Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
With Lute Olson having walked off into the sunset of the Arizona desert, speculation is hot about who will replace him in the long term.
Because it sure won’t be interim coach Russ Pennell or assistant Mike Dunlap.
As Greg Hansen of the Arizona Daily Star put it, when your coach of a quarter century was a cross between John Wayne and Cary Grant, his replacement must be someone Large and in Charge.
So who fits that description?
John Calipari? Jamie Dixon? Mark Few? Sean Miller?
Coach Cal’s name has been bandied about by some Arizona newspapers, but consider these facts. Under his new contract, Cal makes $3.35 million per year, according to Dan Wolken of the Memphis Commercial Appeal. And that doesn’t even include Cal’s benefits from the mega-deal Memphis signed with Nike.
By comparison, Olsen made between $1.3 and $1.5 million according to a published report.
“Everything has (financial) limitations,” Arizona AD Jim Livengood told Hansen. “But that’s not the way we’re going to go at it.”
On top of that, Memphis is coming off an NCAA championship game appearance and may not be far from getting back. With Tyreke Evans at the point in the dribble-drive motion offense, and players like Darnell Dodson, Nolan Dennis and Will Colemancoming in and John Wall, Dominic Cheek and Xavier Henry all considering the Tigers, the future looks bright in Tennessee.
As for Jamie Dixon, he’d be a great get. A North Hollywood native, he was an assistant under Ben Howland at Northern Arizona from 1994-98 and later followed Howland to Pitt, where he ultimately replaced him when Howland took the UCLA job.
But think again.
Aware that Dixon was a hot commodity and had been pursued by MIssouri and Arizona State, Pitt just locked him up with an extension through 2015-16 that will pay him $1.5-$1.6 annually.
Dixon has had his salary more than doubled the last three years. He was making about $600,000 when he was hired by Pitt in 2003.
On the court, he has a Top 10 team that will contend for the Big East championship this year and beyond. Pitt has talented recruits Dante Taylor, J.J. Richardson and Talib Zanna coming in. And they, like Memphis, are still alive in the Dominic Cheek sweepstakes.
Mark Few at Gonzaga and Sean Miller of Xavier would be ideal replacements.
Both are rising stars and Livengood would do well to reach out to them if he hasn’t already.
Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.