Just as three huge college basketball jobs—Indiana, North Carolina, and Texas—were filled, another has opened. Arizona made the somewhat surprising decision to fire Sean Miller following Arizona’s second straight missed NCAA Tournament, this time due to a self-imposed ban.
Miller had come under significant fire from the NCAA’s investigations into recruiting violations. The timing still made this one a bit of a shock, as the Arizona basketball season had been done for a while. It’s possible that the school didn’t want to take attention off of the women’s team’s incredible run to the national championship game, as well.
All three of the aforementioned schools kept their hires in the family. Indiana hired former Hoosiers star Mike Woodson, UNC promoted Roy Williams assistant (and former Tar Heels standout) Hubert Davis, and Texas hired alum Chris Beard. Right now, many believe Arizona will do the same.
Former Arizona star Damon Stoudamire is the most popular name right now. He is 71–77 in five years at Pacific, following up three sub-.500 seasons with a 23-10 breakout year in 2019-20. The team was 9-9 this year. Two others that have been both players and assistants at Arizona, Lakers’ assistant Miles Simon and Georgia Tech head coach Josh Pastner, have also been raised. Now, you can toss another name from those Arizona basketball halcyon years into the mix: Sacramento Kings head coach Luke Walton. He was asked about the job on Thursday and shot down the rumors:
"No interest. I love Arizona and I think Sean Miller did an amazing job there in his time. I have a job. I have a job I love. I have a group I love working with. I'm very committed to being here in Sacramento." -Luke Walton on Arizona job
— James Ham (@James_HamNBCS) April 7, 2021
Even so, CBS Sports’ Matt Norlander includes him in a list of “obvious candidates,” along with the other former Arizona players, Gonzaga assistant Tommy Lloyd, and Arkansas head coach Eric Musselman.
Walton played for legendary Arizona basketball coach Lute Olson from 1999-2003, before a decade-long career in the NBA. The son of legendary UCLA and NBA player Bill Walton, he was an assistant with the Golden State Warriors under Steve Kerr from 2014-16, and then head coach of the Lakers from 2016-19, and the Kings since 2019. He was a college assistant at Memphis in 2011, under Pastner.
The other big name that has come up: former Michigan head coach John Beilein. He’s the most successful of any of these coaches, but has no Arizona connections. We’ll see if that Wildcats pedigree winds up being a huge factor here.