Was Saturday’s final 2017-18 home game against California the end of an era at McKale Center? Unfortunately the answer is yes and here’s what I think happens next:
1. Regardless of what happens in the NCAA Tournament, I’d be surprised if Sean Miller returned as Arizona’s head coach.
Millers 244-73 record and 5 regular season conference titles as the Wildcats’ head coach has been outstanding but with so much uncertainty hanging over the program, it might be best for both parties to mutually part ways. Don’t get me wrong – I’d love to be incorrect with this prediction…but as long as Miller stays in Tucson, there will always be a national perception that his recruiting tactics are shady / illegal at best.
If and when this happens, here would be my wishlist for UA’s new coach:
1. Luke Walton (current Lakers HC)
2. Steve Lavin (former UCLA & St. John’s HC; current Fox Sports broadcaster)
3. Damon Stoudamire (current Pacific HC)
4. Tom Crean (former Marquette & Indiana HC; current ESPN broadcaster)
5. Thad Matta (former Xavier & Ohio State HC)
Walton would be a long shot unless he unexpectedly leaves the Lakers. Lavin could be the guy to ride out the storm and restore the program back to respectability. Stoudamire is a revered former player but his coaching prowess is questionable thus far. Crean and Matta are successful unemployed veterans in the Rich Rodriguez mold when he was hired to replace Mike Stoops for the Cats’ football team in 2011 (hopefully without the disappointing ending).
If I was a betting man, I’d predict Lavin or Stoudamire as Miller’s replacement in April.
2. Next season will be less successful than usual but not as bad as some people think…
As of now the Wildcats have no committed recruits and will lose AT LEAST their entire starting five from this season. With a new coach, there’s a chance that guys like Brandon Randolph, who I’m very high on, might transfer. Assuming the current players stay, here’s what the roster looks like for 2018-19 right now:
PG – Alex Barcello
SG – Brandon Randolph
SF – Emmanuel Akot
PF – Ira Lee
C – Chase Jeter (Duke transfer)
6th Man: Dylan Smith
To me, those starters are middle of the Pac-12 caliber-worthy. The problem is there is absolutely ZERO depth on the squad. I assume Arizona would add several graduate transfers and 3 or 4 star recruits making itself a fringe NCAA Tournament contender. For one year only…
3. The real rough patch begins in 2019-20 and lasts for AT LEAST three seasons. Arizona issues self-probation including a two-season postseason ban to mitigate the NCAA’s potential ruling.
The NCAA moves SO slowly that I don’t believe it begins to punish schools for their recruiting misdeeds until the Summer of 2019. Beforehand they levy their punishments, Arizona Athletic Director Dave Heeke declares that Arizona will skip the postseason for two seasons in addition to penalizing itself two scholarships for those two seasons.
As a result, the Wildcats 2019-20 and 20-21 seasons are a disaster, winning a combined 10 games in conference during those two years. The 21-22 season is slightly better but with it comes a change as former Wildcat and the grandson of Lute Olson, Matt Brase, takes over as head coach.
Now a rising star in the coaching business, Brase is able to sell the future of Arizona basketball and Arizona is able to secure its first 5* recruit since 2017.
4. Arizona makes the tournament once again in 2023.
It’s going to be a LONG five years for Wildcats basketball fans.
In the meantime, it might be time to turn all of our collective attention to the football team, which will make its first Rose Bowl in that same five year time period.