Friday, March 27, 2009

Updated Arizona Coaching Search

Word in from my usually pretty reliable source, a.k.a. Doc Randi, says that the Arizona Coaching Search should be on it's last lap. While nothing is written or signed, it sounds like the decision has been made by Athletic Director Jim Livengood and there are only a few options.

1a. Rick Pitino

Why: Pitino has said recently that he loves rebuilding programs, and there isn't a better rebuilding opportunity out there than in Tucson. While he has always been a moving man, he may be looking to settle down somewhere with son Richard waiting in the wings a la Bobby and Pat Knight and Sean Sutton.

Arizona Tie: Rumors flood that Pitino's wife has already purchased a house in Tucson and that his youngest child, daughter Jacqueline Pitino, is planning on or has already enrolled in the U of A for next year. His 1997 Kentucky Wildcats team lost to Arizona in the National Championship. Confirmed reports have said that friend and former AD C.M. Newton has spoken with Arizona AD Jim Livengood. Whether or not Pitino's name came up is not certain, but Common Sense dictates it probably did.

Why Not: Arizona probably won't be able to commit as much money to Rick as Louisville has and Louisville has been a great home for Pitino. They have embraced Pitino and his family as part of the Louisville family since day one, and host the Billy Minardi Classic each fall to honor the death of Pitino's brother in law who died in the 9/11 attacks.

1b. John Calipari

Why: He can't stay at Memphis forever, it's like an asterisk on his record. Though he is always the top program in his conference and racks up 30 win seasons every year, people will always say it's C-USA. A move to a top conference would be a big step for Cal and his career.

Arizona Tie: One of Calipari's Top Assistant Coaches is pretty familiar with the Tucson area and the Arizona Basketball program, considering he spent over a decade roaming the halls of McKale. Josh Pastner will no doubt tell Calipari of the fans, tradition, and love of Arizona Basketball. We all know Pastner is one of the best recruiters out there. Also, Memphis was in Glendale for the last few days as was Jim Livengood. It's simply speculation that old friends Pastner and Livengood met up for a drink or dinner, and perhaps Pastner may have brought along Calipari.

Why Not: Besides the price tag he is firmly entrenched in a perennial Second Weekend Tournament team. Does he really want to move into a new conference with a new team. Doe he want to do another rebuild like he did in Memphis when he is used to being a 1-3 seed in the tournament every year?

2. Tom Izzo

Why: Early reports put the first spotlight on Izzo, and he allegedly (whether on his own or through an intermediary) was one of the first to contact Livengood back in November. It's much easier to recruit young red blooded males to the warm climate of Tucson over dreary East Lansing. In March girls wear bikini's to class at U of A, in East Lansing it's still snowing.

Arizona Tie: Coached former Arizona Guard, Jason Terry at the 2001 Goodwill Games and many other Pac-10 players in his other stints with USA Basketball.

Why Not: Izzo is a Michigan guy, he's from the upper peninsula. He was brought up in the program under former coach Jud Heathcote and has a great amount of respect and love for Heathcote as well as the Michigan State program. He has said he doesn't plan on leaving Michigan State until at least one more National Championship.

Now this is not saying that any of these three are guaranteed to be in Tucson in the coming weeks. I will repeat that, I am NOT saying that one of these coaches IS the next coach of the Arizona Basketball program. All three have a pretty hefty price tag. What I am saying is that I have been told that there are 3, and only 3 people in Jim Livengood's search as of right now, and if something can't be worked out there it will expand to include Mark Few, Jamie Dixon, Jay Wright, and Anthony Grant. I think it's safe to say that Reggie Theus, Tubby Smith, and Lon Kruger are out of the running.

Some people are thinking Anthony Grant, but with the recent news of Billy Gillespie's most likely outing from University of Kentucky, Billy Donovan will most likely be their top candidate, again. Anthony Grant will be ready to step in at Florida. He was already planning on taking over the Florida job after Donovan's flirtation with the Orlando Magic a couple years ago. Grant has also reportedly been offered the job in Alabama and is waiting for the Florida decision before he moves up to a top conference. The Kentucky job might seem pretty enticing to Calipari but I don't think Pitino will consider heading back to UK after their bad breakup a few years back.

Bottom line Pitino and Calipari are Livengood's top targets. It will take a large chunk of cash, but Livengood knows what he wants, does he have enough to lure these coaches away from their programs? From what I've been told with Memphis out conversations with Calipari should take place. If Arizona isn't able to make it through the weekend, we could have an answer to the Arizona Coaching Search before the Tournament is over. Of course there's the thought that if Arizona wins tonight, then both of their top targets will be done with their season. Next week could be an interesting week for Livengood.


Anonymous said...

Good job, however, you missed a couple of good names for that job. Coach Capel of Oklahoma, and wild card candidate Jeff van Gundy.