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Heading into the summer, who can you trust among Arizona’s top-tier coaches?

arizona-wildcats-offseason-coach-analysis-jedd-fisch-tommy-lloyd-adia-barnes-chip-hale-caitlin-lowe Brett Rojo-USA TODAY Sports

With all their seasons over, it’s apparent that the Arizona Wildcats’ big-time sports and their coaches are all in interesting spots.

On the basketball court, both Tommy Lloyd and Adia Barnes have reloaded in a way some may not have expected, and each program will head into the next season with incredibly high expectations.

On the football field, Jedd Fisch has a team on the upswing, with hopes that this will be the season the ‘Cats get back into a bowl game.

Things are a bit different on the diamonds, though. Although Chip Hale was able to guide his team into the postseason it was not the result of some excellent season, and Caitlin Lowe’s squad missed an NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1986.

Whether things are looking good or a bit dire, each of these high-profile coaches heads into the summer with plenty still yet to prove. Despite all that each has accomplished up to this point, none have a championship on their coaching resume and therefore none have proven capable of guiding a program to their respective sport’s peak.

The question is, do you trust they’ll be able to do so? Should you?

Let’s take a look.

Jedd Fisch

Arizona State v Arizona Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

What we learned from Arizona football’s spring practice - Brian Pedersen

Fisch has won a grand total of six games over his first two seasons and yet may earned more trust than any of the other coaches on this list. His incredible success on the recruiting trail and in the transfer portal, combined with his overall approach to being a part of the University of Arizona and Tucson community has generated plenty of positive vibes. Now entering his third season, expectations for a return to bowl eligibility are in place.

Reason to believe: When Fisch arrived Arizona was at its lowest point, and though his first team didn’t win much it was mostly competitive. Time has led to a greatly improved roster and this next one is the most talented we’ve seen in Tucson in a while. Continuing to recruit at a high level will determine just how much better things can get, but in an era where the transfer portal and NIL have wreaked havoc on some programs, Fisch’s has mostly thrived. If the coach can keep this up, we might get an answer to just how good Arizona Football can become.

Reason to doubt: Vibes don’t matter, wins do. And victories on the recruiting trail don’t mean much if they don’t translate to wins on the field. Fisch has exceeded the incredibly low expectations he started with, but he no longer should be judged by how much better he is than Kevin Sumlin. His recruiting efforts are commendable, but offering early and ample playing time can only get you so far. Sooner or later you must show you can win games and get players’ names called during the NFL Draft.

Verdict: Trust the coach. Up to this point Fisch has done everything anyone could have reasonably asked for, if not more. He may not be the guy to get Arizona to whatever the program’s promised land looks like and there’s a chance that if he gets close a bigger program will poach him away. But as it stands, Arizona football is in good hands and the future is indeed bright.

Caitlin Lowe

2022 NCAA Division I Women’s Softball Championship Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images

What’s next for Arizona softball - Kim Doss

The former Arizona star, and longtime assistant under Mike Candrea, followed up a worthy debut season with one that didn’t go so well. Arizona missed the postseason for the first time in more than 35 years, and while injuries and close losses played a key role Arizona softball is supposed to be good enough to withstand. This most recent disappointing season aside, you cannot forget nor discount the run her squad went on to get to Oklahoma City in her first season.

Reason to believe: Lowe was hand-picked by Candrea for a reason, right? She obviously knows what she’s doing and that first year showed she could get her team to keep playing hard. A strong recruiting class is set to join the team next season, and with the transfer portal the team’s pitching problems need not persist. A move to replace pitching coach Taryne Mowatt-McKinney, another Arizona great, shows Lowe is willing to whatever is necessary to win.

Reason to doubt: Candrea’s presence will continue to loom large over the program, and as more of the players brought in to play for him move on will Lowe be able to build similarly stacked rosters? She does not have the benefit of being a legendary coach and with softball being played at a high level at many West Coast programs, there is more competition for talent. Another down season from the Cats may signal that they cannot survive in a post-Candrea world, which in turn will only hurt their chances of getting back to such a high level.

Verdict: Trust, but verify. Even the best programs have an occasional down year and one rough season does not a bad coach make. That said, Lowe has plenty to prove in year three. Will she get more time than that to show she’s the right person for the job? Probably, but another down season and failure to make it to the tournament would indicate the program is at best treading water, and that’s unacceptable.

Tommy Lloyd

Arizona State v Arizona Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

A look at Arizona men’s basketball roster following recent additions - Brian Pedersen

In many ways Lloyd’s first two seasons should be enough to feel really good about the coach. After all, he’s posted a 61-11 record with one Pac-12 Conference Title and two Pac-12 Tournament titles while overseeing seasons that saw the Cats earn a 1-seed in the 2022 tournament and a 2-seed in the 2023 dance. Unfortunately neither squad was able to reach the third weekend, and last year’s suffered a rather embarrassing first-round defeat at the hands of Princeton. Arizona basketball fans have experienced plenty of regular season victories, at this point failure to go deep into March is akin to struggle. Fair or not.

Reason to trust: You don’t coach your way to that many wins by accident, especially when you didn’t take over a ready-made juggernaut. Lloyd won with many of his predecessor’s players, yes, but his coaching and system unlocked their talent in a way that not every coach could have. Lloyd has shown to be an excellent in-game coach and his leadership appears to be top notch. He’s proven to be adaptable with both his style and roster construction, as evidenced by how he’s re-shaped the roster. Further, he’s proven that he is more than just an international recruiter, landing commitments and signatures from some of the best talent in America.

