3 SEC head coaches who could get a look for the Arizona job
The Arizona Wildcats have officially moved on from coach Sean Miller. Miller, of course, has been on shaky ground since an NCAA investigation was launched into his program.
Now, the split is official, and the Wildcats are on the prowl for a new coach. Miller released a heartfelt statement about what it has meant to him to be the leader of the Arizona program for the past decade-plus:
“It was an honor to be the head basketball coach at the University of Arizona.”
A statement from Sean Miller: pic.twitter.com/sgWbDR35Oe
— Arizona Basketball (@APlayersProgram) April 8, 2021
So, what are the chances that Arizona’s new coaching search leads to the SEC?
Well, honestly, not that likely. There are several hot candidates from the West Coast. Perhaps the favorite right now is Gonzaga’s Tommy Lloyd, an assistant under Mark Few. Former Arizona star Damon Stoudamire and ex-Arizona player/assistant coach Josh Pastner are other guys in the mix for the job.
But, if those 3 don’t pan out, the search could quickly come knocking on the SEC’s door. Here are the 3 coaches currently leading SEC programs that could be on Arizona’s list in the coming weeks:
1. Eric Musselman, Arkansas
Musselman made a name for himself at Nevada from 2015-19, winning 3-straight Mountain West regular-season titles from 2017-19. He also led the Wolf Pack to the 2017 MWC Tournament title.
Nevada is where Musselman became a pioneer of the transfer portal and a guy who became synonymous with his energetic coaching style. He developed a reputation for taking off his shirt after big wins while leading the Wolf Pack.
Let me preface this by saying I think Muss would be crazy to leave Arkansas. I think he’d tell you the same thing right now. But, based on the success he’s had, bigger programs with deeper pockets are going to continue to come calling.
If he stays at Arkansas, he can turn the Hogs into a perennial Sweet 16 squad with occasional runs deeper into the tournament. But, if he decides to go to Arizona, there’s a chance he could lead the Wildcats to the ultimate prize.
Again, I think he should stay with Arkansas, but the Hogs need to lock him up with a massive extension tomorrow.
2. Mike White, Florida
White’s time at Florida has been tumultuous, to say the least. Sometimes, a change of scenery works out best for all parties involved. Brett Favre had to leave the Atlanta Falcons to become a superstar with the Green Bay Packers. Nick Saban left the Miami Dolphins to become a legend at Alabama.
Heck, Beyonce didn’t become Beyonce until after Destiny’s Child broke up.
It might be time for White and the Gators to admit things aren’t working out and move on before things get ugly. You never want to be the guy that follows the guy, and that’s the position White has been in since taking over for Billy Donovan in 2015. Donovan won 2 titles with the Gators. White has yet to win any.
That doesn’t mean White hasn’t done a decent job with the Gators, but he’s being held to a standard he hasn’t lived up to. If Arizona’s top couple of candidates don’t pan out, White could be on the list of coaches considered for the job.
He’s added a couple of great transfer players for Florida already this cycle in Penn State’s Myreon Jones and UMKC’s Brandon McKissic, but if the Wildcats come calling with a big-time contract offer, perhaps he at least considers jumping ship.
3. Ben Howland, Mississippi State
Much like with White at Florida, perhaps a change of scenery would work out for Howland and Mississippi State. Howland’s best days as a coach came at UCLA, when he led the Bruins to 3-straight Final Four appearances from 2006-08. In that time, he coached current NBA stars Russell Westbrook, Kevin Love and others.
His time at Mississippi State has gotten stagnant, to say the least. Yes, he led the Bulldogs to the NIT final this year, but he has only once led Mississippi State to the NCAA Tournament in 6 years, losing in the first round in 2019.
This offseason, the Bulldogs could have quite a bit of roster attrition, with Iverson Molinar, DJ Stewart Jr. and Tolu Smith all potentially leaving for the NBA or other opportunities.
I don’t think Howland will be too high on Arizona’s list, but if the Wildcats don’t have success trying to hire their top choices, Howland could get a call. And, if he does, the Oregon native could decide to head back to the West Coast.