Sean Miller’s underwhelming, unsavory run as Arizona head coach is over, opening one of the best jobs in college basketball.
“Sean Miller met with both Arizona president Dr. Robert Robbins and AD Dave Heeke last night for more than an hour with no conclusion, source told [Stadium],” Jeff Goodman tweeted on Wednesday morning. “Then met again this morning and decided to part ways with Miller, who is owed about $1.5 million.”
The dismissal comes one month after the conclusion of Miller’s 12th season as head coach, all of which ended without a Final Four appearance. He won more than 300 games but never advanced beyond the Elite Eight and was the subject of FBI and NCAA investigations over the last four years.
With Miller out, whom might Arizona hire as head coach?
It’s the first men’s basketball hire for fourth-year athletics director Dave Heeke, though, for what it’s worth, he made two basketball hires at Central Michigan and has hired two football coaches since arriving at Arizona in 2017.
If Heeke wants a coach with local ties, he might consider Pacific head coach Damon Stoudamire, UC Santa Barbara head coach Joe Pasternack, Los Angeles’ Lakers assistant coach Miles Simon, or Georgia Tech head coach Josh Pastner. All four are former Arizona assistants and only Simon doesn’t have head-coaching experience. Stoudamire, Pac-10 Player of the Year at Arizona in 1995, spent two seasons on Pastner’s Memphis staff before returning to his hometown of Portland five years ago.
Outside the Arizona circles, Goodman and other insiders mentioned Gonzaga assistant Tommy Lloyd as a potential candidate. He’s turned down dozens of interview requests and job offers over two decades on Mark Few’s bench and has never given any indication of a desire to leave. The 46-year-old Washington native has never coached elsewhere but, according to Goodman, could be a realistic target given Few’s affinity for Olson, Few’s prior consideration (albeit minimal) of the Arizona job, and one unnamed Arizona donor’s ties to Gonzaga.
BYU head coach Mark Pope could also be in the mix. The former Kentucky star, rumored to be a potential candidate at Utah before the Utes hired Craig Smith, has high-major coaching experience (Georgia and Wake Forest), has spent the last decade recruiting the entire mountain region and west coast, and at only 48 years old, could be a long-term solution.
Arkansas head coach Eric Musselman knows the region well from his time as Nevada head coach and Arizona State assistant. The Wildcats can more than double his $2.5-million salary and, barring a long-term postseason ban from the NCAA investigation, give him an opportunity to annual compete for Final Fours.
Nate Oats is among potential candidates who make less geographical sense, though as Oats has shown in two years at Alabama – and others have shown in recent years as other programs have won after hiring outside their bubble – geography isn’t the biggest factor. Dan Hurley also falls in that bucket, as do Steve Pikiell and Mike White.
If Arizona finds themselves farther down the list, or Heeke passes on a good candidate for an outside-the-box hire like he did in hiring Jedd Fisch over Brent Brennan as football coach, they might consider USC assistant Jason Hart, UCLA assistant Darren Savino, North Texas head coach Grant McCasland, UNC Greensboro head coach Wes Miller, Abilene Christian head coach Joe Golding, or Washington State head coach Kyle Smith.
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Andrew Doughty is a writer for BetMGM and host of High Motor by BetMGM, an NFL and college football podcast available on Apple Podcasts and everywhere else. He has written for Sports Illustrated, HERO Sports, Bleacher Report, and SB Nation. Follow him on Twitter: @DoughtyBetMGM