MHERST — Geoff Arnold should know by next week whether he'll be the new men's basketball coach at the University of Hartford.
The University of Massachusetts associate coach is among the front-runners for the job that became open when Paul Brazeau was fired following the Hawks' 10-19 season. Arnold has already spoken with officials at Hartford, which plans to interview Connecticut assistant Karl Hobbs tomorrow.
Hobbs is a sentimental favorite because of his UConn ties, but he is also a candidate for the coaching job at American University. And according to sources, Hartford may have to think twice about whether it will be able to afford Hobbs, a high-profile candidate who also has the option of staying at UConn.
Hartford officials plan to finish interviews of their prime candidates by the middle of next week, and would like to announce a decision before the Final Four, which takes place April 1-3 at Indianapolis.
"Karl is an excellent candidate," Hartford athletic director Pat Meiser-McKnett told the Hartford Courant when asked about Hobbs, a seven-year UConn assistant. "But there are others as well."
In addition to Hobbs and Arnold, another strong candidate is St. John's assistant Kevin Clark. Though those three names are considered the favorites, published reports have mentioned a number of others, including Air Force coach Reggie Minton, former Nebraska coach Danny Nee, DePaul assistant Larry Harrison and Ohio State assistant Dave Spiller.
The Hartford job has attracted nearly 70 inquiries.
UMass already has one vacancy on its staff. Assistant coach Tony Barbee left this week for a spot on John Calipari's staff at Memphis.
Arnold, 35, is UMass coach Bruiser Flint's chief assistant. He spent five years on the St. Joseph's staff before coming to UMass when Flint, his former St. Joseph's teammate, took over the UMass program in 1996.
Arnold coached the Minutemen in Flint's absence against Boston University Dec. 2. The 70-51 victory came after Flint had given himself a one-game suspension for using profanity on his postgame radio show after the previous game against Marshall.
If Arnold leaves, only Mike Connors would remain among Flint's 1999-2000 assistant coaches. Connors, who began coaching in 1984 and has been at UMass since 1993, did serve as an interim head coach at Army.
Connors worked five years as a UMass administrative assistant before working as an assistant coach for the last two seasons, and has not been seen as a likely candidate for associate coach.
Former UMass guard Derek Kellogg, a Cathedral High School graduate and assistant at Youngstown State, is expected to be among the candidates for Barbee's job. Whether the youthful Kellogg, who graduated from UMass in 1995, would also become a serious candidate for Arnold's position is unclear.
Two years ago, Kellogg's name came up in regard to the opening created when Barbee — who had two coaching stints at UMass — left the first time to join the Wyoming staff. Instead, Flint stayed in-house, promoting Connors from his role as administrative assistant to the coaching staff.
But since then, Kellogg has been praised for his work at both George Mason and Youngstown State.
Another former UMass player, Tyrone Weeks, received high reviews as a first-year assistant at St. Bonaventure and might attract interest.
But while Weeks is respected, his relative inexperience might make him a long shot, especially if only one spot is open.
But while Flint has been given freedom to pick his own staff in the past, there has also been sentiment to look outside, bringing new blood — and especially proven recruiting skills — to the program.