Arizona is on the hunt for its next coach after Wednesday’s news that the Wildcats and Sean Miller are parting ways. Though an NCAA investigation has scuffed up the program’s reputation a bit in recent years, the Arizona gig is still an elite college basketball job. Below, we’ll review some of the names who could be possible candidates for the job, according to CBS Sports college basketball insiders Matt Norlander and Gary Parrish.
The Wildcats won the 1997 national title and made 32 NCAA Tournaments in a 34-year span from 1985 through 2018. During that run, the program made 23 straight NCAA Tournament appearances under legendary former coach Lute Olson, who retired before the 2007-08 season. Olson also helped cultivate a fruitful coaching tree during his 25-year run leading the program.
That means there will be good “Arizona family” options if the school’s administration wants to prioritize someone with a prior connection to the school. However, Miller did not have connections to Arizona when he took the job, and he experienced success during his first decade on the job.
The position should draw interest from candidates far and wide. Despite the looming uncertainty of a ruling on five alleged Level I violations, Arizona has the resources and tradition to perennially compete in the Pac-12 and on the national landscape.
Here is a look at some names to watch:
Tommy Lloyd, Gonzaga assistant coach
Two decades on Mark Few’s staff at Gonzaga have prepared Lloyd for an opportunity to run his own program. His recruitment of European prospects has helped the Bulldogs rise to national prominence, and at 46, he’s primed to take the next step if he’s willing to leave his roots in the Pacific Northwest. Though Lloyd could be considered a realistic successor to Few, the timeline there doesn’t make a ton of sense, because Lloyd might have to wait another 15 years for Few, 58, to retire. He’s at the right age and has the right experience to make a jump.
Damon Stoudamire, Pacific head coach
Stoudamire is an all-time great former Arizona player who has helped Pacific make progress over the past five seasons. Though just 71-77 overall as a head coach, he won the WCC Coach of the Year honor last season after leading the Tigers to a 20-win season, and they were 9-9 this season. As a former NBA Rookie of the Year, former Arizona star, ex-Wildcats assistant and current college head coach, Stoudamire checks basically every box you can think of. He scored 1,849 points under Olson and led Arizona to the 1994 Final Four and is revered at the school.
Miles Simon, Lakers assistant coach
Simon teamed up with the likes of Michael Dickerson, Mike Bibby and Jason Terry to lead Arizona to the 1997 national title. After a professional playing career, he spent three seasons working on staff for Olson and has been a Lakers assistant since 2017. That combination of Arizona pedigree and a recent NBA title on the bench with the Lakers make him an appealing candidate.
Josh Pastner, Georgia Tech head coach
Pastner was a walk-on for the Wildcats under Olson and was part of the national championship team as he prepared for the coaching career he’d been eyeing since childhood. Pastner has more collegiate head coaching experience than anyone on this list, having compiled a 249-148 record in seven seasons at Memphis and five at Georgia Tech. One knock on Pastner’s candidacy could be that the Yellow Jackets navigated some NCAA troubles that resulted in a postseason ban during the 2019-20 season.
Eric Musselman, Arkansas head coach
Musselman’s name has been bandied about as a possibility for several jobs this cycle, but this one makes sense given where he spent most of the past decade. His first foray into college coaching came at Arizona State between 2012 and 2014, and then he spent four successful seasons as Nevada’s head coach. So he should have good relationships with regional talent sources. However, Musselman has already started landing transfer commitments for his 2021-22 roster and it’s hard to see him leaving a good thing at Arkansas after just two seasons for a school with NCAA issues.
Luke Walton, Kings head coach
Another former player under Olson at Arizona, Walton is in his fifth season as an NBA head coach. In three seasons with the Lakers and one season with the Kings he’s yet to register a winning record, though, and Sacramento is 22-29 as of Wednesday. With pressure mounting to make something of a talented young roster, it’s feasible that Walton might be interested in an off-ramp. He spent a season on Pastner’s staff at Memphis in 2011 and is certainly an Arizona guy. Walton played a key for the 2001 Arizona squad that lost in the national title game.
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