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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Column: Butts will be back to orchestrate turnaround

Angeline Carbajal

Arizona women’s basketball coach Niya Butts looks into the crowd during Arizona’s 60-57 win against Stanford on Feb. 8 in McKale Center. Butts will be back next season as she looks to turnaround the program.

It was another year of underachievement for the Arizona women’s basketball program, whose season ended last week with a loss to UCLA in the 2015 Pac-12 Conference Women’s Basketball Tournament.

Once again, the Wildcats finished at the bottom of the conference standings and missed out on a chance to compete in the postseason. The NCAA Tournament drought now stands at 10 years.

If Arizona athletic director Greg Byrne had decided to relieve Arizona coach Niya Butts of her duties, it would not have come as a huge surprise. Butts is 89-128 in seven years at the helm of the program.

Instead, Byrne announced Saturday that Butts would fulfill the last year of her contract.

“Although the program is not currently where we want it to be from a win-loss perspective, we signed Coach Butts to a five-year contract and we believe she should see it through,” Byrne said in a statement. “Over the last two years, we’ve made strides in recruiting, and the recent McKale [Center] renovations offer our women’s basketball program the opportunity to continue to improve in that area.”

Butts, who is 37 years old, now has one more year under her belt to right the ship.

Despite losing leading scorer Candice Warthen and center Alli Gloyd, the Wildcats should have enough talent to be competitive in the conference.

Sophomore LaBrittney Jones emerged as a reliable scorer and defender this year and will likely be Arizona’s go-to player next season. Guards Keyahndra Cannon and Malena Washington also made substantial progress down the stretch of conference play.

In total, four of the team’s five leading scorers will be back. This is from the same group that knocked off Pac-12 Tournament champion Stanford at home.

Butts and her staff have put together another strong recruiting class, one that features a trio of three-star recruits, according to

Michal Miller should provide more depth at point guard, while forwards Destiny Graham and Ashanti Coleman both rank in the top 20 nationally at their positions.

Arizona also adds point guard Taryn Griffey, who redshirted her freshman season due to an ACL injury but should be set to go by this fall.

A highly-touted recruit out of high school, Griffey has the potential to turn into one of the Wildcats’ top scoring threats.

Personnel should not be the issue for Arizona.

In his statement, Byrne emphasized the importance of building a “winning tradition” at Arizona.

Without a history of success, it is hard to incite players to get up for every game, especially when they’re already faced with a losing record.

Toward the end of conference play, the Wildcats looked uninspired in many outings, as it became increasingly clear that not even a major turnaround could earn them an NCAA Tournament at-large bid.

Next season, Arizona must get off to a better start in order to maintain confidence throughout the year.

“You’ve got to be able to push on and continue to grind,” Butts said in a statement following the loss to UCLA. “Understand for those that are moving forward and for those that are returning, you know, we have to make sure that we get ourselves ready and we’re better prepared next year.”


Follow Ezra Amacher on Twitter.

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