In 1964, Arizona senior track standout Dave Murray set a school record in the 440 yards. Four years later, the 26-year-old Murray was named the school’s head cross country coach — a position he held for the next 34 years. One coach. One school. One very long and successful career.
Murray is an exception. He and UA softball coach Mike Candrea, an eight-time NCAA champion who has been at his post since 1986, became masters of longevity in an industry that often defines “short term.”
Let’s just say the numbers speak for themselves.
Tommy Lloyd is the 57th head coach at Arizona during the school’s modern era of sports, including those on staff when the Wildcats joined the Pac-10 in 1978, and those when women’s sports were absorbed by the Pac-10 in 1986.
Of those, 22 were fired or asked to resign, the modern term of which is “parted ways.” That’s 39% who were judged to have failed, which is a sobering but realistic look at the instability of the coaching profession.
But that number is deceiving. If you subtract the 15 active head coaches at Arizona, it means that 22 of 41 modern era UA head coaches were essentially fired. That’s more than half.
Wishing Lloyd a long and productive head coaching career, here’s a 20-part perspective of the 56 who preceded him at Arizona:
1. Lloyd isn’t the first Tommy Lloyd to coach at Arizona. Former men’s tennis assistant Tom Lloyd is now the head coach at Loyola Marymount.
2. The oldest coach hired by Arizona was Rick DeMont, 58, a 20-year staff assistant and former world-record holding swimmer. DeMont retired four years later, at age 62.
3. Other than the 26-year-old Murray, the youngest coach hired by Arizona was Vicki Maes, 27, the most successful women’s tennis player in school history. She parted ways with her alma mater 18 years later and is the head coach at New Mexico.
4. Arizona hired two NCAA championship head coaches: Bill Murphy and Dave Rubio. Murphy, then 54, had coached Michigan’s men’s tennis team to the 1957 national title. He coached the Wildcats from 1972-80 and then retired. Rubio, then 32, was hired in 1992 after coaching Cal State Bakersfield’s women’s volleyball team to the NCAA Division II volleyball national title in 1989. He has won 537 games at Arizona.
5. One UA head coach died in office: in 1982, track coach Willie Williams committed suicide at Drachman Stadium. Williams, hired in 1969, was the first Black head coach in school history.
6. Arizona hired just five prominent athletes from the UA family: Murray, baseball All-American Jerry Stitt, women’s basketball career leading scorer Adia Barnes, golf standout Laura Ianello, and Maes.
7. The only family connection to a former UA head coach is Augie Busch. The Wildcats’ swimming coach since 2018 is the son of Hall of Famer Frank Busch, who was UA’s head coach from 1989-2011.
8. Arizona hired one local high school coach,Ted Kissell, who had coached Tucson High’s boys tennis team to the 1980 state championship. Kissell, then 35, had also been the tennis coach at Amphitheater. After his UA career, 1981-85, Kissell went on to be an assistant athletic director and the AD at Dayton.
9. Arizona hired one head coach from the staff of an NFL, NBA or MLB team — football’s Jedd Fisch, who was an assistant coach for the New England Patriots.
10. In 1978, Arizona hired its water polo coach, Rick LaRose, to be its men’s golf coach. Then 32, LaRose went on to coach the 1992 UA men’s golf team and the 1996 UA women’s golf team to NCAA championships. He stayed at the UA through 2012.
11. Arizona hired one junior college coach, Candrea, then 31, who had coached Central Arizona College to 1984 and 1985 NJCAA championships.
12. The Wildcats hired four who had been fired as head coaches at Division I schools: baseball’s Andy Lopez from Florida; football’s John Mackovic from Texas, Rich Rodriguez from Michigan and Kevin Sumlin from Texas A&M. Lopez won the 2012 NCAA championship at Arizona; Mackovic, Sumlin and Rodriguez were ultimately fired again.
13. Two UA coaches went on to win national championships at other schools: Wendy Larry and Todd McCorkle. Larry, the women’s basketball coach from 1985-87, coached Old Dominion to the 1997 NCAA title. McCorkle, the women’s golf coach from 1998-2000, coached Arizona to the 2000 national championship, then left for Georgia where he coached the Bulldogs to the 2001 NCAA title.
14. Arizona hired one attorney to be a head coach. Bill Wright, who was the UA’s men’s tennis coach from 1986-2005. Wright had been an attorney in California before coaching the Cal Golden Bears.
15. The shortest term served by a UA head coach was one year. That was men’s basketball coach Ben Lindsey, who was fired after a 4-24 season in 1982-83. Women’s gymnastics coach Tabitha Yim was at her UA post for two years before becoming Stanford’s head coach. Swimming coach Eric Hanson took a leave of absence and left his job at the beginning of his third season, 2013-14.
16.The most obscure alma mater of a UA head coach was Cottey College of Iowa, home of UA women’s golf coach Kim Haddow, 1983-94. Not only that, Haddow’s only organized head coaching experience had been at Wickenburg High School. Haddow proved that you didn’t have to be from a name school to be successful. She recruited Annika Sorenstam and coached the Wildcats to a No. 3 finish in the 1991 and No. 2 finish in 1992 NCAA finals.
17.Two ASU Sun Devils became Arizona head coaches: Candrea and gymnastics coach Bill Ryden (1999-2015).
18.Three UA head coaches served at least 15 years at Arizona before becoming a head coach. Track coach Fred Harvey was a UA assistant coach for 15 years; Stitt was a UA baseball assistant for 18 years, and swimming’s DeMont was a staff assistant for 26 years.
19.The UA has only hired four professional athletes to be head coaches. Barnes played in the WNBA, Wright played in five U.S. Opens, Ianello played parts of three years on the LPGA Tour and baseball’s Jerry Kindall played nine major-league seasons.
20. From 1978-2021, Arizona hired 18 sitting NCAA Division I head coaches — three from Washington State, two from Long Beach State, and others from Wisconsin, Cincinnati, Coastal Carolina, Stephen F. Austin, Minnesota, Nevada, Utah State, Cal, Virginia, Iowa State, Hawaii, Iowa and Xavier.
Nine were fired, or exactly 50%.
Tommy Lloyd is 46. If he is coaching at McKale Center when he is 60, in 2035, he will indeed have beaten the odds.