— Greg Byrne (@Greg_Byrne) May 5, 2012
“Cinderella story. Outta nowhere. A former greenskeeper, now, about to become the Masters champion. It looks like a mirac … It’s in the hole! It’s in the hole! … “ — Bill Murray as Carl in Caddyshack
It’s not in the hole yet in terms of Arizona coach Sean Miller’s hire of an assistant coach to replace James Whitford, now the head coach at Ball State, but this is just one man’s opinion that Luke Murray be that guy.
Why not Murray, a former UA graduate assistant in Miller’s first season with Arizona in 2009-10? Who can forget Murray’s famous comedic father, Bill Murray, in the stands wearing an Arizona baseball cap during the Wildcats’ games? The Twitter photo posted by Arizona athletic director Greg Byrne last May at the top of this post shows Bill Murray wearing a UA cap to a 76ers-Bulls game. Luke Murray is sitting next to him.
The younger Murray is much more than the son of a famous person. In a CBSSports.com poll of more than 100 Division I coaches in November 2011, Luke Murray was rated the No. 3 mid-major assistant who will make it big-time due to his recruiting ability.
Luke Murray has coached as an assistant at Wagner and Towson in his three seasons since leaving Tucson.
“Luke is one of the rising young star assistant coaches in the East,” Towson head coach Pat Skerry is quoted as saying on the school’s Web site. “He’s a terrific, relentless recruiter with deep contacts in the entire Northeast from New England down to New York and into the New Jersey, Philly and Maryland areas. He’s a guy who knows how to get in the trenches and get results.
“Additionally, Luke has already worked with some terrific coaches in Sean Miller at Arizona, Dan Hurley at Wagner and Tom Moore at Quinnipiac. He came to Towson highly recommended from all those guys.”
FORMER ARIZONA ASSISTANTS WHO BECAME DIVISION I HEAD COACHES
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Bold — Active
y-Burmeister is coaching at the University of the Incarnate Word, a Division II program in San Antonio that will be competing at the Division I level starting in 2014-15 in the Southland Conference. He is 127-79 with UIW after seven seasons.
z-Pastner left Arizona to become an assistant coach at Memphis before he was hired as the Tigers’ head coach.
Miller can recruit the West coast. That’s obvious, especially with the UA’s ability to land McDonald’s All-Americans Aaron Gordon, Grant Jerrett and Brandon Ashley out of California in the last couple of years. Book Richardson has strong AAU ties on the East coast, specifically the New York area. Luke Murray could make Arizona more of a recruiting presence in the East and elsewhere.
Joe Pasternack, an Indiana graduate and former New Orleans head coach, has ties to the Midwest and South. Miller’s Midwest roots are still strong from his years at Xavier.
Miller can opt to go for another strong West coast recruiter, a more national presence like Luke Murray or a stronger image in the South with a coach from that region. The name of the game when it comes to assistant coaches is recruiting first and foremost, followed by player development skills and opponent scouting ability.
Another possibility is former Henderson (Nev.) Findlay Prep coach Mike Peck, who built that program into a national powerhouse before becoming a head coach with Idaho in the NBA D-League this season.
Equally impressive as Peck’s 157-8 record at Findlay was his ability to attract and develop elite-level prospects such as Avery Bradley (Texas, Boston Celtics), Jorge Gutierrez (California), Cory Joseph (Texas, San Antonio Spurs), Myck Kabongo (Texas), DeAndre Liggins (Kentucky, Orlando Magic) and Tristan Thompson (Texas, Cleveland Cavaliers).
Arizona’s Ashley and Nick Johnson were among the elite that came through the program during Peck’s five years with Findlay.
Peck actively pursued a spot on Sean Miller’s staff when Archie Miller was hired by Dayton in 2011. After a 4-17 start with Idaho, Peck coached the Stampede (Portland’s affiliate) to a 15-14 finish.
Assistant coaching searches are not as public as head coaching candidacies, so to list names is mostly a hunch, similar to what I’ve done in this blog. Please don’t take it as fact that Miller is going after Luke Murray or Peck, although Miller should.
With his hire at Ball State on Saturday, Whitford became the 11th former Arizona assistant coach under Lute Olson and Sean Miller to be hired by a Division I program.
Most of Whitford’s assistant-coach predecessors at Arizona have not fared well in Division I, but the two most recent hires — Josh Pastner by Memphis in 2009 and Archie Miller by Dayton — are a combined 143-61. Pastner has the best winning percentage (75.7) of the group with a 106-34 record in four seasons after replacing John Calipari.
Overall, the Olson and Sean Miller coaching trees with Arizona roots have 1,021 victories and 1,175 defeats. Olson’s lieutenants are 984-1,148 with Pastner the most impressive. Jessie Evans was the only other former Olson assistant with a winning record of 177-138 in 11 years at Louisiana-Lafayette and San Francisco.
Time will tell if Ken Burmeister, 65, can improve upon his Division I record of 112-115. Burmeister, 65, is the head coach at the University of the Incarnate Word, a Division II program in San Antonio that will compete at the Division I level starting in 2014-15 in the Southland Conference.
Whitford is the third Sean Miller assistant to land a Division I job. And Sean Miller is only 44. Archie Miller and Xavier coach Chris Mack, an assistant under Sean Miller at that school, are the other head coaches.
Site publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner