LARAMIE -- Tom Burman needs to make a splash -- and time isn't on his side.

Wyoming's Athletics Director is now searching for a new men's basketball coach after Jeff Linder Thursday pulled up stakes and took a top assistant job on the staff at Texas Tech. The 46-year-old compiled an overall record of 63-59 during his four-year tenure in Laramie. He finished six games under .500 in Mountain West play.

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Why is this hire so important?

The Cowboys have won a combined 24 games over the last two seasons. The program has lost all momentum after appearing in the First Four of the NCAA Tournament in 2021-22.

Much of that has to do with free agency.

Wyoming has watched 14 players enter the NCAA Transfer Portal over the previous two offseasons, including the conference's Preseason Player of the Year, Graham Ike. Linder replaced those guys with the likes of Sam Griffin, Akuel Kot and Mason Walters, who helped lead the offensive charge last season.

The problem?

All three had just one year of eligibility remaining.

This roster currently has a dozen scholarship players. With Linder's departure, all of them have a 30-day window to find a new home if they so choose.

With constant turnover and limited success on the court, attendance inside the once-vaunted Arena-Auditorium has plummeted to just 3,937 a night. That ranks eighth overall in the 11-team league.

Students are a no-show and empty gold seats are plentiful. Linder blamed a majority of the issues on the name, image and likeness rule, often saying it's hard to compete in a league that sent a record six teams to the Big Dance last March.

He's not wrong. He didn't exactly hit the campaign trail, either.

Who can fix this mess? Here's a few guys who could be a fit -- in no particular order:



A top assistant under Linder during his entire tenure in Laramie (and Northern Colorado), Ken DeWeese knows the lay of the land. It would be a smooth transition and would likely squash what could be a mad dash to the portal. He has certainly paid his dues. DeWeese has been on college sidelines since 2005, making stops at Idaho, Mary Hardin-Baylor, Utah Valley and UTEP, where he helped guide the Miners to 120-plus wins, including three seasons of 22 or more victories and a two berths in the NIT. Coaching is in his blood. His father Ken DeWeese Sr. led Hardin-Baylor to 21 postseason tournaments during his 22 years at the Belton, Texas institution, including the Division III National Championship Game in 2013. He won 400 games during that period. His son is known for recruiting and Linder often credited him with winning game plans. DeWeese wants this job, according to a source familiar with the situation. He's never been a head coach, though. Neither has Jay Sawvel, who just took over the football job after serving as Craig Bohl's defensive coordinator for four years. We've yet to see if that move will pay off.



Remember the last time Wyoming won a regular-season Mountain West crown? How about an NCAA Tournament game? That came all the way back in 2002. The Pokes hung a conference banner the previous season, too. Steve McClain was the bench boss in those days, and sources have indicated the current assistant at Texas has "great interest" in retaining his old gig. Now 61 years old, McClain has made stops as an assistant at Colorado, Indiana, Georgia and now Austin, where he's helped lead the Longhorns to the Elite Eight and the second round of March Madness in consecutive seasons. He was also the head coach at the University of Illinois-Chicago from 2015-20. During his nine-year tenure in Laramie from 1998-07, McClain compiled an overall record of 157-115. Only Everett Shelton (328), Bill Strannigan (179) and Jim Brandenburg (176) finished with more victories in school history. McClain won 17 or more games six times. Sound like a crazy idea? It shouldn't. Wyoming welcomed back Larry Shyatt after he spent just one season in Laramie back in 1997-98. He returned in 2011 and led the Cowboys to a conference tournament title four years later. You might recall, Shyatt even sued the university over his buyout clause. Two former standouts from McClain's early days at UW said Thursday in off-the-record phone interviews their former coach would be a "great fit" at this stage of his career. McClain is a players' coach, he certainly doesn't need the money and could potentially finish what he started so many years ago. Intriguing.



One name that has come up time and time again since ESPN's Pete Thamel broke the news about Linder's departure Thursday evening is one of his former assistants Sundance Wicks. The Gillette product spent three seasons on the bench at Wyoming before accepting the job at Wisconsin-Green Bay before last season. The popular local boy turned the Phoenix from one of the worst programs in the country to a respectable 18-14 record. That program won just three games during the 2022-23 campaign. He was named the Horizon League Coach of the Year and the Joe B. Hall National Coach of the Year. Wicks started his career as a graduate assistant at Northern State University before eventually making stops at Colorado, Northern Illinois, San Francisco and again at Aberdeen where he was an assistant from 2016-18. He snagged his first head coaching job at Missouri Western the following season and led the Griffons for two seasons. He capped his tenure there with a 30-32 record. Wicks can obviously coach. He is a players' coach, which this program desperately needs right now. But has he done enough as a head coach? Does he even want to come back here? Remember, his family received hate mail when he left for Wisconsin. This hire would certainly come with plenty of "juice" from the energetic 43-year-old, but he did just receive a hefty raise and the buyout exceeds $700,000.



