Sean Miller has lost an assistant coach to the head coaching ranks after each of the past two seasons.
Joe Pasternack left for UC Santa Barbara after the 2016-17 season. Lorenzo Romar left for Pepperdine after the 2017-18 season.
Miller doesn’t want that streak to continue, so when the Arizona Wildcats needed to fill two assistant coaching vacancies this offseason, he went with two younger candidates in Ball State’s Danny Peters and Santa Clara’s Justin Gainey.
Miller believes the hires will lead to a more stable program.
“I think that when you build a cohesive unit or staff or team, you have a lot of different ingredients. People that are talented in their own right, but complement each other,” Miller explained.
“The two that we brought back are on the younger side, which I think gives us the most stability that we can have. I think it’s awesome when coaches leave your program to become head coaches and we’ve had several do that. Each of them did an excellent job while they were here, but right now, I think the stability, the continuity — younger coaches are going to build their track record at Arizona and are here for multiple years — we have that with both Danny Peters and Justin Gainey.”
Miller also said Peters’ and Gainey’s ties to the West are valuable.
Before Peters, 31, was a four-year assistant at Ball State, he was a graduate manager at the UA for two seasons (2010-2012).
That allowed him to familiarize himself with Arizona basketball, UA’s coaching staff, the university, and the Pac-12 as a whole.
“He added value,” Miller said. “He then went into our video position, which is a thankless job, but I think nonetheless develops your mind as a basketball coach quite a bit, and then he left.
“He got some great experience and to have him back with that experience, he checks the box in both — someone who’s been at Arizona and understands the West and the Pac-12 and us, but also has the experience that you want to complement that.”
While Gainey, 41, has spent most of his time in the midwest and East Coast — he had multi-year stints with Marquette, N.C. State, and Appalachian State — he was an assistant at Santa Clara this past season, where he worked under Herb Sendek, one of Miller’s longtime peers.
Plus, Miller knows what he is getting in Gainey, who he’s known for two decades. The UA head coach was an assistant under Sendek at N.C. State when Gainey was a student-athlete there (1996-2000).
Miller described Gainey, a three-year starting guard, as a “self-made” player.
“A lot of those qualities that he had as a player, I think you’ll find those same qualities as a coach,” Miller said.
“He’s very selfless, hard-worker. He was an overachiever as a player and a lot of times those overachievers as players make great coaches. And he learned from someone who I respect a great deal, Herb Sendek, in his last stop. So the timing for him to come to Arizona (is right). He’s hungry, he’s young.”
While’s not clear how Arizona’s newest assistants will divvy up their recruiting efforts, or how effective they will be, Miller said Gainey’s greatest strength is his ability to “connect with today’s players on the recruiting trail and inside our own program.”
The latter is something Miller admitted he had trouble with this past season.
“Simply put, he has ‘walked in their shoes’ at the highest level of college basketball,” Miller said of Gainey on Wednesday in a statement.
Moreover, Miller is impressed by Gainey’s prowess in player development.
During his Appalachian State days, Gainey “helped develop a number of players, including point guards, into All-Southern Conference selections,” according to his school-produced bio.
“I think between Mark Phelps, who’s been a head coach who’s got the most experience, combined with Danny and Justin,” Miller said, “I like the group we have.”
Follow Ryan Kelapire on Twitter at @RKelapire