SEATTLE — Niya Butts coached her final game for the Arizona women’s basketball team on Friday as the Wildcats fell to UCLA in the quarterfinals of the Pac-12 women’s basketball tournament.
Butts, who coached the Wildcats for eight season, was informed Tuesday her contract would not be renewed.
The Wildcats finished 11th in the Pac-12 this season with a 3-15 season; they finished the season 13-19 overall.
“Well, first of all, I want to say that it's a really bittersweet end giving Niya sort of her last hug as she goes off the court,” UCLA coach Cori Close said. “I just have so much respect for her. In my mind, she's a lot of what's good about still coaching college basketball. She truly puts the character and the growth of the student-athlete above everything else. I think she's always been so committed to grow young women through this process, and I think she's just a tremendous person.
“I thank you for her contributions to the Pac-12. I have a lot of respect for her and her staff, and I really wish her the best. I'm going to miss having her in the Pac-12.”
Arizona did win a game in the tournament upsetting No. 6 seed Oregon on Thursday.
After that game, Butts spoke about the position at UA.
“And I want to take this opportunity while I have a national audience to say to everybody at Arizona, from our fans to the AD, to the administration, those guys have been fantastic to me, and I am so grateful, extremely humbled and blessed to have had the opportunity to be a part of something this special, she said. “I'll tell anybody that will listen to me, Arizona's a great place, and I am going to remember my time there with very fond memories. I have a lot of respect for Mr. (Greg) Byrne and everything he does. He's a fantastic AD. And whoever is lucky enough to sit in his seat moving forward should really, really thank God for the opportunity because it's a special place.”
One person who has been mentioned as a possible replacement is former Oregon State player and current assistant Mandy Close.
Peaking at right time?
California coach Lindsay Gottlieb had to like what she saw on Friday as her Golden Bears became just the first No. 10 seed to beat a No. 2 seed in the Pac-12 tourney.
No matter what happens against No. 3 seed UCLA in Saturday’s semifinals, the young Bears are gaining momentum for next season.
You have free articles remaining.
Cal does not have a senior on the roster and two freshmen — Kristine Anigwe and Asha Thomas — played major roles in Friday’s win.
Anigwe, the conference’s freshman of the year, was 10 for 11 from the floor for 24 points and 11 rebounds. Thomas was 6 for 7 from the floor, including 4 of 5 from 3.
“What I'm really excited about now is that the talent and the togetherness and youthful energy is back,” Gottlieb said. “It's hard when you're losing to keep that. But we've coupled that with growing up a little bit and making plays today that we didn't make a couple months ago.”
Arizona State struggled in the final weekend of the regular season, escaping with a 50-45 win at USC before falling at UCLA, 74-61, in the season finale last Sunday that cost the Sun Devils the outright Pac-12 title.
ASU then bowed out of the conference tournament with a 75-64 loss to No. 10 seed California in Friday’s first quarterfinal.
ASU coach Charli Turner-Thorne said there was some carry over from Sunday’s performance.
“I think our team is pretty heartbroken about it in terms of just not having great — very tough responses, and just being who we've been all year long,” she said.
The Sun Devils will now have more than a week off until the NCAA tournament pairings are released. The Sun Devils are projected to be a No. 2 or No. 3 seed and host first- and second-round games.
“The good news is we'll get a good break here and we can kind of regroup,” Turner-Thorne said. “I mean, this group is tough. I know it didn't show today, but we have great toughness, and they have great character. I don't know if it's fatigue. This team has been amazingly consistent all season long, and you know you get to this point and you can hit a wall a little bit. So it will be nice to go home and regroup for NCAAs.”
ASU has now dropped its last two games and is 25-6 overall.