Candidates linked to GCU coaching search include Bennett, Stoudamire
Editor’s note: Rick Pitino agreed to become the head coach of Iona, according to Jon Rothstein, after the publication of this article. The headline and photo have been updated to reflect this.
Grand Canyon University has parted ways with men’s basketball head coach Dan Majerle after seven seasons with the former Phoenix Suns player at the helm.
Overall, Majerle led GCU to a record of 136-89, but he was unable to achieve his goal of leading the Western Athletic Conference team to the NCAA Tournament as it transitioned into Division 1 play.
This season, the Antelopes finished 13-17, the first time they didn’t reach .500 since Majerle became head coach.
GCU will begin its search for a new coach to lead the team to March Madness. Assistant head coach Marvin Menzies has been named the interim coach.
Here are some names linked to the Antelopes by ESPN.
Former Louisville coach Rick Pitino
Rick Pitino was fired from Louisville in 2017 when the school was implicated in a bribery scheme to steer recruits toward Adidas. Louisville allegedly used money from the apparel company to offer $100,000 to the family of recruit Brian Bowen.
Pitino had also been suspended in 2015 after the program allegedly paid an escort to help recruit players to Louisville.
Prior to Pitino’s 2017 firing, he was one of the premier college basketball coaches. Over his 16 seasons at Louisville, the Cardinals went 416-143 and made the NCAA Tournament 13 times. Their 2013 NCAA Championship was vacated.
His first season as a full-time head coach began in 1978. Since, he has coached at Boston College, Providence, and spent eight seasons with Kentucky from 1989-1997, during which he got to the NCAA Tournament six times and won the championship in 1996.
The Athletic’s Sam Vecenie tweeted that Pitino would make sense because a high-major program might not want someone with his checkered past, but a school like Grand Canyon could get a Hall of Fame coach.
Pitino has coached Panathinaikos B.C. in Greece since 2018.
Pitino has spoken very highly of GCU in the past, calling the crowd the toughest he had ever faced after vising Phoenix in 2016.
“In college basketball, my 40-plus years, (that) was the toughest crowd I’ve ever faced,” Pitino said. “Whether we go to Duke, Kentucky, nothing was as tough as that environment tonight.”
Saint Mary’s coach Randy Bennett
The longtime Saint Mary’s head coach could be interested in moving away from the West Coast Conference and Gonzaga. GCU would give him a chance to make his name known with another mid-major.
Bennett is the all-time Saint Mary’s wins leader with 440 wins to 182 losses over his 18 years at the helm. The Gaels have reached seven NCAA Tournaments under him, most recently in 2018-19. He led Saint Mary’s to 30 wins in 2017-18 for the first time in program history.
He is also an Arizona native. Bennett was born in Mesa and graduated from Westwood High School in the same city. Over his first two years of college, Bennett played for Mesa Community College, which was coached by his father.
In 2015, Bennett told Sports360AZ that GCU had the resources Saint Mary’s did that allowed them to reach a high level of play.
“It took a while to build ours up and we had to get our resources and commitments to get to the level that our basketball program was and I think Grand Canyon has the resources and commitments where they need them, and the basketball program just has to follow,” Bennett said.
University of the Pacific coach Damon Stoudamire
Bennett isn’t the only West Coast Conference coach who has been linked to GCU. All-WCC Coach of the Year Damon Stoudemire could be a target for the Antelopes.
Over Stoudemire’s four years at the University of the Pacific, the Tigers have improved from 11 wins in 2016-17 to 14 in both the next two seasons to 23 wins in 2019-20.
Damon Stoudemire, who attended the University of Arizona in college, played 13 years in the NBA before he started coaching.
He has spent stints as an assistant coach at Rice Unviersity, the Memphis Grizzlies, University of Memphis and Arizona. In 2016, he became the head coach of Pacific.
Former Vanderbilt head coach Bryce Drew
Bryce Drew began his coaching career with Alma mater Valparaiso, where he was an immediate success. He went 124-49 there overall, winning the regular season championship four times, making two NCAA Tournament appearances and winning 30 games in 2015-16.
He was hired by Vanderbilt the following season and made the NCAA Tournament in his first year in the SEC, but the Commodores only won 12 games the following year and had even less success in 2018-19, his final year at Vanderbilt: Star recruit Darius Garland got injured in November and was lost for the season and Vanderbilt went 0-18 in conference play.
Drew was fired and did not coach this season.
Perhaps a return to a mid-major could allow him to get back what he had at Valparaiso. He is a three-time Horizon League Coach of the Year and broke the school’s win record in three separate years.
Former Nebraska coach Tim Miles
Tim Miles spent every year from 1995 through 2019 as a head coach in college basketball, most recently coaching Nebraska from 2012-19. Over his seven seasons with the Cornhuskers, he went 116-114, but only made the NCAA Tournament one time.
Nebraska made the NIT tournament in 2018, when the team went 22-11, and 2019, with a 19-17 record.
Miles did not coach this season, but landed a job with FOX Sports as a college basketball analyst.
He told Omaha.com in September that he would like to get back into coaching and that, shortly after his firing from Nebraska was announced, Pac-12 program Cal contacted his agent with interest. Arizona State head coach Bobby Hurley also considered him for an assistant position that summer.
With Colorado State prior to Nebraska, Miles helped the program transform from a seven-win team in 2007-08 to a 20-win team in 2011-12, the first time the Rams won that many games since 1997-98. They made the NCAA Tournament that season. Afterward, Miles left for the Nebraska job.
GCU interim head coach Marvin Menzies
Menzies spent 12 years as a head coach prior to joining the GCU staff.
With New Mexico State from 2007-2016, he led the Aggies to an overall record of 198-111, five NCAA Tournament appearances and three regular season championships. They won more than 20 games six times, including Menzies’ final four seasons there.
He coached UNLV for the three seasons following his time at New Mexico State. The Rebels improved from 11 wins Menzies’ first season to 20 in his second, but they only won 17 games in 2018-19 and Menzies was fired.
This past season, Menzies served as an associate head coach for GCU.