Dunlap needed some time to think about Arizona's interim offer

Updated: October 24, 2008, 2:50 PM ET
By Andy Katz | ESPN.com

Arizona had planned to name associate head coach Mike Dunlap as Lute Olson's interim replacement Thursday. But Dunlap asked for more time before accepting the position.

Dunlap was offered the interim position Thursday after Olson resigned but wanted to sleep on it, ESPN. com has learned.

According to multiple sources, Arizona is expected to negotiate with Dunlap on Friday.

Dunlap arrived in Tucson last spring after spending the last two seasons as an assistant with the Denver Nuggets. Dunlap was the head coach at Metro State in Denver, Colo., for nine years prior, winning two Division II national championships.

Dunlap was a professional coach in the Australia national basketball league prior to Metro State. He has been mentioned for a number of head coaching jobs of late, including his alma mater, Loyola Marymount.

If Dunlap decides he doesn't want the job, Arizona athletic director Jim Livengood will have to decide whether to name new assistant Russ Pennell interim coach, find a temporary coach for the season or bring in a permanent coach. San Francisco got Eddie Sutton on loan midway through last season after abruptly firing Jessie Evans.

The Wildcats also have a third new assistant, former Arizona player Reggie Geary.

Another possibility could be in-house. Jim Rosborough, longtime Olson assistant, moved into the administration when Olson hired Kevin O'Neill in the spring of 2007 as an interim coach.

O'Neill, who coached the Wildcats last season while Olson took a leave of absence, was named Olson's successor at a December news conference. But after the season, Olson returned and O'Neill decided he didn't want to be an assistant.

Reached late Thursday, O'Neill said he didn't take a settlement from Arizona. He said he walked away without a contract stating he's the next coach. O'Neill said he had great respect for Olson and was grateful of the opportunity he received at Arizona. However, O'Neill said he is now committed as an assistant with the Memphis Grizzlies.

Former assistant Miles Simon was relieved of his duties and former assistant Josh Pastner took a top assistant job at the University of Memphis.

Pastner could be an option if Dunlap turns down the job. On Monday, Olson told ESPN: "Josh wants to come back here eventually as a head coach. But there was strong feeling that there was no way that could happen unless he had something else on his resume.

"Josh has been like a son to me for years and years and I think he feels the same way about me as I feel about him," Olson said. "It was a very difficult situation with Josh [to see him leave]."

If a national search takes place in the spring many high-profile names -- like Gonzaga's Mark Few -- would be bandied about. But it would be difficult to pry Few away from a job that he has made one of the premier posts in the country. The Wildcats might have a hard time pulling any established coaches to follow Olson.

During that same interview Monday, Olson said this about Arizona basketball:

"It's a great basketball program whether I'm here or somebody else is here and the traditions need to be continued. It's just like the job Ben Howland has done at UCLA. It's always difficult for the guy that follows coach Wooden, for example. It was really difficult. I'm not saying it's going to be as difficult as it was there because that would not be a truthful statement. But it will be a challenge anytime someone has been here as long as I've been here."

During Monday's practice, Dunlap was the dominant coaching voice. ESPN.com was at the McKale Center and while Olson was on the court during practice, Dunlap appeared to be running most of the drills. Arizona took Tuesday off from practice. Olson wasn't at practice Wednesday because of illness. Dunlap ran practice Wednesday and Thursday.

As soon as an interim coach is named, the Wildcats will turn their attention to retaining three committed players: Abdul Gaddy (Tacoma, Wash.), Solomon Hill (Los Angeles) and Mike Moser (Portland, Ore.). The weeklong early signing period begins Nov. 12. If Arizona loses the recruits the effects of Olson leaving could be felt into 2010-11.

The Wildcats could also lose juniors Chase Budinger and Jordan Hill to the NBA draft, making the 2009-10 team even more depleted.

Andy Katz is a senior writer at ESPN.com.

Andy Katz | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com

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