Arizona Basketball

A look at ASU hoops coaches during Lute Olson, Sean Miller years with Arizona Wildcats



Arizona and ASU games, especially at McKale Center, have been in the Wildcats' favor in recent years (ESPN screen shot)

Arizona and ASU games, especially at McKale Center, have been in the Wildcats’ favor in recent years (Arizona basketball video screen shot)

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Jim Harrick was a candidate for the Arizona State coaching vacancy twice during his stint at Pepperdine. Rick Majerus’ name was mentioned as a possibility three separate times.

Gene Keady turned down the Sun Devil brass twice. Mike Jarvis was mentioned on two different occasions for the job opening in Tempe. Sun Devil fans once thought they could land Gary Williams and Jamie Dixon.

ASU coach Herb Sendek, left, had UA coach Sean Miller on his staffs at Miami of Ohio and N.C. State for seven years

ASU coach Herb Sendek, left, had UA coach Sean Miller on his staffs at Miami of Ohio and N.C. State for seven years

Instead of making the big hire, since the dawn of the Lute Olson era at Arizona in 1983, ASU has ushered in six different head coaches with none able to achieve the task of coming close to matching the program down south on I-10.

Bob Weinhauer was a Final Four coach before his arrival at ASU in 1982. Bill Frieder was a two-time Big Ten champion at Michigan. Rob Evans was one of the hottest coaching candidates after how he turned around Mississippi’s program. Herb Sendek won 59.1 percent of his games in 10 seasons at North Carolina State, a tough job inasmuch as North Carolina and Duke share that state.

Sendek regressed over almost the same stretch (nine seasons) by winning only 53.8 percent of his games at ASU.

That was one reason why ASU athletic director Ray Anderson fired him on Tuesday.

Now the Sun Devils are back to Square One, on another three- to four-year plan to catch Arizona and the Pac-12 elite, with their next hire. Early indications lead to Duke assistant coach Jeff Capel.


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Whoever it is will have the difficult task of mastering what his six predecessors could not do — close the gap with Arizona with Olson and Sean Miller leading the Wildcats.

The biggest irony of the six ASU coaches who have led the Sun Devils during the Olson and Miller eras: Interim coach Don Newman in 1997-98 attracted some of the largest crowds in Tempe. ASU averaged 6,628 in his only season, an increase from 4,822 in Frieder’s last season the year before.

When Evans departed in 2005-06, ASU averaged 6,731 fans a game, a slight increase from Newman’s one season eight years previously. Sendek’s team drew only 5,985 fans a game this season, another reason he was let go.

Newman was a lame duck all year but the Sun Devils went 18-14 and advanced to the NIT. That record stands as the best among ASU’s last six coaches in his last season in Tempe.


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Steve Patterson was also an interim coach in 1985-86 but his team went 14-14 overall with an upper-division finish (fifth) in the Pac-10 with an 8-10 record. Patterson was made the permanent coach by athletic director Charles Harris after that but went on to struggle.

ASU has always yearned for better results, but in the years the Sun Devils threw up the white flag, they weren’t bad. Therein lies the frustration in Tempe. Can they get it right?

ASU had a chance to close the gap with Arizona when Sendek was hired in 2006. The Wildcats played under interim staffs in 2007-08 and 2008-09 and ASU won five consecutive games against Arizona with All-American James Harden as a marquee player.

Miller was hired in 2009 and restored the rivalry back to Arizona’s dominance, especially in recruiting. Sendek was only 4-8 against Miller, who was a former assistant of his at Miami (Ohio) and North Carolina State.

Who will be the seventh ASU challenger for the Wildcats in their golden years?

A look at ASU’s coaches during the time of the Olson (1983-2007) and Miller (2009-present) eras.


Bob Weinhauer

Bob Weinhauer

Hired: April 13, 1982, from Pennsylvania, by athletic director Dick Tamburo.

Candidates: Pepperdine coach Jim Harrick, ASU assistant coach Jim Newman and Montana State coach Bruce Haroldson.

Credentials: Weinhauer coached Penn to the 1978-79 Final Four, the one that featured Magic Johnson of Michigan State and Larry Bird of Indiana State.

Average attendance ASU (1981-82): 5,178. Average attendance Arizona (1981-82): 8,234

Quotable: “Unless you’re Bobby Knight, people come to see the players, not the coach. … We would put a better team on the floor than the Phoenix Suns.” — a disgruntled Newman said when he was passed over for Weinhauer.

Fired: July 9, 1985, by athletic director Charles Harris.

ASU record 1981-82: 13-14. Arizona record 1981-82: 9-18.

ASU record Weinhauer exit 1984-85: 12-16. Arizona record 1984-85: 21-10.

Record at ASU: 44-45. Record vs. Arizona: 2-4.

Average attendance ASU (1984-85): 4,996. Average attendance at Arizona (1984-85): 10,932.


Steve Patterson

Steve Patterson

Hired: Aug. 15, 1985, by Harris after serving as an assistant to Weinhauer.

Candidates: Harrick, Newman, Alabama-Birmingham coach Gene Bartow, Purdue coach Gene Keady and Minnesota coach Jim Dutcher.

