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Is Arizona close to hiring a new women's basketball coach?

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Munir Tufail and Munir Tufail | The Daily Wildcat

Arizona guard Keyahndra Cannon calls out a play during Arizona's 67-57 loss to USC on Feb 5. The women's basketball program is still in search of a new head coach after Niya Butts parted ways with the school earlier this month. 

It has almost been a month since the Arizona women’s basketball program parted ways with former head coach Niya Butts, but the program has yet to hire a replacement.

The process, however, could be completed fairly soon.

“Despite a hectic couple of weeks, the search for our next head women’s basketball coach has been at the top of my priority list and I’m excited to let you know the process should be coming to a close within the next few weeks,” Vice President of Arizona Athletics Greg Byrne wrote in his Wildcat Wednesday blog.

Related story: Arizona and Butts part ways after disappointing results

The job generated plenty of interest and the program has interviewed a wide net of candidates, but is in the process of zeroing in on the best one.

“We’ve been really pleased with the level of interest and we did want to be respectful of those coaches still competing,” Byrne wrote. “But, we’re getting to the point where we’re narrowing in on our choice ...”

It is not known specifically who the candidates are, but two candidates thought to be in the discussion are Julie Hairgrove and Todd Holthaus.

Hairgrove, the granddaughter of Arizona men’s basketball coaching legend Lute Olson and a UA alumna, is currently an assistant coach for the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury.

She has been on the Mercury’s coaching staff since 2005 and, before that, was a four-year starter on the Arizona women’s basketball team.

“I grew up in McKale Center, being a ball kid,” Hairgrove told The Arizona Republic. “I was out on recruiting trips, in people’s houses. I was always around. So I think that had a huge part — all I knew was basketball.”

Todd Holthaus, meanwhile, is the current head coach of the Pima Community College women’s basketball team.

He has been in the position for nine seasons, compiling a 194-98 overall record and turning Pima Community College’s women’s basketball program into one of the top programs among junior colleges.

“Pima Community College’s rise as a national power in women’s college basketball is no longer a novelty,” wrote Greg Hansen of the Arizona Daily Star. “It’s almost taken for granted that the Aztecs will win 20 or more games in the [Arizona Community College Athletic Conference], which is probably the nation’s top junior-college basketball conference. With four region championships in eight years, four trips to the NJCAA championships, Holthaus seems to successfully reload, year after year after year.”

This season, the Aztecs finished with a 28-8 record, including a third-place finish in NJCAA Championship.

Before arriving at Pima, Holthaus was an assistant coach for the Arizona women’s basketball team from 2005 to 2007, where he was responsible for post-player development, recruiting, scouting and floor work.

Nonetheless, it’s possible that neither Hairgrove nor Holthaus will be Arizona’s next women’s basketball coach. The program was expected to search far and wide for the next women’s basketball head coach, trying to find the perfect candidate, and it’s very possible that neither is seen as that.

Regardless, a resolution should be reached shortly.

“... we hope to make an announcement soon,” Byrne wrote.

The Arizona women’s basketball team finished with a 13-19 record in the 2015-16 season, and has not had a winning season since the 2010-11 season.


Follow Ryan Kelapire on Twitter



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