig huddled with two long-time friends and colleagues: former Mid-American Conference commissioner Rick Chryst and Middle Tennessee State athletic director Chris Massaro. The three had planned to discuss ODU and Middle Tennessee's impending moves to Conference USA.
So much for plans.
Three days before the Friday gathering, Selig abruptly fired his basketball coach, Blaine Taylor, for personnel issues extending far beyond the team's dismal season. So rather than venture into downtown, Selig, Chryst and Massaro spent eight hours at the Nashville Airport Marriott brainstorming basketball coaches.
"We went down every league, every head coach, every assistant," Selig said prior to ODU's 79-74 overtime loss to Colonial Athletic Association-leading Northeastern. "We went through all 347 Division I schools."
Naturally, Selig isn't sharing any conclusions or candidates that emerged. Nor does he have an inflexible profile.
Sure, he'd like someone with college head-coaching experience who's familiar with ODU and/or Hampton Roads, and can charm tax-shelter donors. But if a promising assistant coach aces an interview and comes with impeccable references, Selig won't hesitate.
Remember that neither VCU's Shaka Smart nor Butler's Brad Stevens, two of college basketball's brightest young coaches, had big-whistle experience before landing their current gigs.
In that vein, Selig said do not "discount" Jim Corrigan, the Monarchs' interim head coach. This marks his 19th year on ODU's staff, and he's been an invaluable cog for a program that before this season had been a model of stability and consistency.
"Whatever I do, I don't want to slight his candidacy or the amount of time he's put into this program in helping us establish a really solid foundation," Selig said. "Somebody's got to come in here and beat him."
In their first game under Corrigan, the Monarchs won at Drexel on Thursday to snap a 10-game losing streak, and they played with similar resolve Saturday, battering the Huskies on the backboards and extending them to overtime despite 1-of-26 shooting from beyond the 3-point arc.
"For us to get into overtime against the best team in the league while shooting like that," Corrigan said, "I think speaks to the effort and the heart the team played with."
Rest assured, Selig noticed.
"I enjoyed being at Drexel, sitting three rows behind our bench and watching Jim Corrigan during every timeout," he said. "He was in his element. He was where he was born to be. He was born to coach a basketball team.
"He was so comfortable, so confident, so relaxed, and I think it carried over to our team. They played with the same amount of confidence and energy that he exhibited."
Corrigan has six more games to audition as ODU (3-21, 1-11 CAA) concludes an outlier of a season that comes after nine consecutive years of winning records, a stretch that included four NCAA tournament bids. In the meantime, Selig will appoint a five- to six-member search committee to advise him and university president John Broderick.
Selig then will identify a handful of finalists whom he'll bring to campus.
"Whoever we hire needs to know what we have, what our assets are, what our aspirations are, so I think (on-campus interviews) are an important part of the process," Selig said.
ODU has raised $5 million for an $8-million practice complex adjacent to the Constant Center, part of a commitment that Selig earnestly believes can make the Monarchs a top-25 program.
"This can be a Butler, a Gonzaga," he said. "I want somebody that believes in that and wants to help us achieve that goal, because we've got everything in place for us to have that stature."
Considering that eventual national finalist Butler needed a put-back at the buzzer to beat ODU in the 2011 NCAA tournament, and given that the Monarchs defeated Final Four-bound VCU twice in three meetings that same season, Selig's ambition isn't as far-fetched as you might imagine.
Interest in the position already is overwhelming.
"That's why I'm charging my phone," Selig said as we sat in the media room. "I've got 13 voice messages I haven't even listened to. I can't keep up with the emails and texts. How are these coaches getting my cell number? …
"There's always somebody out there that's going to be a surprise candidate. Somebody whose situation isn't what you think it is."
Selig has mapped out the early stages of his search.
"My first two weeks, I'll probably think about home-run hires, stretch hires," he said. "We deserve it. … I'm not doing my job if I'm not swinging for the fences, if I'm just playing it down the middle."