Sean Miller's Arizona basketball staff has survived the spring transition season relatively unscathed.
After several straight off-seasons of deep staff change, the Wildcats lost operations director Jamall Walker to an assistant coach's job at Ohio University on Monday but learned they will retain assistant coach Emanuel "Book" Richardson.
Richardson, a New York native, was offered a chance to join Mike Rice's new Rutgers staff last week as an associate head coach with a raise from his current $190,000 salary. He already had turned down a chance to join Steve Lavin's staff at St. John's last month.
"For me to go back, it would have to be right for me and my family," Richardson said. "Mike's going to do really well there, but … we have a lot of unfinished business here."
Richardson's decision allows Miller to return all three of his assistant coaches for a second season at Arizona, though Walker's departure is the second staff change after graduate assistant Luke Murray left to take an assistant coaching job at Wagner last week.
"In the world of college basketball, there's just so much change, and to me when you have good young people it's just common sense that good opportunities will present themselves," Miller said. "In Book's case, because he's a talented coach and because of where he's from, he's always going to be somebody that people are going to inquire about.
"I appreciate his loyalty, and we all recognize what a special place we have at Arizona. We're all looking forward to building on what we did this year and hopefully return to the level we were at for so long."
In Walker's case, Miller said, the Ohio job represented a chance to get back on the floor as a coach with a program that reached the second round of the NCAA tournament last season.
"In the year that Jamall was here, he did a really good job, and I would have loved to have him here," Miller said.
Walker was already an assistant coach at Ohio during the 2008-09 season and has also been an assistant at Murray State, Ball State and his alma mater of Saint Louis. But under NCAA rules, he was restricted at UA to off-court duties such as day-to-day operations and game scheduling.
"You want to perfect your craft, and you've gotta go out and do what you do," Walker said of his decision to leave. "But sometimes you've got to step back, and I learned (at Arizona) how to run a program. It was Sean's first year here, and so you get a chance to see it from the start. For a person who looks for new challenges, to be there his first year was something new and different."
Walker is expected to be replaced by Ryan Reynolds, currently the program's administrative assistant. That will leave Miller with openings for both an administrative aide position and a graduate assistant.
Miller said he would fill both positions with people who are familiar with him and Arizona, such as former managers and players, so as to maximize continuity in the program.
Top-25 guard to visit
Arizona is scheduled this weekend to unofficially host South Carolina guard Damien Leonard, according to gogamecocks.com, a website of The State newspaper in Columbia, S.C.
A top-25 guard in the class of 2011, Leonard was considered to be leaning toward Clemson before coach Oliver Purnell left for DePaul but is now further opening his recruitment. Leonard visited South Carolina last week, will look at Arizona this week and plans to visit Oklahoma State on June 3, according to gogamecocks.com.
He has a wide-open list of other potential suitors including Kansas, Kentucky, Texas, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest, Florida, Georgia Tech, Miami, Florida State and Virginia.
Meanwhile, an expected recruiting visit by Florida juco big man Eloy Vargas this weekend is uncertain. The Wildcats have only one scholarship remaining for the class of 2010 and none for 2011 as of now.
Pushing for April
At Pac-10 meetings last week, Miller and other basketball coaches supported introducing NCAA legislation that would reopen two weekends in April to recruiting evaluation.
Last month the NCAA began restricting coaches to only viewing players on their high school campuses, at a time when Miller needed to hit the ground running on West Coast evaluations.
"Just as a college coach, we all wonder how the rule got there," Miller said. "What you're trying to get is familiarity, going to one site to see many players against great competition. Many times when you're visiting the schools, you're not going to see as much."
Miller said he also supported the conference's approval of extending the Big 12/Pac-10 Hardwood series through 2012-13. UA is scheduled to host Oklahoma in the event next season.