Arizona fired head basketball coach Sean Miller on Wednesday, which ended a 12-year run with the program.
The Wildcats were 302-109 in the stretch, and that included three Elite Eight appearances. Arizona did not participate in the 2020-21 NCAA Tournament because of a self-imposed ban, and the next coach could face more NCAA fallout in the future.
It’s still a top job within the Pac-12. The Wildcats are still looking for that first Final Four appearance since 2001. Here is a list of coaches who could entertain that high-profile job.
Arizona head coaching candidates
Damon Stoudamire, Pacific coach
Stoudamire would be the most recognizable name for Wildcats’ fans. He was a point guard on Arizona’s Final Four team, enjoyed a successful NBA career and spent the past five seasons as Pacific’s coach. He took on a rebuild with the Tigers, who are 32-19 the past two seasons. It’s a big step up, but Stoudamire could have success in the long term.
Josh Pastner, Georgia Tech coach
Pastner would be another within-the-family candidate. He played on the 1997 national championship team, and he was an assistant at Arizona from 2002 to 2008. He’s compiled a 249-148 record between stints at Memphis and Georgia Tech. Pastner’s teams have five tournament appearances and have not reached the Sweet 16, so that would be a concern. Georgia Tech also had a postseason ban last season.
Miles Simon, LA Lakers assistant
Think Juwan Howard at Michigan. Simon, also a member of that 1997 national championship team, spent four seasons as an assistant at Arizona from 2005 to 2008. He has been an assistant coach with the Lakers since 2017, and that LeBron James connection alone is enough to register with recruits. Simon knows the program and knows what it’s like to be a star on a national championship team. He is a top candidate as a result.
Joe Pasternack, UC-Santa Barbara coach
This depends on whether Arizona will try to distance itself from the Miller era. Pasternack did serve as an assistant at Arizona from 2011 to 2017, and he’s taken advantage of a stint with UC-Santa Barbara. The Gauchos are 88-34 the past four seasons, and they are coming off an NCAA Tournament appearance. That success could easily follow Pasternack back to Tucson.
Tommy Lloyd, Gonzaga assistant coach
It’s becoming clear that Mark Few likely isn’t leaving Gonzaga anytime soon. What about one of his top assistants? Lloyd has been with the Bulldogs since 2001, and the 46-year-old is bound to take the next step soon. Gonzaga has emerged as the premier West Coast program, and Lloyd could bring those lessons to the Pac-12.
John Beilein, Big Ten Network analyst
Beilein brings immediate credibility to a program, and his name turns up in every major coaching search. Beilein, 68, helped revive the Michigan program, and if the itch to still coach is still there after the brief stint with the Cleveland Cavaliers, then he could entertain a move out West. This worked for UCLA and Mick Cronin. Beilein is the best coach on the board, but he might be content to stay in the studio at this point in his career.
Brian Dutcher, San Diego State coach
If the Wildcats cannot get Beilein, then they might try a former Michigan assistant. Dutcher spent the bulk of his coaching career behind Steve Fisher at Michigan and San Diego State, and he’s turned the first head-coaching job into a success with a 96-31 record at San Diego State the past four seasons. Dutcher, 61, could bring that to Arizona. He doesn’t have the big-name cachet of some of the other candidates, but that should not matter.
Bryce Drew, Grand Canyon coach
The Drew name is hot given what Baylor accomplished this season, and Bryce led Grand Canyon to an NCAA Tournament appearance. The Antelopes did that with a stifling defense that allowed 62.1 points per game. Drew was 40-59 in three seasons at Vanderbilt, but there are more resources to work with at Arizona. It’s another hire that could excite the fan base.
Kyle Smith, Washington State coach
Smith is another name that would not generate too much excitement, but it could be the right hire. He led Washington State to a near-.500 record the past two seasons, and the program is on the upswing. Smith had five 20-win seasons in nine years at Columbia and San Francisco before that, and that ground-up makeover might be exactly what Arizona needs.