Jim Phillips said how teams fare in the NCAA Tournament would likely impact the Northwestern athletic director's ability to interview candidates to replace Bill Carmody.
If that's the case, his pool of available candidates increased significantly Thursday when Bryce Drew of Valparaiso, Dave Paulson of Bucknell and Davidson's Bob McKillop saw their teams ousted in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
Michigan State defeated Valparaiso 65-54 while Butler beat Bucknell 68-56. Twelfth-seeded Davidson led No. 3 Marquette by as much as nine late in the game before the Golden Eagles rallied for a 59-58 win.
Duke assistant Chris Collins is still considered the top candidate, according to several sources, but several other candidates will get the chance to "wow" Phillips and change is mind during the interview process.
La Salle coach John Giannini was a graduate assistant when Illinois make its run to the Final Four in 1989. The Fenwick High and North Central alum knows Phillips well and is also considered a candidate.
Paulson led Williams College to the Division III National Championship in 2003 when Northwestern President Morty Schapiro was the president of that school.
Bryce Drew is the son of longtime Valparaiso coach Homer Drew and the brother of Baylor coach Scott Drew. Some wonder if he has the experience to go head-to-head with elite Big Ten coaches while others believe Homer Drew guidance makes the matter moot.
Bob McKillop is an attractive candidate because Davidson is also a private school that is elite academically and McKillop sometimes competed with Carmody for recruits.
McKillop has coached at Davidson for 20 years. He took his Wildcats to the Elite Eight in 2008, has graduated 65 of 65 seniors and is a seven-time Southern Conference Coach of the Year.
"He's done a great job of finding diamonds in the rough and at Northwestern you have to do that," former Northwestern player and current Big Ten Network analyst Tim Doyle said earlier this week. "You have to find a kid before anyone else does. If Michigan and Northwestern offer a scholarship, 9½ times out of 10 the kid is going to go to Michigan. That's just the way it is."
Stephen Curry wanted to follow his famous father Dell's footsteps to Virginia Tech but the school didn't offer him a scholarship. He went to Davidson instead and had 32 points, four assists and nine rebounds against Michigan in his second college game.
Curry went on to become the conference's all-time leading scorer while setting school records for free-throws, 30-point games and 40-point games and an NCAA record for 3-pointers.
He currently plays for the Golden State Warriors.