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Gimino: Geary keeps recruiting as signing period nears

Arizona assistant coach Reggie Geary (right) helps Nic Wise during practice the day before the Wildcats lost to Louisville in the NCAA Midwest Regional men's basketball tournament in Indianapolis last month.

Arizona assistant coach Reggie Geary (right) helps Nic Wise during practice the day before the Wildcats lost to Louisville in the NCAA Midwest Regional men's basketball tournament in Indianapolis last month.

The clock is ticking. UA assistant coach Reggie Geary hears it the loudest.

He’s been fighting a nearly impossible battle for more than five months.

He’s been trying to recruit to a school with no head coach.

Now, he’s trying to recruit to a school that has been publicly rejected by USC’s Tim Floyd and Xavier’s Sean Miller. He’s trying to recruit to a school that failed to find traction when it kicked the tires of other top coaches.

One more thing: He’s been trying to recruit to a school that can’t afford to completely whiff on another recruiting class.

The spring signing period starts in nine days, on April 15.

You hear that ticking clock?

“I’m still trying to get bodies in and let people know we’re interested,” Geary said Sunday night from Detroit, where he has been since Thursday for the Final Four.

“A lot of kids are like, ‘Reg, I’m waiting as long as I can comfortably wait.’ There are other universities who realize that, too, and they’re telling the kids that they can’t wait. So they’re squeezing the kids in a lot of cases to make that decision.”

Time is running out, and Miller on Sunday night delivered a heartbreaking no to Arizona’s job offer. A yes would have sounded like a hallelujah from the heavens for the Wildcats.

Now, any chance of salvaging a recruiting class is circling the drain.

Part of the reasoning behind last week’s pursuit of USC’s Tim Floyd was that he had immediate access to highly rated talent.

Unlike Arizona in its current state.

Geary did add one player for next season – somewhat unknown 6-foot-7 forward Tremayne Johnson, who sat out last year at Los Angeles Community College. Johnson’s commitment isn’t binding.

Arizona will have several scholarships available for the 2009-10 season.

“We’re getting so close to the start of the second signing period,” Geary said. “But there are still some good, quality kids I am in on and the university is in on.

“I just tell them that we know there is uncertainty, but if you can use your imagination to a degree, there might be something good for you here.”

Geary has been UA’s lone voice in recruiting since Lute Olson retired in late October. Interim head coach Russ Pennell and associate head coach Mike Dunlap, knowing their futures were somewhere other than Arizona, simply focused on getting the Wildcats through the season in one piece.

Geary has been unwavering in his desire to be here.

“I have made that very clear,” he said. “Obviously, I’m prepared if it doesn’t happen, but this is my first priority.”

All he needs now is a head coach.

Miller met with school officials in New Mexico on Sunday, but returned to Cincinnati and, as first reported by FoxSports.com, said he was staying at Xavier.

Geary will continue to work on and do what he can while UA athletic director Jim Livengood and university president Robert Shelton delve deeper into their dwindling list of A-list candidates. In fact, it might be exhausted.

Speaking of exhausted, fans have followed the numerous false starts of the coaching search with the single-mindedness of stalkers, gobbling up any nugget of news. Mostly, it hasn’t been news. It’s been rumors.

And much of those – especially the ones coming from the Phoenix media – have been premature or poorly sourced or drew bad conclusions. In other words, they were wrong.

Through the Internet, the harder-core fans have followed the movements of the private plane of UA booster and Olson confidant Paul Weitman. A bit creepy, but fun. The plane has transported Miller and USC coach Tim Floyd in the past week.

If fans think they’re stressed out by the bubbling stew of the coaching search, imagine what it’s been like for Geary.

“It’s been a lot of texts, a lot of phone calls, just reaching out,” he said. “Any time I hear a name, I have to research it the best I can. Every day, it seems like I’m searching for a new coach, a different name.”

Make no mistake. If it doesn’t work out here, Geary won’t have to hunt long for a job. He undoubtedly has been making a few contacts in Detroit.

But he’s not giving up on Arizona. He’ll continue to recruit . . . unless the new coach tells him not to.

“I definitely care a lot about the guys on the team, and in no way did I want to shirk my responsibilities and leave them high and dry,” Geary said.

“I’m definitely continuing to make contact and trying to keep kids interested in the university.”

That’s a job that is getting more difficult by the day.

Anthony Gimino’s e-mail:

agimino@tucsoncitizen.com (agimino@tucsoncitizen.com)

Xavier coach Sean Miller turned down a UA job offer on Sunday.

Xavier coach Sean Miller turned down a UA job offer on Sunday.

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