The college basketball coaching carousel keeps spinning around the nation as the University of Arizona has fired coach Sean Miller after 12 seasons with the former Pac-12 powerhouse. Miller compiled a 302-109 record with the Wildcats and led the program to three Elite Eight appearances, but UA had fallen off in recent years and the program is facing potentially serious NCAA sanctions for recruiting violations. Plus, Miller had just one year left on his contract. SportsLine offers early odds on Miller's potential replacement.
At one point, Arizona was one of the best programs in the country. In Miller's first nine seasons, the school had a 76.9 winning percentage overall and 74.7 percent in the Pac-12. The past three seasons, those numbers dropped to 61.6 percent and 51.8 percent, respectively. Arizona won at least a share of five Pac-12 regular-season championships under Miller but missed the NCAA Tournament in 2018-19 and self-imposed a one-year postseason ban this past season.
One issue with any coach taking this job: The allegations hanging over the program. Former Wildcats assistant Book Richardson pled guilty to federal bribery charges in 2019, and the NCAA in its notice of allegations to Arizona included five Level I violations, the most serious. One was against Miller as well as an overall institutional control charge against the program. There were additional allegations involving former player Rawle Alkins, and Arizona indefinitely suspended former assistant coach Mark Phelps in 2019.
Of late, powerhouse (or formerly so) schools have been staying "in the family" with new coaches as Indiana hired former Hoosiers player Mike Woodson and North Carolina did the same with former Heels star Hubert Davis.
Thus, former Arizona star point guard Damon Stoudamire is the clear favorite to replace Miller. He has NBA assistant head coaching experience on top of his playing career (1996 NBA Rookie of the Year), was an assistant at Arizona from 2013-15, has been the head coach at Pacific since 2016 and was the West Coast Conference Coach of the Year in 2020.
Expect Arizona officials to gauge the interest of Georgia Tech coach Josh Pastner, who led the Yellow Jackets to the 2021 ACC Tournament title and their first NCAA Tournament since 2010. Pastner lettered four years at Arizona (1996-2000) and has a bachelor's and master's degree from the school. He started his coaching career as an assistant with the Wildcats from 2002-2008.
Another former Arizona player, 1997 Final Four Most Outstanding Player Miles Simon, also should get a look. He doesn't have head coaching experience but was an assistant at UA from 2005-08 and has been an assistant with the LA Lakers since 2017.
While Gonzaga's Mark Few is a pipe dream, Zags assistant Tommy Lloyd is considered a rising star in the profession. This past season was his 20th as an assistant at the school and Lloyd's specialty is considered to be recruiting – especially European talent (Arizona currently has several international players).
Arizona did well in hiring from a mid-major with Miller (Xavier) and one of the most successful mid-major coaches over the past decade has been Creighton's Greg McDermott – although he has no ties to Arizona. McDermott may have hit a ceiling in leading the Bluejays to this year's Sweet 16.
Other potential candidates rumored by various sources are BYU's Mark Pope and Arkansas' Eric Musselman. To win the 2022 NCAA title, Arizona is +5000 long shot at William Hill Sportsbook.
Via SportsLine oddsmakers: Who will be the next Arizona basketball coach?
- Damon Stoudamire Even
- Tommy Lloyd +250
- Josh Pastner +400
- Miles Simon +900
- Mark Pope +1200
- Greg McDermott +1500
- Eric Musselman +2000
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