Coaching vs coachability: Evaluating Mark Lyons to Arizona

When Mark Lyons takes the floor he doesn’t feel apprehension, he’s not uncomfortable, he’s not shy. Mark Lyons likes to shoot. A lot. These days, when young basketball players head to the gym they often say that they’re going “to put up shots.” Mark Lyons means it. From December 7th to February 1st – a span this year of 14 games – Mark Lyons only once failed to accumulate double-digit shot attempts. For the season he put up at least thirteen shots in 16 of 34 games. He even had eighteen or more attempts three times this year – not that he came close to making half his shots in any of those three games. For Lyons it’s the shots which matter. The rest will take care of itself.

On the season he scored 15.1 a game.

Now Lyons is taking his considerable talents to Arizona. This shouldn’t be a surprise, as the current Arizona head coach – Sean Miller – recruited Lyons to play at Xavier before taking the Arizona job. And now he finally lands him – if only for one year.

Arizona is in need of a ballhandling guard. That’s how Miller envisioned the 6-1 Lyons when he convinced him to become a Muskateer – a point guard in the modern sense of the term. A scorer. A distributor. The one to run the show. Then things changed.

Miller left for Arizona. He freshman guard Terrell became Tu, and everyone else vied to become Tu’s running mate. By the time he was a sophomore Mark Lyons filled that role. And as Tu’s running mate he shot the ball. A lot.

Mark Lyons enters Arizona off a season where he took 27.9% of the shots when he was on the floor. Contrast that with Sean Miller’s entire career where he’s never coached a player who attempted more shots than Lyons. In fact, only four of his starters have ever attempted even 25% of the shots when they were on the floor. Sean Miller likes to spread the ball around. He likes to take what the defense is giving.

And Mark Lyons likes to shoot.

Arizona’s place in the Pac 12 next season will be determined, in large part, by the play of Mark Lyons. And not necessarily by how well he plays, but rather, by how well he accepts his role. That concept seemed to be an issue with this season’s Arizona Wildcats, and it seemed to be an issue with Mark Lyons, who now joins the bunch. Is this a good move? Who knows. From a talent standpoint, no doubt this move makes sense. From a roster standpoint? We’ll find out.

Either way it’s an intriguing move by Miller. A year ago Arizona was the envy of every high-major fan who rooted for a losing team. Now coach Miller seems human. He failed to make the NCAA Tournament after the previous season’s run to the Elite 8. And star players are cycling through the program. His answer? Mark Lyons. Which very well may end up being a stroke of genius. Who knows these things?

Mark Lyons is going to take over games. But will he do it by involving all of his teammates? Will he perform the role asked of him? Here’s what his former coach had to say when he left:

“After our end of the season meeting with Mark it became apparent that a change for both parties was the right thing moving forward,” said coach Chris Mack. “During our meeting expectations were outlined for his fifth and final season, areas in which I believe needed improvement. Mark did not recognize these expectations as being important and ultimately it was decided that a change of scenery would be in his best interest.”

Now Lyons is going from a coach who allows his stars a significant amount of control, to one who demands adherence to a system. In short, Sean Miller has to convince Lyons that shooting less is a good thing. He has to convince Lyons to do what what the coaches want him to do. Will he? [shrugs shoulders] At this point I have about equal confidence in Miller’s coaching ability as I have doubt about Lyons ability to be coached.