Niya Butts will not return as Arizona's women's basketball coach.
The UA announced Tuesday that Butts will not be retained after eight years as the Wildcats' head coach. She will coach in the Pac-12 tournament, which starts Thursday in Seattle. Butts made a base salary of $210,000 per year as part of a contract extension she signed following the 2010-11 season. Her deal was due to expire in June.
"As you know I’m a big fan of Niya and care about her and her staff tremendously," UA athletic director Greg Byrne told the Star. "We met this morning and talked about her future, and I told her at that time we would be going in another direction."
Butts is 101-146 in her UA career, and just 34-110 in Pac-12 play. The Wildcats won Saturday at USC to snap an 11-game losing streak. As the No. 11 seed in the conference tournament, Arizona (12-18, 3-15 Pac-12) will take on Oregon Thursday.
Butts, 38, was flying to Seattle Tuesday and not immediately available for comment. She issued a statement through around 1 p.m. that read:
“I want to thank Jim Livengood and Rocky LaRose for giving me this opportunity, and Greg Byrne for being so supportive throughout my time at Arizona. I’ve loved every second of my time in Tucson, from the student-athletes I was fortunate to coach, to the people in McKale, to the fans and supporters of Arizona Athletics. Even though we didn’t win as much as we all would have liked, I’m leaving the department with nothing but good memories and strong relationships that I will cherish forever. This is a special place with special people and I want nothing but the best for Greg and the entire athletics department.”
Byrne said in a UA release that Butts and her staff brought "such a positive energy to McKale and were positive role models for the young women that came through our program," but the on-court results were lacking.
Byrne and the UA will open a national search for Butts' replacement. Colorado State's Ryun Williams, Santa Clara's JR Payne and Oregon State assistant Mandy Close are considered to be among the top coaches in the West. Phoenix Mercury assistant Julie Brase Hairgrove starred at Catalina Foothills High School and the UA, and has an even deeper Wildcats connection: She is Lute Olson's granddaughter.
Pima College's Todd Holthaus, a former UA assistant, could also be considered for the UA's vacancy. The Aztecs host Scottsdale Community College tonight in the postseason.
Check back with the Star for more.