It's hard to tell what the bigger story is these days in college basketball, the upcoming national championship game or the ever-changing coaching carousel that appears to be finally slowing down. The Arizona position has been a complete mess until this morning when it was reported that Sean Miller - who reportedly turned down the job last night - would take the Wildcat head coaching position. Arizona AD Jim Livengood has gone from the most hated man in Arizona to the most loved as everyone seems to be pretty happy about this hiring. The Arizona news has largely dwarfed the hirings of Ken Bone and Josh Pastner to Washington State and Memphis, respectively.
Each of these hirings presents an interesting situation for the three schools who still have a number of questions left unanswered.
As far as the Sean Miller and Arizona situation is concerned, just think Tom Crean and Indiana for probably the first year. The Big Three of Budinger, Jordan Hill, and Nic Wise all have serious interest in declaring for the NBA Draft and the first two would probably be wise to do so. Take a few seconds and see if you can name me another player that comes to mind immediately after those big three. They have some good athletic players like Jamelle Horne and decent returning guards in Kyle Fogg and Zane Johnson but neither of those players come close to the talent of the Big Three. Just think if Arizona wouldn't have self-destructed. They could be talking about guys like Brandon Jennings, Emmanuel Negedu, Jeff Withey, and next year, Mike Moser, Abdul Gaddy, and Solomon Hill. Now Miller has to rebuild and it'll be interesting to see if Arizona makes a play at any of the remaining 2009 recruits. I'd imagine some phone calls will be made to Solomon Hill (USC commit) and Victor Rudd who is still undecided. The door may be open as well for some former Xavier commits and players to follow Miller to Tucson. Miller has recruited well at Xavier but he had a nice comfortable situation there and he is entering one of the most least comfortable positions in the country because Arizona hasn't been stable since Lute left. The crazy thing is that they have still had some decent success (beating Gonzaga, Sweet Sixteen) regardless so there is light at the end of the tunnel for the 'Cats.
continue to read more about the situations in Memphis and Washington State...
The hiring that makes the most sense and I thought was brilliant was Memphis naming Josh Pastner their head man. Pastner was born to be a big time college coach as he is one of those guys that has been a darkhorse for a number of jobs and I thought he would wind up at Arizona. Most people know Pastner's background about how he was always a decent player and actually walked-on at Arizona, created his own scouting service, and the whole nine yards. He's been titled a prodigy and the great thing for Memphis is that he is extraordinarily personable and can recruit like few others. He has learned from two of the best in John Calipari and Lute Olson and should be able to answer Memphis' biggest quetion which is what about the recruits? John Calipari built up the most amazing recruiting class with guys like Xavier Henry, DeMarcus Cousins, Nolan Dennis, and others. Memphis was also the probable landing spot for arguably the best player in the country in guard John Wall. When Cal left, the class was expected to fall apart but now Pastner steps in and that should be comforting for the recruits. They assuredly have a great relationship with Pastner and it has been rumored that he will go as far as to hire Xavier, and current Tiger C.J. Henry's father Carl to take over as director of operations. It's an outstanding move that should provide stability to a recruiting class that I don't think a program has ever seen the likes of. I'm rooting for Pastner and his hiring, in my opinion, was the best of the day.
Lastly, there is the worst kept secret in the nation and that is that Ken Bone has been hired as the next head coach for the Washington State Cougars. Granted, this situation is not as riveting as the ones in Tucson and Memphis but Bone was really the only logical choice for Washington State at this point. Bone has done wonders at Portland State, turning them into a Big Sky power, and is a dedicated, Pacific Northwest guy. The odd thing about this hiring is that the Bone regime will be a complete 180 from the Bennett regime. Bone is all about running and getting up and down the court in fast break situations. Contrast that with the Bennett system where the fast break was largely frowned upon and it was honestly difficult to watch a full Cougar game, except the one last year against Gonzaga. The good thing is that Bennett's current players should not struggle to adjust. I'd be a little worried if guys like Baynes and Rochestie were still there but they have some decent athletes that should be able to adapt quickly. The next step for Washington State is recruiting and whether or not the Bone hiring pleased Xavier Thames. Thames, well Thames' father, has stated that his son will still consider WSU if they keep assistant coach Ron Sanchez. The status of of the rest of the Cougars appears to be positive as Klay Thompson and DeAngelo Casto, two stars for WSU last year, appear to be staying in Pullman.
All I can say at this point is that I'm glad this carousel never seriously involved Mark Few. In recent years, there have been three elite mid-major programs; Xavier, Memphis, and Gonzaga. I expect Memphis to recover quite well but it will be interesting to see where Xavier goes from here.
Once again, thank you Mark Few.