One day after the firing of Lynn Archibald, University of Utah athletic director Chris Hill was giving little indication of who Archibald's successor might be. He said he it would be at least "a week or two" before he releases any names of candidates.
While Hill wouldn't discuss any candidates for the job, at least one intriguing possibility emerged. Arizona assistant Kevin O'Neill is very interested in the job, according to sources.The 35-year-old O'Neill has been as assistant to Lute Olson for four years. He is known as an excellent recruiter who has supposedly been responsible for recruiting most of the current Arizona team, which has been ranked No. 1 much of the year. In the last three years, three other Olson assistants have moved up to major coaching jobs.
What makes O'Neillmore than just one of the horde of assistants around the country who might apply for the job is that he has been involved in the recruiting of Emery High star Shawn Bradley, the 7-foot-4 junior who is coveted by every school in the country. Arizona is reportedly on Bradley's list of top choices, along with Utah, BYU, North Carolina and UCLA.
Apparently O'Neill was contacted by someone from Utah last Saturday, saying that Archibald was going to be fired, and he expressed interest in the job.
But Hill said Tuesday that he has never had any contact with O'Neill, although he has heard of him.
Hill did rule out one potential candidate Tuesday. He said Rutgers Coach Bob Wenzel, who was a teammate of Hill's at Rutgers in 1970-71, is "not a candidate." He said Wenzel is a very good friend who would make an excellent coach at Utah, but Wenzel is "very committed to his job."
The 39-year-old Wenzel started his coaching career at Utah under Bill Foster in 1972-73 and for the past six years was the head coach at Jacksonville. He just completed his first year at Rutgers, where his team went 18-12 and qualified for the NCAA tournament.
Hill said Wenzel is the only name he'll rule out right now. He would not even rule out former Jazz Coach Frank Layden, who was a guest of Hill's at several Ute games this year.
"I have no thoughts about it, one way or another," said Layden, who returned home Tuesday night following interviews in New York for network television work. "I was absolutely caught in shock (by the firing); I'm thinking more in terms of Lynn being fired, as a friend, than who they're going to hire."
Scott Layden, the Jazz assistant coach/player personnel director, also seems an unlikely candidate. The Jazz gave him a contract extension last summer, matching an offer from expansion Minnesota. "I'm sure Scott would make an excellent coach, but I'm not sure that's the direction he wants to go," his father said. Scott Layden is scouting the NAIA tournament in Kansas City this week.
Hill said that money wouldn't necessarily be a handicap to attracting a top-name coach. "We'll do what we can to hire somebody that we really want. We're not going to break the bank and put the program in jeopardy, but we're keeping an open mind on it."
As for Archibald, he is enjoying being a "high-priced gardener," while he looks at job opportunities.
He flatly denied a rumor that surfaced Tuesday that he would go to BYU and become an assistant to Roger Reid, who would replace Ladell Andersen. Reid also denied the rumor when contacted by the Deseret News.