Lute can't go wrong

Rodney Tention left Arizona for the head coaching job at Loyola Marymount on April 1st and now a month and a half later the Wildcats still do not have a replacement. The job isn't filled yet, but there are two serious candidates.

It is no surprise that two former Wildcats are the finalist for the job. As soon as the job was open Lute Olson suggested that Miles Simon and Reggie Geary would be seriously considered. Although hundreds of inquiries were made before the job was even officially advertised, it seems as if the two Wildcat guards will be the two finalists.

In some ways Lute Olson is changing his philosophy on assistant coaches. In the past he had always gone for experience assistants or head coaches from smaller programs. Tention was the head coach at D-III Notre Dame (California) before joining the staff. Phil Johnson was a JUCO head coach and Tony McAndrews was the head coach at Colorado State before joining Olson at Iowa. Jim Rosborough was the head coach at Northern Illinois before coming to Arizona, but was an Olson assistant at Iowa before getting his head coaching gig.

The vast majority or Olson assistants have been assistants at smaller programs. Jesse Evans came from Texas. Kevin O'Neal came from Tulsa. Ricky Birdsong was on Ben Lindsey's staff but was an assistant at Eastern Illinois before that.

The trend right now seems to be in grabbing former players. Duke has done this for years. Currently Coach K has three former players on his staff. Olson tabbed Josh Pastner as his assistant coach when Jay John left for Oregon State. All indications are that Olson will do this again.

Nothing official has come from the University, but all indication are that Simon and Geary are the two finalists. There were other good candidates, but it seems as if the team has decided to keep it in house.

So who do you choose? Do you go for the best defender in school history or the player that led you to your loan national championship?

Both guys have great upsides and their own set of plus and minuses.

One negative that both share is that they have little coaching experience. Geary was an assistant this past season at Flowing Wells High Schools, but there is a long way from Tucson's high schools and D-I basketball. Simon, has no game day coaching experience, but was with the team the past few seasons assisting the team in practice.

Conventional wisdom says that Simon has the name and the better reputation. Simon was the MVP of the 1997 Final Four and is still seen hugging the basketball on CBS's post season broadcasts. He has an incredible career at Arizona and is one of the five best players to don the uniform.

Geary's college career, while stellar, is not as high profile as Simon's. Geary was the starting small forward on Arizona's 1994 Final Four squad. He was the defensive specialist on the club that featured big time scorers in Khalid Reeves and Damon Stoudamire.

Ironically enough, Geary had the longer pro career. In two seasons with San Antonio and Cleveland Geary played in 101 NBA games. Simon played just five games with Orlando before having an amazing career overseas.

Simon is seen as the better recruiter, while Geary is viewed as being a little more mature as he is married with a family. Having interviewed both of them, I believe that either would make a great recruiter. Both are engaging, charismatic people and it is easy to see either guy relating to prospects and parents alike.

So who gets the job? There have been a lot of rumors saying that Simon was a lock for the job. That he would be getting the position as soon as he receives his degree in July. However, we are hearing that things have not been decided and that Geary has a great shot at the job. In fact, Geary received his degree just a few weeks ago and if the staff wants someone on the job sooner rather than later, he seems to be a logical choice.

The Wildcats really can't go wrong. Both are Wildcats at heart, each having spent four years on campus. Both have the on-court pedigree to relate with players and the knowledge of the game to instruct them. The only negative to the decision is that one of the two won't get to be an assistant next year with his alma mater.

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