Utah State reportedly flirted with the Bowling Green head coach this offseason. Wyoming can, too. Todd Simon won 20 games during his first season in Ohio, nine more than the Falcons claimed the year before. The 43-year-old finished with 17 or more wins in five of his seven previous seasons at Southern Utah. The Michigan native led the Thunderbirds to three postseason tournaments, including the CBI semifinals in 2023. Name not ringing a bell? Simon was the associate head coach at UNLV from 2013-16. There he was the Rebels' lead recruiter, bringing in the No. 4 class in the country under former head coach Dave Rice. Simon earned interim head coach status during his final season in Sin City, taking over for Rice, who was fired after an 0-3 start to conference play. He helped lead the Rebels to a 9-8 record over that stretch before leaving for Cedar City. While Simon has said he is committed to building his program at Bowling Green, money and opportunity talks. The Mountain West sent a record number of teams to the Big Dance this season. The MAC, per usual, sent its league champion. Tough job.



Is it possible Burman plucks yet another coach from Northern Colorado? Steve Smiley, Linder's predecessor in Greeley, has led the Bears to a pair of 19-plus win seasons and two CBI Tournaments during his four years at the helm. UNC capped last season with a 19-14 record, finishing second in the Big Sky Conference standings. Smiley is 64-61 as a head coach at the Division-I level. He is also no stranger to Wyoming. For six seasons (2008-14), Smiley was the head man at Sheridan College. There, he led the Generals to an overall record of 152-45, never losing more than 10 games in a year. During his last three seasons at the school, Smiley compiled a record of 75-21. Sheridan advanced to four Region 9 Final Fours and two appearances in the championship game during his tenure. Smiley has also coached at Black Hills State, Northern State and Weber State. He was an assistant under Linder from 2016-2020. Does Wyoming go down this route again? The Denver native has certainly had plenty of success during his young career.



The talk show guy? Yes, the talk show guy. Sources have indicated Doug Gottlieb, the former Oklahoma State point guard and current national hoops analyst, is interested in the Wyoming job. The 48-year-old was open about his desire to coach at his alma mater and is still searching for an opportunity. An issue that likely took him out of the running in Stillwater is his lack of experience. He's never coached at the Division-I level. "I understand anyone's hesitance when you haven't seen me draw up a play," Gottlieb told The Oklahoman last March. "I get it. It's different. But if you want a different result, you have to try a different path. That's life 101." Gottlieb was a great player for the other Pokes from 1997-2000 and even led the country in assists at one point. He finished with 947 helpers during his career. He did once coach Team USA to a gold medal in the Maccabiah Games, a tournament that is commonly referred to as the "Jewish Olympics." A long shot? You bet. Gottlieb is excitable, well known and claims he can pull in NIL dollars, but all you can go on is a stellar playing career at this point.



David Moats - Boise State: He is a Guernsey native. He's been on Leon Rice's staff for the previous seven seasons. He's a Wyoming graduate and also played collegiately at Northwest Junior College in Powell.


Chris Haslam - Oregon State: Yes, the former Wyoming player just landed an assistant gig in Corvallis, but this is the head job. The 6-foot-11 center appeared in 92 games for the Cowboys from 1993-1997. Last season he helped lead Utah State to a Mountain West crown under Danny Sprinkle.


JayDee Luster - San Diego State: This San Diego native suited up for the Cowboys from three seasons (2009-12) after spending his first year at New Mexico State. During his time in Laramie, Luster was an assist machine, dishing out more than three helpers per outing. He finished his career ranked No. 8 in Wyoming history with 344 career assists. Luster has been an assistant at San Diego State since 2021. He helped lead the Aztecs to the national championship game in 2023.


Steve Roccaforte - Texas A&M: Could Steve McClain's former assistant be an option? Roccaforte wrapped up in his third season in College Station after stints at Virginia Tech, USF and Tulane. He was known as a great recruiter in the Chicago area during his three seasons in Laramie. If not the head coach, maybe he follows McClain and gets the band back together on the high plains?


Dan Russell - Weber State: This former Casper College player and coach is currently an assistant in Ogden. He posted a 145-52 overall record and led CC to six-straight region tournaments along with a pair of regional championship games. He is also a graduate of Wyoming and served as a graduate assistant on Heath Schroyer's staff.


Chris McMillian - Central Michigan: Wyoming's former point guard is currently an assistant in Mount Pleasant. He has also made stops at Centenary College, Hawaii, College of Southern Idaho, Illinois-Chicago (with McClain) and Idaho State.

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