Credentials: Starting center for two of John Wooden’s national championship teams at UCLA. Coached only two seasons at Santa Rosa (Calif.) Junior College before Weinhauer hired him as an assistant.

Quotable: “I have concluded that a number of factors preclude ASU from getting the best qualified external candidate at this time.” — Harris, alluding to the fact that the Arizona Board of Regents allowed only one-year contracts at that time.

Resigned: Feb. 4, 1989, in a mutual agreement with Harris.

ASU record 1984-85: 12-16. Arizona record 1984-85: 21-10.

ASU record Patterson exit 1988-89: 12-16. Arizona record 1988-89: 29-4.

Record at ASU: 48-56. Record vs. Arizona: 1-6.

Average attendance ASU (1988-89): 4,730. Average attendance Arizona (1988-89): 13,639.


Bill Frieder

Bill Frieder

Hired: March 15, 1989, from Michigan by Harris.

Candidates: Ohio State coach Gary Williams and Keady.

Credentials: Big Ten champions with Michigan in 1985 and 1986 and an NIT crown in 1984. Six consecutive 20-win seasons upon his hire at ASU before the start of the 1989 NCAA tournament, which Michigan won under interim coach Steve Fisher. Record of 191-87 at Michigan.

Quotable: “Let’s hope we can get this kind of turnout at our basketball games.” — Frieder at his introductory press conference, noticing a throng of media that doubled the usual coverage of the Sun Devils.

Resigned: Sept. 10, 1997, after athletic director Kevin White offered a $300,000 buyout.

ASU record 1988-89: 12-16. Arizona record 1988-89: 29-4.

ASU record Frieder exit 1996-97: 10-20. Arizona record 1996-97: 25-9 (national champions).

Record at ASU: 132-108. Record vs. Arizona: 4-12.

Average attendance ASU (1996-97): 4,822. Average attendance Arizona (1996-97): 14,279.


Don Newman

Don Newman

Hired: Sept. 22, 1997, as an assistant on Frieder’s staff by White.

Candidates: Utah coach Rick Majerus, Oklahoma coach Kelvin Sampson and George Washington coach Mike Jarvis.

Credentials: Hired by Frieder as the recruiting coordinator in May 1997 after five years as head coach at Sacramento State, where he accumulated a 20-114 record.

Quotable: “I just cry for the support of everybody to rally around this group of young men, and when it’s all said and done, when the smoke is cleared, I wish a very, very tough decision on him.” — Newman referring to White hiring him only on an interim basis for one season.

Relieved: March 13, 1998, by White after ASU concludes season 18-14 with loss at Hawaii in first round of the NIT.

ASU record 1996-97: 10-20. Arizona record 1996-97: 25-9.

ASU record Newman exit 1997-98: 18-14. Arizona record 1997-98: 30-5.

Record at ASU: 18-14. Record vs. Arizona: 0-2.

Average attendance ASU (1997-98): 6,628. Average attendance Arizona (1997-98): 14,530.


Rob Evans

Rob Evans

Hired: April 7, 1998, from Ole Miss by White.

Candidates: Majerus, Jarvis, Miami coach Leonard Hamilton, Xavier coach Skip Prosser and Texas coach Tom Penders.

Credentials: Evans compiled an 86-81 record at Ole Miss, but his last two teams went a combined 42-16 and earned NCAA tournament berths.

Quotable: “We have a tremendous base to build on with the Phoenix area and this is a program that should aspire to be among the best in the Pacific-10 Conference and the nation.” — Evans at his introductory press conference.

Fired: March 10, 2006, by athletic director Lisa Love.

ASU record 1997-98: 18-14. Arizona record 1997-98: 30-5.

ASU record Evans exit 2005-06: 11-17. Arizona record 2005-06: 20-13.

Record at ASU: 119-120. Record vs. Arizona: 1-16.

Average attendance ASU (2005-06): 6,731. Average attendance Arizona (2005-06): 14,587.


Herb Sendek

Herb Sendek

Hired: April 3, 2006, from North Carolina State by Love.

Candidates: Majerus, Pittsburgh coach Jamie Dixon and Indiana coach Mike Davis.

Credentials: Sendek was 253-158 (.647) in 13 seasons as a head coach and was 191-132 (.591) at North Carolina State in 10 seasons. He was the Atlantic Coast Conference Coach of the Year in 2003-04.

Quotable: “He has been on the staff of two Final Four teams and worked at high-level programs. We look forward to helping Coach Sendek produce those same results at Arizona State.” — Love at Sendek’s introductory press conference.

Fired: March 24, 2015, by athletic director Ray Anderson.

ASU record 2005-06: 11-17. Arizona record 2005-06: 20-13.

ASU record Sendek exit 2014-15: 18-16. Arizona record 2014-15: 33-3.

Record at ASU: 159-137. Record vs. Arizona: 9-10.

Average attendance ASU (2014-15): 5,985. Average attendance Arizona (2014-15): 14,591. publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He has also written articles for Bleacher Report and Lindy’s College Sports.

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