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First look at potential Arizona basketball head coaching candidates

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NCAA Basketball: Gonzaga at St. Mary’s Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

The Arizona Wildcats fired head coach Sean Miller after 12 seasons on Wednesday after a once-successful tenure that quickly turned sour because of off-the-court issues.

Who might UA replace him with? Here’s a quick primer on some names to look out for.

Gonzaga assistant coach Tommy Lloyd

NCAA Basketball: Gonzaga at San Francisco Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

The 46-year-old has been an assistant coach at Gonzaga for 20 years now, helping the Bulldogs become the best program in the West and one of the best in the country. Lloyd is known for his recruiting and player development, especially when it comes to international talent. Gonzaga has regularly churned out top foreign players like Domantas Sabonis, Rui Hachimura, Killian Tillie and Kelly Olynyk just to name a few. While Lloyd does not have any head coaching experience, Gonzaga’s strength coach once said “Tommy owns this program just as much as Mark (Few) does.” It is definitely worth noting that Jeff Stevens, one of UA’s top boosters, has a Gonzaga connection.

Pacific head coach Damon Stoudamire

Damon-Stoudamire-Pacific-Tigers-Arizona-Wildcats-ben-jobe-national-coach-2020-Miller Photo by William Mancebo/Getty Images

Not only is Mighty Mouse one of the best players in UA history, he has done a fine job as the head coach at Pacific. The Tigers won eight games in the season prior to hiring Stoudamire (and were dealing with NCAA sanctions) and he turned them into a 23-game winner by 2019-20, his fourth season. Stoudamire was named the West Coast Conference Coach of the Year that year. Altogether, he owns a 71-77 record in Stockton.

Arkansas head coach Eric Musselman

Florida v Arkansas Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

After working in the NBA/G League for more than two decades, Musselman was hired as an assistant at ASU in 2012 and spent two seasons there before serving one at LSU. He was tabbed as Nevada’s head coach in 2015 and did a marvelous job with the Wolf Pack, going 110-34 there including three Mountain West championships and three NCAA Tournament appearances. They were ranked as high as No. 5 in 2018-19.

Musselman left for Arkansas after that season and he’s gone 45-19 so far. This season, the Razorbacks finished second in the SEC and earned a 3-seed in the NCAA Tournament, where they lost to the eventual-national champion Baylor Bears in the Elite Eight. Musselman is known for playing a fast tempo and extracting talent from the transfer portal. He’d probably rebuild Arizona pretty quickly but prying him away from an SEC school would require a pretty penny.

Georgia Tech head coach Josh Pastner

Georgia Tech v Duke Photo by Lance King/Getty Images

Pastner was a walk-on at Arizona from 1996 to 2000 and later became an assistant coach under Lute Olson from 2002 to 2008. He was hired as Memphis’ head coach in 2009 after John Calipari left for Kentucky and went 167-73 in three seasons but 37-29 over his last two and left to take over at Georgia Tech. The 43-year-old is 82-76 in five seasons in Atlanta. The Yellow Jackets made the NCAA Tournament this season after going 17-9 and winning the ACC Tournament. It was their first time going to the Big Dance since 2010.

Los Angeles Lakers assistant coach Miles Simon

LA Clippers v Los Angeles Lakers Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

Another member of the 1997 national championship team (and perhaps the most revered of them all), Simon was as assistant at Arizona from 2005 to 2008. More recently, he’s been on the Lakers’ staff since 2017 and has received high marks for his player development. Between those stops, he coached California Supreme, one of the top AAU programs in the country, so he certainly would come with plenty of recruiting connections too.

Sacramento Kings head coach Luke Walton

Sacramento Kings v Cleveland Cavaliers Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

Walton was Steve Kerr’s top assistant with the Warriors during their dynastic run and parlayed that into the Lakers’ head coaching job. He went 98-148 before being fired by Los Angeles, which was rebuilding for most of his tenure. The Kings immediately scooped him up and so far he is 53-70 in three seasons in Sacramento. Hiring Walton or any of the other aforementioned UA alumni would certainly energize the Wildcat fanbase.