While the country watched coach after coach turn down the University of Arizona men’s basketball job, potential future players and notable past players chimed in Friday on two men who would gladly take over the storied Wildcats program.
Former Wildcats Bennett Davison and Jason Terry both stumped publicly Friday to hire ex-UA player and assistant Josh Pastner, an assistant for John Calipari at Kentucky.
Pastner, Davison and Terry were members of UA’s 1997 national championship team.
At least two of the nation’s top unsigned basketball recruits said Friday they are keeping a close eye on where Reggie Theus will go.
Theus, a former NBA star and former coach of the Sacramento Kings and New Mexico State, quickly built a reputation as one of college basketball’s top recruiters at NMSU and under Rick Pitino at Louisville.
UA Athletic Director Jim Livengood has not commented publicly on whether Pastner, Theus – or anyone else for that matter – is a serious candidate for the job.
Mobile (Ala.) LeFlore High coach Otis Hugley, the coach of Demarcus Cousins, Rivals.com‘s No. 2-ranked recruit, said the 6-foot-9 power forward and McDonald’s All-American will “very strongly consider playing for any school Reggie Theus gets hired to coach.”
Cousins backed out this week of an oral commitment he had at Memphis when Calipari took the Kentucky job.
Cousins and his mother are expected to try to make their decision on his college over the weekend, according to Hugley.
A second recruit, 6-7 swing man Victor Rudd (ranked No. 107 by Rivals.com), who played this past season at Henderson (Nev.) Findlay Prep, gave an even stronger endorsement of Theus through his AAU coach and guardian.
“I can tell you Victor, with 100 percent certainty, will be going to Arizona if Reggie is there,” said Bill Hankins from his home in Los Angeles, adding Rudd is also considering Arizona State and Marquette.
“He likes the state of Arizona and to me, it’s a no-brainer (Theus should be hired). Reggie is a guy who played and coached in the NBA. That’s what these kids want, but they (UA) better act quick because a lot of kids have to make decisions.”
Theus, 51, contacted Friday by telephone, said he was interested in the Arizona job.
While at NMSU, Theus landed a national top 15 player in Herb Pope of Aliquipa, Pa., who transferred to Seton Hall after Theus left to coach the Kings.
He also recruited the Western Athletic Conference’s leading scorer this past season – sophomore Jahmar Young of Baltimore.
At Louisville, he landed this year’s senior backcourt tandem of Terrence Williams and Andre McGee.
Pastner, 31, said he was taken aback by comments from Terry and Davison about their desire for the university to hire him as head coach.
“It’s awfully humbling,” Pastner said. “It puts goose bumps on you. Those are awfully nice things for those guys to say and to have the confidence of guys like that, it means a lot to me.”
Pastner, building a strong recruiting reputation of his own, has never wavered from his love for the UA program and the 12 years he spent in Tucson, as a player and assistant coach under Lute Olson and Kevin O’Neill.
“Basically we need to keep it in the family (by) bringing in Josh as the head coach,” Terry said in an e-mail to Citizen sportswriter Steve Rivera. “It would breathe life back into a program that has lost its edge.”
Pastner said he is confident Livengood and UA President Dr. Robert Shelton will hire a great coach.
“I hope Mr. Livengood gets this one right,” Terry said. “It’s time for new blood and the entire Tucson community will be behind coach Pastner. It would be just how Lute wanted it.”