The Student News Site of University of Arizona

The Daily Wildcat

91° Tucson, AZ

The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Meet the Arizona Wildcats’ top head coaches

Tyler Baker

Sean Miller shows displeasure during the Wildcats’ quarterfinal victory over Colorado in the Pac-12 Tournament on Thursday, March 10.

Before you even step foot on the UA campus, be sure to familiarize yourself with these six UA head coaches. They’re pretty important. 

1. Sean Miller, Men’s Basketball

Entering his eighth year as Arizona basketball’s head coach, Sean Miller took over the program after the retirement of legendary Hall of Fame coach Lute Olson in 2009.

While now a different era, Miller has successfully been able to continue to keep Arizona among college basketball’s elite.

The Wildcats have a compiled a 188-61 record under Miller—a .755 winning percentage—and have made it to the Sweet Sixteen five times and advanced to the Elite Eight three times. Plus they’ve won the Pac-12 Conference three times as well.

And due to Miller’s consistent success landing top-flight recruits, a steady flow of top-tier talent arrives in Tucson each year, allowing the Wildcats to be a dominant program year in and year out.

Miller is still seeking his first Final Four appearance, but it’s a matter of when it will happen, not if, given the quality of the rosters he has been able to put together each season.

2. Rich Rodriguez, Football

Known for his fast-paced spread offense, Rich Rodriguez is entering his fifth season as the head coach of the Arizona football team following stints as the head coach at West Virginia and Michigan.

The Wildcats have a 33-20 record in Rodriguez’s tenure, including a 10-4 record in the 2014 season that led to a Pac-12 Championship Game as well as an appearance in the Vizio Fiesta Bowl. It was just the second time in program history that Arizona has won 10 games in the regular season.

Historically, Arizona’s football program hasn’t been a dominant one, and it would be unjust to expect the team to win 10 games every year. But to Rodriguez’s credit, he has proven he can get the most out of his players.

3. Jay Johnson, Baseball

Jay Johnson took over the reigns of the Arizona baseball program in 2015, replacing long-time head and national champion coach Andy Lopez, and the hire immediately paid dividends for the Wildcats.

Despite being picked to finish ninth in the Pac-12, Johnson led Arizona to a third place finish, compiling a 49-22 record, and ultimately made it all the way to the College World Series Finals, where it’d finish as the runner-up to Coastal Carolina University.

Johnson uses a small-ball approach, emphasizing bunting and timely hitting instead of power, and it proved to be the right approach in Arizona’s home ballpark—the spacious Hi Corbett Field.

4. Adia Barnes, Women’s Basketball

Adia Barnes, who is widely considered to be the best women’s basketball player in the UA’s history, is entering her first season as the women’s basketball head coach of her alma mater.

The UA alumna played for the Wildcats from 1994-1998, and is the program’s all-time leading scorer. In 1998, she led Arizona to its only Sweet Sixteen appearance and won the Pac-10 Player of the Year Award.

Barnes, 39, played in the WNBA for seven seasons with four different teams. She became an assistant coach with the Washington Huskies in 2011, helping the Huskies reach the Final Four in 2016.

The UA women’s basketball program hasn’t had a winning season since 2010-11, so Barnes, who is planning to implement an uptempo style of basketball, has her work cut out for her to make Arizona women’s basketball a formidable program.

However, the athletic director Greg Byrne feels the first-time head coach is the right person to do so.

5. Mike Candrea, Softball

Mike Candrea will be entering his 32nd year as the head coach of Arizona softball when the season begins in the spring. He was hired in 1986, and has built Arizona softball into one of the best program’s in the NCAA.

The program has won eight national championships and over 1,468 games in Candrea’s tenure, making him the sport’s all-time leader in Division 1 wins.

And not only has the program been dominant, but it’s consistent too. Under Candrea, the UA softball team hasn’t had a losing season and has won nearly 80 percent of its games. It also made the College World Series 22 times in 23 seasons, from 1988 to 

Candrea, 60, also served as head coach of the United States softball team in 2004 and 2008, where the team won gold and silver medals, respectively.

6. Tony Amato, Soccer

Tony Amato has been the head coach of the Arizona women’s soccer team for three seasons, and quickly turned the program around from being a bottom-feeder in the Pac-12, to one of the conference’s better teams.

Arizona soccer didn’t have a single winning season from 2006 to 2012, but Amato took over in 2013 and has had a winning season in all three years at the helm, compiling a 34-21-8 record.

In 2014, Amato’s second year, Arizona made it into the NCAA Tournament for just the third time in program history—eventually advancing to the Round of 32.

Then in 2015 Amato led the team to another NCAA Tournament appearance, and this time it’d advance to the Sweet Sixteen for the second time in program history.

It marked the first time in program that Arizona soccer won an NCAA Tournament game in consecutive seasons.

In 2016, Amato and the Wildcats will look to continue to keep their momentum going, emphasizing the program has a “new standard” of winning.

Follow Ryan Kelapire on Twitter

More to Discover
Activate Search