Reason to doubt: We have yet to see a roster whose best player was recruited by Lloyd. More worrisome than that is that we have yet to see a Lloyd team play well in the NCAA Tournament. Even the ‘22 team didn’t look great in its two postseason wins. Injuries certainly played a role then and in the most recent disappointment, but that’s not a good excuse. Does the coach have a killer instinct? His resurgence on the recruiting trail followed what appeared to be at least one major whiff. A lot of pressure comes with being Arizona’s coach, and while on the surface Lloyd seems unfazed by it, pickleball can only go so far as a form of stress release.

Verdict: Trust the guy. Arizona hit a home run with Lloyd, who offers the total package of tactician, recruiter and face of the program. He’s still learning a bit on the job, but that means an excellent coach is only going to get even better. The way he pushed through this offseason and built a roster that doesn’t appear to have any major holes was impressive, and snagging Caleb Love late in the process may be the move that we look back on as the one that got Arizona back to the Final Four.

Adia Barnes

Arizona v New Mexico Photo by Sam Wasson/Getty Images

An early look at the 2023-24 depth chart for Arizona women’s basketball - Kim Doss

It wasn’t that long ago where Barnes was viewed as the best coach of any Arizona team and one of the rising stars. Getting the Wildcats to within one (really close) three of a national championship does that. While Barnes and the Cats have not made as deep a run as they did in 2021 — or any kind of run, really — does not mean things have been bad, just that the expectations were raised and the program has yet to meet them. Barnes has seen her roster change and change and change some more, and the team that takes the court in the fall figures to look quite a bit different than the one that left it in the spring.

Reason to trust: It wasn’t that long ago where Barnes had Arizona playing in the National Championship Game, and that run was neither accident nor fluke. It was the culmination of a slow build from the bottom. Arizona has finished in the top half of a tough Pac-12 and been in the NCAA Tournament every year since. been an NCAA Tournament staple every year since. While plenty of talent has departed over the last couple of years, Barnes has done incredible work both in the portal and in traditional recruiting. The coach has had to It’s not unreasonable to think her next team may be the most balanced, both in talent and temperament. Reaching the championship game in ‘21 opened up some new doors on the recruiting trail, and Barnes has had to learn to navigate the quest for elite talent with the desire to build a cohesive team. It appears she’s done so.

Reason to doubt: Getting knocked out in the NCAA Tournament’s second round each of the last two years is pretty disappointing, especially given the amount of talent that has been on each roster. And while Arizona has been good, fourth place finishes in he conference show a program that is good, but can’t reach great. Barnes has been around long enough and added enough high-end players, so what’s the problem? There have been questions about players’ usage, and some clunky rotations may have led to some impact transfers out of the program. College basketball is a bit of a revolving door these days, but what’s happened with Arizona seems a bit extreme. Arizona has reached the championship game and while it may be unfair to expect that kind of run every season, it’s not unreasonable to want more from the team in the postseason.

Verdict: Don’t worry about women’s hoops. Arizona is lucky that Barnes is an alum because if not it would be tough to have a coach of such a high caliber. You want your coach to lead, and Barnes does that. You want your coach to motivate, and Barnes does that. You want your coach to teach and game plan, which she does, and you want your coach to recruit. No problem there. The Wildcats play in a tough conference and have run into some very good teams in the postseason. One of these years, maybe soon, they’ll break through again.

Chip Hale

COLLEGE BASEBALL: MAY 02 Arizona at Grand Canyon Photo by Zac BonDurant/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

What’s next for Arizona baseball after short NCAA stay — Brian Pedersen

Had you tried to evaluate Hale just a few weeks ago, the tone would be markedly different. As it stands, the coach was able to get his team into the NCAA Tournament for the second time in as many seasons, and although the ‘Cats fell flat and failed to win a game there’s something to be said for at least getting there. Arizona has not fallen apart under his stewardship, which many feared (or assumed?) would be the case.

Reason to trust: Hale appears to be a coach players enjoy playing for. He was able to keep some key guys from entering the portal when Jay Johnson left, which helped with the transition. But more than that, the fact that this last year’s team did not quite on the season nor on each other speaks volumes. Hale kept the team together and guided them toward playing their best baseball down the stretch and into the Pac-12 Tournament. As a whole, the team was elite with the bat and improved with the glove. Pitching was a problem, but a move to rectify that was made with the dismissal of pitching coach Dave Lawn. Hale is loyal to Arizona, not to a particular coach, and it’s clear he’ll do whatever it takes to improve. A baseball guy through and through, recruiting was his biggest question mark. Baseball is tough as some of the best commits will never make it to campus, but Hale and staff have been able to identify talent and get much of it to Tucson.

Reason to doubt: Just because Hale will do all he can to win does not mean he will be able to do so. It’s getting to the point where there will soon be no more Johnson players, meaning the roster will be made up by a coach who had no college coaching experience before getting the Arizona job. Will there be enough to make up for the loss of most of its dangerous lineup? This team relied on its bats to win games and it’s hard to imagine the pitching improving enough to make up for a big-time decrease in offense. Should Arizona struggle and miss the tournament, it could set the stage for the program falling from the perch it has resided on for a while now.

Verdict: You shouldn’t panic, but being nervous is fine. Hale has done a solid job up to this point, and his passion for Arizona is apparent. However, the mass exodus of talent that was heavily relied on the last two years would be worrisome for any coach, but it’s especially true for one without a reputation of recruiting and reloading. Hale has earned an opportunity to show he can get the job done. If nothing else, you know he won’t fail due to not caring about the job.