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AD mum on names; he hasn’t talked to Pennell

Citizen Staff Writer
Who will replace Lute?



Finding the next Arizona basketball coach could take a month or longer.

UA athletic director Jim Livengood, who has been compiling a list of candidates for four months, will make the decision along with school president Robert Shelton.

With the Wildcats riding a seven-game winning streak, some fans have suggested interim coach Russ Pennell be considered for the permanent position – especially if he takes UA (18-8, 8-5 Pac-10) to a nation-leading 25th straight NCAA Tournament.

Pennell has said he isn’t in line for the job.

Livengood spoke to the Tucson Citizen this week on where the search stands for a coach to replace Hall of Famer Lute Olson, who retired in late October:

Q. Will you consider Pennell, drawing precedent from Steve Fisher, who was promoted at Michigan in 1989 after winning an NCAA title?

“Russ and I have never talked about the job. No one has been promised the job. That part (the Fisher situation) becomes hypothetical. For every case that has worked out, there’s been multiple cases where it hasn’t worked out.

“We need to make sure we stay in the moment. Russ Pennell and the staff have done an incredible job to this point. Regardless of what happens the rest of the year, it’ll be hard for anybody not to say, ‘They were a great fit at the time.’

“But I can’t even tell you the e-mails a month-and-a-half ago saying what a poor decision to allow Russ to be put in this position. (Now) people want (Pennell signed to) long-term contracts. But that’s part of being a fan. I know it’s trite, but let’s just live in the moment.”

Q. Where are you at in the hiring process?

“I’ve looked at a lot of people across the country and obviously I won’t be throwing out any names. I’ve had an intermediary talk to and visit with a number of people.

“I’m not down to a final pool, but we’ve got it down to a group of people where they would be a fit for us. As generic as that sounds as of (now), that’s the only place we can be . . . because most of them are coaching.”

Q. There was word initially of a list of about 12 to 15 candidates. Have you been able to eliminate some of them?

“Yes, and it’s important to eliminate – and that’s from both sides. That’s helped a little bit.

“I never mentioned a (number), but somebody grabbed off of that, but that process has started from November. It’s been going for a long time. We have criteria – Robert Shelton and I – that is clearly defined in what we want that fits UA and basketball. The problem now is refining that. You don’t want to be (in the process) where at the end of the day you don’t have anybody.”

Q. What’s the number of candidates now?

“I could (give you a number), but I won’t. Because when you (put) a number . . . it could change at any time. What’s important to us is to make sure those people are viable candidates for all the right reasons and that they remain viable candidates.

“That’s the hard part, making sure there is no chance of disclosure; that there is no chance someone will be eliminated through carelessness or not paying attention or inadvertently telling someone (what’s going on).

Q. How do you handle rumors?

“Someone is calling here every day (with a rumor). ‘I saw so and so’s wife looking for houses,’ and ‘so and so was driving through’ or ‘someone was at the airport and he was on an American flight or a Delta flight.’ It goes on every day. My answer is: ‘If that might have happened, it’s news to me. And I leave it at that.”

“The individuals will know (if they are candidates), and the president and I are the only ones to have that information. He’s not telling anybody and I’m not telling anybody.”

Q, How soon is good form to make formal contact with a candidate?

“You have to make sure (that teams involved) are able to close out (seasons). The individual who will end up (with the job) is not going to get the phone call (from a red phone, signifying its importance). The groundwork has already been done. Protocol is just common sense. I’m trying to do something where I’d appreciate being done (the same way) if the shoe were on the other foot.”

Q. Earlier, you said winning was one criteria for a new hire. What are some others?

“I wouldn’t categorize them one through 10 because they are all out there. He’s had to have had experience, been a head coach. He’s had to have been around college basketball for some time, which doesn’t mean he can’t be a pro coach.

“He has to be and enjoys community involvement and understands the community as it relates to the importance of basketball. And he needs to be someone who understands the legacy and the (25) years of basketball (under Olson). . . .

“It doesn’t mean the person has to bow down to a picture or statue, but there needs to be an element of respect. That’s what has made this so unique.

“I think style of play is incredibly important. Compliance with (NCAA) rules (will be important). They will have a pretty extensive background check. And other kinds of checks, too. That’s important. And there are relationships with players. There are a number of things that play into it. . . .

“There are cases out there where I think there is a great fit for us but we wouldn’t be a great fit for them. And vice versa.”

Q. Are you using a third party to reach out to candidates?

“I’m going through C.M. Newton (former Kentucky athletic director). C.M. has been helpful on a number of fronts. There are a lot of people who want to help. But at this point, the confidentiality is much better with the fewest number of people involved. I trust him. He’s been a member of basketball organizations at a number of different levels. When he leaves a message for somebody, they’ll call back.”

Q. Is your biggest fear having the news be leaked out?

“It’s my only fear. . . . having somebody exposed who would have been a great fit. The best coaches out there can’t afford to have their name linked to this. They can’t afford it in their own community because they are not in good jobs but in great jobs and are being successful.”

Who will succeed Lute? Livengood mum on names, hasn’t talked to Pennell



Continued from 1C


Tell us who you think the Arizona men’s basketball team will hire as its next head coach and why.

Send your responses to sports@tucsoncitizen.com or leave a comment on this story at www.tucsoncitizen.com.

Some of the names being mentioned include UNLV’s Lon Kruger, Gonzaga’s Mark Few, Michigan State’s Tom Izzo, Pitt’s Jamie Dixon, Louisville’s Rick Pitino, Memphis’ John Calipari, Baylor’s Scott Drew or UA interim coach Russ Pennell.


Arizona (18-8, 8-5)

at No. 14 ASU (20-5, 9-4)

When: 8 p.m. Sunday

Where: Tempe, Wells Fargo Arena


Radio: 1290 AM, 107.5 FM

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