Andy Katz reports (on his ESPN Insider blog) that Arizona will hire Denver Nuggets assistant Mike Dunlap:
"Lute Olson apparently got his top assistant. Whether or not he's a successor is an issue that will be debated.
But it would be highly unlikely that Arizona would make the same mistake twice and a tab a successor prematurely.
Denver Nuggets assistant Mike Dunlap is expected to be named associate head coach at Arizona. Multiple sources told ESPN.com late Tuesday night that Dunlap would accept the position. The Arizona Daily Star reported Tuesday night on its Web site that Dunlap would be Olson's top assistant. The paper quoted Dunlap that he "didn't anticipate any problems" but that nothing had been formally signed.
Dunlap is a highly respected coach within the business, coaching in Australia and winning a Division II national title at Denver's Metro State. He interviewed for multiple jobs in the West while at Metro State. But he chose to stay before going to the Nuggets two years ago as an assistant on George Karl's staff. He was also a candidate at Cal, Oregon State, Stanford, Rice and Loyola Marymount this spring. Dunlap interviewed for the Chicago Bulls opening, too.
But it would be surprising if the Wildcats made anything official about Dunlap's future after naming Kevin O'Neill as Olson's successor during his leave of absence last December. That news conference seems almost comical now that O'Neill was pushed out after the season, given a bogus administrative title within the athletic department and will likely be in the NBA by next season.
Olson is clearly looking for stability on his bench by bringing in Dunlap and former Arizona State assistant Russ Pennell to replace O'Neill and Miles Simon, who was forced out last week. Olson will likely have a third spot open, the top recruiting position, when assistant Josh Pastner leaves as he is expected to do for a similar post at Memphis. The Memphis job is going through a formal process, but all indications from sources at both schools is that Pastner will take the position.
Olson has said on many occasions since coming back last month that he intends on finishing his contract, which runs through the 2010-11 season. Olson, who will be 74 when the season begins, is clearly looking to reshape the direction of the program with a total cleansing of the staff. The only move, though, that isn't being forced is Pastner, who would be leaving on his own terms."
Miles Simon tells Doug Gottlieb (on ESPN Insider) he has received no explanation for his firing:
"Miles Simon now knows why the expression is "you cannot go home again." Simon's play in the 1997 NCAA tournament helped Lute Olson capture his only title, and Simon won the Most Outstanding Player for his terrific play in the Final Four. But Simon has never really been rewarded for coming back for his senior season.
Since deciding to come back to Tuscon more than a decade ago, Simon has sued the university for releasing his grades (a lawsuit that was dismissed by two judges), fell from a possible first-round pick had he left early in 1997 to a second round pick in 1998, hurt his foot and knee thus ending a short-lived professional career, returned to Arizona to earn his degree, worked on the Wildcats' staff for four years, and now has been essentially fired by a coach -- without the coach taking credit for the decision -- he has known for 15 years.
Simon was summoned to A.D. Jim Livengood's office a week and a half ago, after spending a week on the road recruiting with Olson, and was told his year-to-year contract with the university would not be renewed. Simon said that Livengood offered no explanation, only that the university was "going in a different direction."
Simon said he immediately went to see Olson, who acted surprised and wanted to help get him another job. Simon said he repeatedly asked for an explanation over the past week about his firing and one has not been given. In fact, Livengood told Simon that Olson was keenly aware of the proceedings and that he, Simon, should discuss it with Olson.
"It really hurts," Simon told me over the phone. "I bleed Arizona and this is how it ends? They have given me no explanation, no closure. … I have known Coach O since I was 17, and this is not a side of him that I know."
So ends a tumultuous year for the entire Arizona staff in which Olson took a leave of absence, Kevin O'Neill took over, O'Neill and several staff members clashed over every detail of the program (including Olson's involvement) and then Olson returned to take the helm again after the season ended.
Simon, who along with fellow assistant coach Josh Pastner, helped land top recruit Brandon Jennings from Los Angeles and just lost out on the Wear twins, David and Travis, who played at Simon's alma mater of Mater Dei High School but verbally committed to North Carolina. A source told me that the disappearance of Olson and the emergence of O'Neill was said to be a big factor in the Wear twins going elsewhere.
Simon was even more devastated by the loss of his grandmother, who raised him, to a long illness. At the same time, he suffered through his father having two stomach surgeries with complications, all of which came late during Pac-10 play.
So ends an embarrassing episode for Olson as well. If Olson loses Pastner to Memphis, as Andy Katz wrote in his blog on Monday, Olson would have completely cleaned house on a staff that he hand picked after getting rid of longtime assistant, Jim Rosborough, two years ago. And his last three former assistants to become head coaches were all fired this year. Jay John (Oregon State), Rodney Tention (Loyola Marymount) and Jessie Evans (San Francisco) all lost their jobs this past season, and none have arrived back in Tuscon.In a profession in which loyalty is seemingly hard to come by, Lute Olson has shown and received very little of late. Meanwhile, Miles Simon, who was steadfast in his support of Olson all season long, has clearly been one the most loyal of Olson's men and was told to leave town. Olson at least owes Simon an explanation as to his termination. That would be the decent thing to do."
I have a lot of respect for Lute Olson and how he has handled his program over more than two decades. But lately, his decision making and the way he has handled the process of making those decision has been questionable. The firing of highly respected assistant coach Jim Rosborough, the leave of absence without a real explanation, the public and unnecessary spat with the Arizona Daily Star, and now the shady firing of Miles Simon have put a black mark on a lot of years of doing things the right way. Maybe Olson needs a crash course in public relations or maybe the age factor is finally getting to him mentally, because he's still in great shape physically.
Miles wasn't the greatest coach by most accounts, but he's done a lot for the program. Olson owes not having the title of best coach without a championship in large part to Simon. It appears that loyalty in this program means very little lately. Why should players be loyal to Olson and Arizona when he has shown none of that? It's almost like Olson is completely afraid of confrontation. He refuses to back up the decisions he has made, instead deferring the firing of Simon to Livengood. Like Simon said, he's known Olson since he was 17 years old. And Olson couldn't even tell him like a man?
As for the assistant coaching carousel, it appears more and more likely that Josh Pastner will take a position at Memphis leaving Arizona with Russ Pennell, Mike Dunlap, and an assistant to be named later (possibly Rodney Tention or my
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