Cougars' search comes up empty Program reeling after Johnson, Young withdraw

Former College of Charleston guard Anthony Johnson withdrew from consideration for school's head coaching basketball job on Wednesday.

The College of Charleston is 80 days away from its basketball season opener and the Cougars don't appear to be any closer to hiring a coach than they were a month ago.

The search to replace Doug Wojcik, who was fired on Aug. 5, took a bizarre twist Wednesday when the two leading candidates - former Cougars guard Anthony Johnson and Wofford coach Mike Young - withdrew their names from consideration within hours of each other.

"It's sad because Charleston is a great job, but now they've become a laughing stock around the country," ESPN basketball analyst Jeff Goodman said. "The program's reputation has taken a hit and it's all because the administration has mismanaged this from the very beginning.

"They've known for a long time that they were going to have to find a new coach. This whole process should have been completed a long time ago."

When reached Wednesday, College of Charleston athletic director Joe Hull declined to comment on the withdrawals of Johnson and Young.

"We hope to have a coach in place very soon," he said.

Early Wednesday afternoon Young told The Spartanburg Herald-Journal that he was going to remain at the Upstate school. That prompted several media outlets to report that Johnson, who had been the leading candidate for the job, would be the Cougars' next head coach.

However, Johnson told The Post and Courier in an email that he also had withdrawn his name for "personal reasons."

"I am ending my pursuit of the position of Head Men's Basketball Coach at the College of Charleston," Johnson, 39, said in an email. "I have a personal matter, my divorce in June of 2013, that requires my full attention, as my wife and I are working hard to reconcile.

"This is my top priority at this time and what is in the best interests of my family, especially my two beautiful kids. Unfortunately, at this time, I cannot continue in my pursuit of that position."

Young has deep roots at Wofford, having been at the school for more than two decades. He has spent the last 12 years as the Terriers' head coach, compiling a 176-165 mark and leading the Terriers to three Southern Conference titles and three appearances in the NCAA Tournament in the past five seasons.

"The only thing that matters to me are those 16 guys coming to campus and this team," Young told The Spartanburg Herald-Journal. "I knew when it was time to back away and take care of my guys. I'm always for doing things the right way and winning another league championship. That's all that matters to me. We were respectful of the process. But just like I have been for a long, long time, I am invested in this college and this program."

Johnson and Young were not the only coaches to pass on the Cougars' job. A third candidate - Florida assistant coach Matt McCall - withdrew his name from consideration last week, multiple sources confirmed.

The College's search committee interviewed six candidates for the job - Johnson, Young, Clemson assistant coach Earl Grant, University of Connecticut assistant coach Karl Hobbs, former UNC Charlotte coach Bobby Lutz and Virginia assistant coach Ritchie McKay.

It's not clear if the search committee will meet again to discuss a new candidate or if the College will consider Grant, McKay, Lutz and Hobbs, who were not among the finalists for the job. A source at the school said all four coaches were still interested in the position.

When reached Wednesday, Grant, a former Stall High School star, declined to comment on his interest in the position.

"I'm shocked at what's happened today," Grant said. "I feel bad for Anthony and the College of Charleston."

With less than three months before the season opener, the College could decide to retain interim coach Antonio Reynolds-Dean.

Goodman said there's still a good chance the College can make a quality hire.

"I've had 50 coaches text or call me and tell me they're glad they didn't get involved during the search," Goodman said. "But it's still a great job and they'll get someone good. The people I feel sorry for are the players. The College is very lucky they're still at the school and they have not transferred yet."

Wojcik was fired for "just cause" after two independent investigations uncovered allegations of verbal and physical abuse of players and athletic department staff members.

Johnson, who interviewed for the position in 2012 just before Wojcik was hired, was the first player from the College of Charleston to be selected in the NBA draft when Sacramento picked the former Stall High star in the second round in 1997. Johnson helped lead the Cougars to one NCAA appearance (1997) and two NIT bids (1995, 1996) during his career. Johnson played 13 seasons in the NBA.

The Cougars open the season at Furman on Nov. 15.