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Sources: Montgomery a candidate for NIU job

Published: Saturday, March 19, 2011 7:55 p.m. CDT • Updated: Sunday, March 20, 2011 1:18 a.m. CDT
(Scott Walstrom – NIU Media Services)
orthern Illinois freshman forward Nate Rucker makes a pass during an exhibition game against Coe College at the Convocation Center on Nov. 6.

Two independent sources, speaking on the condition of anonymity, confirmed to the Daily Chronicle on Saturday night that Michigan State associate head coach Mark Montgomery is a candidate to be Northern Illinois’ next men’s basketball coach.

The Daily Chronicle has granted these sources anonymity in order for them to avoid reprisal. NIU athletic director Jeff Compher declined an interview request from the Daily Chronicle on Friday through a team spokesman.

Montgomery has been the Spartans’ associate head coach the past four seasons, working directly under Michigan State coach Tom Izzo. He has been an assistant on Izzo’s staff since 2001-02, helping the Spartans advance to three Final Fours.

In his only comments to the Daily Chronicle since firing former NIU men’s basketball coach Ricardo Patton earlier this month, Compher laid out his criteria for the next NIU coach on March 11. He also received feedback from Huskie players on what they’d like to see in their next coach during a meeting on March 10.

The players told Compher they want an energetic coach and someone they can relate to. Compher has also said it’s important to find someone with familiarity in the Midwest and Chicagoland area, as well as a proven recruiter.

Compher said NIU’s next coach will have significant Division I experience, but not necessarily as a head coach.

Montgomery, an Inkster, Mich., native, has spent his entire career in the Midwest. He has Mid-American Conference experience, spending four seasons as an assistant at Central Michigan from 1997-98. In 2000-01, he helped lead the Chippewas to a 20-8 record and a regular-season MAC championship.

As Michigan State’s recruiting coordinator, Montgomery helped the Spartans sign a top-10 recruiting class nationally in 2007. That class consisted of Draymond Green, Korie Lucious and Delvon Roe.

When Compher was asked about his timeline, he noted the hiring process may be delayed because of candidates currently coaching in postseason play this month.

“I want to be like John Wooden. I want to be quick but not in a hurry,” Compher said. “I don’t want to miss out on candidates (by moving too quickly), but I think it’s important to move quickly.”

Michigan State’s season ended Thursday night with a 78-76 loss to UCLA in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

• Daily Chronicle sports editor John Sahly contributed to this report.

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