The University of Louisiana at Lafayette is expected to announce early next week that Bob Marlin will be the new men's basketball head coach for the Ragin' Cajuns.

Marlin has posted a 225-131 record in his 12 years as head coach at Sam Houston State. He is the second-winningest men's basketball coach in Southland Conference history and has led the Bearkats to more victories than any other team in the league since he took over the program.

The former head coach at Pensacola College in Florida, Marlin, 51, turned the Bearkats into consitent winners, producing six 20-plus victory seasons and two trips to the NCAA tournament.

This season, SHSU went 25-8, won both the Southland Conference regular season and post-season tournament titles and nearly knocked off Baylor in the first round of the NCAA tourney.

"Bob Marlin has brought national recognition to Sam Houston State University through the many achievements of the Bearkat men's basketball program during the past 12 years. Sam Houston has been the 'winningest' program in the Southland Conference during his tenure, winning three conference championships and advancing to the NCAA tournament twice. His teams have achieved academically as well.  On a personal level, I would like to add that, as his friend, I am happy for him and his new opportunity. We wish him continued success in his new job. A search for a new head coach for Sam Houston State will begin immediately."

Williams said the search for Marlin's replacement will begin next week. He hopes to move as quickly as possible before the final spring signing period rolls around.

"I would like to bring people in next week to help start screening potential candidates, and then hopefully begin bringing people to campus for interviews in two weeks," Williams said Friday. "I really hate to lose Bob, but this is a great opportunity for him. We were lucky to have him for 12 years.

"But this is also an exciting time to see who applies for the job. Bob has built a great program here and it will be interesting to see the talent pool that applies. This program is a lot better than it was 12 years ago when we were lucky to hire Bob."

Marlin broke the news to the Bearkat players that he would not be back next season during a team meeting Friday afternoon in the locker room at Johnson Coliseum.

"We told the team today that it life you have to make tough decisions and this was a tough decision to leave a place I care very deeply about," Marlin said.

Emotions were high, but the players understand that this is an opportunity for Marlin to advance his coaching career.

"I'm just lost for words right now," sophomore point guard Drae Murray said. "When I was recruited here I wanted to play for coach Marlin all four years. It is sad that I won't be playing for him anymore. But I understand he is making the best decision for him and his family. I just wish him luck."

The Ragin' Cajuns went 13-17 this season and lost a heartbreaker to Louisiana-Monroe in the opening round of the Sun Belt tournament. Louisiana-Lafayette announced on March 9 that Robert Lee would not be brought back after six seasons as the head coach.

Following a successful 2009-10 campaign, which saw the Bearkats win the Southland Conference regular-season and tournament championships and give third-seeded Baylor a scare in the first round of the NCAA tournament, Marlin became a hot commodity for several vacant head coaching positions.

Marlin interviewed with Auburn, Houston and Louisiana-Lafayette this week and was being mentioned as a candidate for the openings at UTEP and Boise State.

In the end, the Ragin' Cajuns were the best fit.

"It has been an honor to represent Sam Houston State and I know that they are going to have tremendous success in the future," Marlin said. "We have had some great young men in this program. I am very proud of them and what they have accomplished. More than 80 percent of them have their Sam Houston degress.

"Also we know we would not have been successful without our support group here on campus, from the college and athletic department administration. All the people on campus, the professors and faculty and staff that have taken time to help us recruit these players to the university. Sam Houston gave me a great opportunity. I am thankful."

The Bearkats return seven players from this year's squad, which won 25 games, a school record at the Division I level.

With a nucleus of All-SLC forward Gilberto Clavell and captain Josten Crow and a strong supporting cast of Lance Pevehouse, Murray, Antuan Bootle, Marco Cooper and freshmen Aaron Thompson and Kelly Lawson returning, Sam Houston has a solid core to make another run at an SLC title.

"From here, we are just going to try and build on this year," Pevehouse said Friday. "We are losing some key components from seniors to Coach, but I think this will be a good opportunity for Coach. He wouldn't have taken the job if it wasn't for the best. We wish him the best and hopefully we will do great next year."

As the search begins for Sam Houston's next basketball coach, Williams did not rule out the possibility of one of Marlin's assistant coaches getting the job.

"I talked with Bob and his staff that the job was open to anyone interested," Williams said. "We want the best candidate for the job. As you go through the hiring process, the true leader will rise to the top. We will get a good quality coach to replace the outstanding coach we have lost."