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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Counting down Greg Byrne’s five best hires at Arizona

Baraha Elkhalil

New Arizona baseball coach Jay Johnson speaks during a press conference with athletic director Greg Byrne at Hi Corbett Field on Monday, June 8. “I am beyond humbled and grateful to be a part of Arizona baseball,” Johnson said.

Greg Byrne was named Athletic Director of Arizona in 2010 after a previous stint at Mississippi State. Besides being beloved by almost everybody in Tucson, the man has done his fair share of coach recruiting and bringing integral parts to the athletics department.

Without Byrne, who knows how the $72-million-dollar construction of Lowell-Stevens Football Facility would have been completed, or the addition of two new video boards, one being the largest in the entire Pac-12 Conference. Not to mention the $80-million-dollar renovation to McKale Center during the past few years.

Speaking of coaching hires, here are Byrne’s five best hires from his time with Arizona.

Honorable Mention: Laura Ianello

Laura Ianello is a UA alumna who has seen great success during her six years at Arizona. The Wildcats won the Pac-12 Championships in 2015, the eighth in program history. Not only that, but the team finished No. 5 overall at the NCAA Championships, a remarkable feat. Ianello is a former LPGA professional and continues to lead the women’s golf program to new heights.

No. 5 Adia Barnes

While the news is just a few weeks old, Adia Barnes ranks No. 5 on the list because of her credentials and Byrne’s ability to make the unthinkable happen. Barnes is arguably the greatest women’s basketball player in Arizona history. With the program’s running amuck under former head coach Niya Butts, Byrne brought youth and intensity back into a top-notch program. While Barnes will likely see some rough patches at the start, she knows basketball and brings tremendous upside to a program that had become an embarrassment.

No. 4 Tabitha Yim

Any time you take over a program that has been coached by the same man for 25 years, it will be a challenge. Tabitha Yim embraced the challenge from the get go, leading the GymCats to regional success in her first year as head coach. Yim was Byrne’s choice for a variety of reasons, including her relationships with students and her ability to compete at the highest level. Yim was one of the most highly decorated gymnasts in Stanford University history and she is a big reason why senior Lexi Mills recently qualified for the NCAA Championships on the balance beam. A feat like that hasn’t been accomplished in years.

No. 3 Jay Johnson

Jay Johnson took over the Arizona baseball program after coaching Nevada for two seasons. Johnson was hired in June 2015 and has been able to continue the Wildcat legacy once held by Andy Lopez. This season, the Wildcats boast a record of 20-13, an impressive feat for a coach in his first season in the Pac-12. Johnson already brought a lot of tremendous talent to the Wildcats in just a few months. It’s easy to see why this was one of the top hires for Byrne during his tenure at Arizona.

No. 2 Tony Amato

During his three seasons at Arizona, Tony Amato has been able to get the job done for Arizona soccer. Introduced back in December 2012, Amato brought life back to the Wildcats program. This season the Wildcats finished with an overall record of 14-6-2 and were bounced out in the third round of the NCAA Tournament, the baseball equivalent of the Sweet Sixteen, against Stanford. In 2011, the Wildcats recorded just one victory the entire season. Under Amato, there have been many more; a huge turnaround for a program that had seen downs for many years.

No. 1 Rich Rodriguez

Many questioned the decision to bring high-profiled coach Rich Rodriguez to the Arizona program. While he has seen his fair share of ups and downs at other programs, Rodriguez brought new energy to the Arizona football team. During Rodriguez’s tenure, the Wildcats have scooped up the Pac-12 South Championship, competed in the Fiesta Bowl and in a bowl game every season during Rodriguez’s time holding the Wildcats reins. That much can’t be said of his time in Michigan. Rodriguez continues to be the heart of recruiting and knows when to make the tough calls, his most recent being huge changes to his staff.

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