Arizona Athletics

Byrne’s coaching hires with Arizona Wildcats mostly young, promising but also unproven


Departing Greg Byrne made 11 hires in his six years as Arizona’s athletic director, including four hires in the last two years, with most having promise although largely unproven results.

Multiple reports Sunday night indicated Byrne will soon replace Bill Battle as Alabama’s athletic director.

Byrne, 45, has developed a track record of longevity with his hires to date at Mississippi State and Arizona. None of his 14 hires at both schools have been fired, although former Arizona swimming and diving coach Eric Hansen was relieved of his duties after reportedly taking a leave of absence in October 2013.

Hansen left the program less than three years following his hire by Byrne in 2011.

Byrne’s 14 hires to date are marked by their overall youth. The average age of the coaches Byrne signed at Mississippi State and Arizona is only 38.7 years old at the time of their hire. The 11 hires at Arizona averaged 38.4 years old.

Arizona football coach Rich Rodriguez was somewhat old by Byrne’s hiring standards at 48. Rodriguez experienced a rebirth in his career after his firing by Michigan in 2010 after only three seasons there.

None of the coaches Byrne hired at Mississippi State and Arizona have won national titles although former Mississippi State baseball coach John Cohen (now the school’s athletic director) and Arizona’s Jay Johnson advanced to the College World Series final.

Some have found success at the conference level with beach volleyball coach Steve Walker earning the 2015-16 Pac-12 coach of the year honor and women’s golf coach Laura Ianello leading her team to the 2015 conference title.

Rodriguez coached Arizona to the Pac-12 South title in 2014 but lost big to Oregon in the conference title game and the Wildcats were 10-15 in the last two seasons.

Byrne did not hire men’s basketball coach Sean Miller, who is in his eighth season. That honor belongs to previous athletic director Jim Livengood. Byrne has supported Miller with the use of charter planes and revamping the infrastructure of McKale Center.

Overall, the best way to term Byrne’s head coaching personnel that he hired at Arizona: Still largely a wait-and-see show-me proposition. Nobody at Arizona can argue that claim.

GREG BYRNE’S HIRES
Age is at time of hire

MISSISSIPPI STATE

Sport Coach Date Age Note
Baseball John Cohen 6/6/2008 41 CWS runner-up 2013/Now AD
Football Dan Mullen 12/10/2008 36 61-42 in 8 years as head coach
Women's Golf Ginger Brown-Lemm 3/25/2010 42 Advanced to NCAA championships in 2013 and 2014

ARIZONA

Sport Coach Date Age Note
Men's Tennis Clancy Shields 5/20/2016 29 MWC of Year at Utah St/Yet to coach UA
Women's Basketball Adia Barnes 4/4/2016 39 11-6 and 2-4 Pac-12 in first season
Baseball Jay Johnson 6/7/2015 38 Took Arizona to CWS in first season
Gymnastics Tabitha Yim 5/10/2015 29 4th in NCAA regional in first season last year
Swimming and Diving Rick DeMont 2/4/2014 57 Men 16th and Women 12th in NCAAs this year
Sand Volleyball Steve Walker 1/8/2013 39 Pac-12 coach of the year last season
Soccer Tony Amato 12/5/2012 34 23-15-3 in last two seasons
Men's Golf Jim Anderson 6/21/2012 32 Coached Arizona to NCAA regional in 2013
Football Rich Rodriguez 11/22/2011 48 36-29 in five years at Arizona
Swimming and Diving Eric Hansen 4/12/2011 45 Resigned after leave of absence in October 2013
Women's Golf Laura Ianello 5/26/2010 30 Pac-12 title in 2015

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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon.

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