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Tech on the market for energetic coach

ATLANTA - Dan Radakovich sounded more like a CEO than an athletic director while musing about the traits he'll be looking for in Georgia Tech's next football coach.

He talked about financial considerations. He talked about market share and marketability. He talked about hiring someone who couldn't wait to get to the office each day.

'This type of transition is never easy,' said Radakovich, who is about to make a decision that could define his legacy at Georgia Tech. 'But I'm confident that in a short period of time we'll have a coach who can energize our fan base and bring enthusiastic leadership to our football program.'

Radakovich dumped Chan Gailey on Monday, deciding that a staid, 55-year-old coach wasn't a good fit for an urban school that must compete with a powerful state rival, the University of Georgia, and four major league teams that all play within a couple of miles of the Georgia Tech campus.

'Does our program inspire the market, on and off the field, to buy tickets and support our mission here at Georgia Tech?' asked Radakovich, having decided the answer was 'no' as long as Gailey was in charge. 'Those things must happen for us to be successful.'

Radakovich would only confirm one candidate, defensive coordinator and interim coach Jon Tenuta, who agreed to lead the Yellow Jackets (7-5) in their expected trip to either the Humanitarian or Emerald Bowl.

It's hard to envision Tenuta, a gruff, high-strung man who has largely ignored the media during his six years at Georgia Tech, being Gailey's replacement. But the fill-in coach insisted that he's got the credentials to handle his first head coaching job.

'Once you get to know me, you'll understand where I'm coming from,' Tenuta said. 'And I've been auditioning my defense the last six years. You can see how they've performed.'

Radakovich sounded as though he wants someone young and enthusiastic and charismatic, someone who can excite fans, charm reporters and lure untapped customers through the gates by the force of his personality.

'Energy is very, very important,' the AD said.

Radakovich hopes to hit the same bulls-eye that Georgia did in 2001, when the Bulldogs hired a 40-year-old offensive coordinator at Florida State named Mark Richt. In seven years between the hedges, he's won 71 games and two Southeastern Conference championships.

Keep an eye on young assistants such as 42-year-old Jimbo Fisher, who just happens to be in Richt's old job at Florida State, and Auburn defensive coordinator Will Muschamp, only 36 and well known for his fiery demeanor and intensity.

Radakovich has ties to both men from his previous job as assistant athletic director at LSU. where Fisher was the offensive coordinator for seven years and Muschamp ran the defense for former Tigers coach Nick Saban.

'I want the best fit for what we're doing here at Georgia Tech,' Radakovich said, 'whether they've been a head coach or not a head coach.'

Muschamp is especially intriguing. He's an alumnus of Georgia, which might raise some objections from those who despise the red and black, but plenty of coaches have cast aside their school colors, including Steve Spurrier (Florida) at South Carolina and Sylvester Croom (Alabama) at Mississippi State. Also, Muschamp shares the same agent as Georgia Tech basketball coach Paul Hewitt, Atlanta-based Career Sports & Entertainment.

This season, Muschamp's unit ranked among the best in the nation in points allowed (fifth), yards per game (seventh) and pass defense (eighth).

Then again, hiring a defensive-minded coach such as Muschamp would likely hasten the departure of Tenuta, who said he'd be willing to consider staying on even if someone else got the head coaching job.

'You've got to explore all your options but, sure, why not?' said Tenuta, who's also been mentioned as a possible candidate at Michigan State. 'I've really enjoyed my six years here.'

Of course, Tenuta staying would almost certainly depend on him keeping total control of his blitz-heavy defense, as he had under Gailey. It's hard to envision Muschamp agreeing to that sort of arrangement.

If Radakovich wants to keep Tenuta, then he should look toward an offensive-style coach. Fisher fits the mold. So does Navy's Paul Johnson, who led Georgia Southern to NCAA Division I-AA titles in 1999 and 2000 and just steered the Midshipmen to their fifth straight bowl invitation.

Johnson, who also has been mentioned as Bill Callahan's possible successor at Nebraska, shrugged off the speculation Tuesday. He's trying to keep his team focused on Saturday's big game against Army.

'It's been the same situation every year and we're still here,' Johnson said. 'The kids know that if something were really going on, I would tell them.'

Still, one can't help but wonder if Johnson is longing for a chance to coach at a school that doesn't have all the limitations of a military academy. If he can average eight wins a year at Navy, which he's done over the past five years, what would he do with a little more talent at his disposal?

But Johnson insisted that he's not looking for another job.

'Some of the stuff out there is so ludicrous ... it's laughable,' he said. 'To me, what's important right now is to beat Army. All my focus is on this game.'

SideBar: The list

Possible candidates to succeed Chan Gailey as coach at Georgia Tech:

Jon Tenuta, Georgia Tech defensive coordinator and interim head coach

Jimbo Fisher, Florida State offensive coordinator

Will Muschamp, Auburn defensive coordinator

Paul Johnson, Navy head coach