The search has already begun for a new basketball coach at the University of Utah after the six-year coaching reign of Lynn
Archibald ended Monday.The 44-year-old Fresno State graduate, who had one year left on his contract, was released from his position Monday afternoon after meeting with Ute athletic director Chris Hill.
Following a 45-minute meeting with Archibald, Hill issued a statement that said Archibald was being released "in the best interest of the basketball program." When pressed for reasons why, Hill would only say, "There was not one particular reason. A lot of things added up."
Perhaps the biggest reason was the lack of support from Ute boosters and fans. The interest in Ute basketball the past few years has been stagnant and a lot of people were disgruntled when this year's team faded to a 16-17 record after high preseason expectations. And going along with that, a lot of folks weren't excited about the style of play under Archibald.
The move didn't come as a surprise to Archibald, who could see the writing on the wall. "If they wanted me to stay, they would have said something last week and taken some pressure off the players."
In his six years at Utah, Archibald had a record of 98-86 (.532). His best year was 1985-86 when the Utes went 20-10 and lost to North Carolina in the first round of the NCAAs. The two years after that, the Utes received invitations to the NIT, where they lost in the first round. But this past season, after being picked to win the WAC, the Utes finished in a tie for sixth and lost six of their last eight games.
Although he was obviously disappointed, Archibald wasn't bitter about the decision.
"It's been a great experience and the University of Utah has been very good to me and my family the seven years we've been here," said Archibald. "The players and assistant coaches have been so great. I've enjoyed going to practice every day."
The natural question now is: Who is going to be the new coach? That decision won't necessarily be made right away, according to Hill.
"We're starting a search immediately and putting a list of names together," said Hill, who indicated he will personally conduct the search with input from others. "We want to get the best person for the job. There's no set timetable. It could be two weeks or it could be four weeks."
Or even longer. The signing date for college basketball recruits is April 12, but Hill said he won't have to hire a new coach by then. "That would be nice, but it's not absolutely necessary. We have to find the best coach we can."
One of the first names to surface was that of Rutgers Coach Bob Wenzel, who has close connections with Hill, a Rutgers graduate, going back several years. Wenzel led his team to the NCAAs this year. But Hill, a native of New Jersey, said he won't necessarily be looking toward the east in his search for a new coach. He said he wants someone who will "fit the community."
Other names that have been bandied about include Jazz assistant Phil Johnson, former Jazz Coach Tom Nissalke, SUSC Coach Neil Roberts, former Westminster Coach Tom Steinke and even the name of Utah native Dick Motta has popped up. Or how about one of the Laydens, either Frank or Scott? None of the above, however, are known to have expressed any interest in the job.
Whoever does succeed Archibald won't have a bare cupboard. Three starters, including freshman sensation Josh Grant, and guards Jon Hansen and Mark Lenoir return. Also Tommy Connor, who started at point guard in 1987-88, will be back after sitting out this year with a back injury. Others who will return include Keith Chapman, who started several games in 1987-88, Van Gray, who started half of this past season, and Bill Perkins.
Where the Utes will need a lot of help is inside where four players graduated, including Mitch Smith, Jimmy Madison, Watkins Singletary and Reid Monson. Walter Watts, the 6-8, 300-pounder who started several games early in the season, will be back.
The Utes already signed five players in the fall signing period including Marcel Driver, a 6-8 JC forward, Tyrone Tate, a point guard from Chicago, Craig and Mark Rydalch of Kamas, and Tim McCune, a 6-11 center from Alabama. Archibald had indicated that the Utes were in the process of recruiting a couple of JC inside players and a high school center.
Some of the present Ute players could consider transferring to another school and Grant, in particular, was asked that question several times Monday. But he said the only reason to would leave would be if he didn't like the new coach.
Before coming to Utah, Archibald coached for five years at Idaho State where he compiled a 65-66 record. Before that, he was an assistant under Jerry Tarkanian at Long Beach State and UNLV and under Bob Boyd at USC.
He came to Utah as Jerry Pimm's assistant for the 1982-83 season, where he helped guide the Utes to the final 16 of the NCAA tournament. When Pimm left after that season to take the head job at UC-Santa Barbara, Archibald was quickly elevated to the top spot the following day.
In both coaching jobs at Idaho State and Utah, Archibald was known more for his recruiting than his on-court coaching ability. He was also known for his honesty and strong character and his players were always very loyal to him.
Although he doesn't know his immediate plans, Archibald said Monday night that he would definitely stay in coaching. His possibilities include becoming an assistant at a major college or perhaps being the head coach at a smaller college. He said he already had some strong possibilites, but may not make a decision for a couple of weeks.
"When you enjoy something and have fun doing it, you should keep doing it," said Archibald. "So I'll keep coaching until I don't enjoy it any more."