SCOTTSDALE – You know the college basketball season hasn’t begun yet when four elite coaches are tossing verbal jabs at one another, hamming it up to see who had the best one-liner.
Arizona’s Lute Olson, Illinois’ Bruce Weber, Texas’ Rick Barnes and Gonzaga’s Mark Few were together at a news conference Monday to promote the inaugural Basketball Hall of Fame Challenge on Dec. 2 at the U.S. Airways Center.
UA will play Illinois that day, and Texas will meet Gonzaga.
After Olson previewed his team, Barnes weighed in on the Wildcats.
“You’ve got four starters back and a kid who reminds (Olson) of Sean Elliott (Chase Budinger),” Barnes quipped. “For people in Arizona, I think he’s basically telling you he’s going to win you a national championship.”
Olson quickly replied: “My job depends on that.”
Prompting Barnes to ask: “So how much bonus money do you get for a national championship?”
“At Arizona? None,” Olson quipped.
Barnes said Olson needs to work on that.
It’s not exactly true. Olson’s contract states he’ll get $175,000 if UA wins the title. It includes all the bonus money from winning previous rounds in the NCAA Tournament.
Few’s team should be solid, although it has to replace All-American Adam Morrison and center J.P. Batista. Illinois no longer has Dee Brown and James Augustine.
And Texas lost all five starters, including Marcus Aldridge, P.J. Tucker and Daniel Gibson. But Barnes does have a great recruiting class coming in.
After Barnes downplayed his team’s chances this season, Olson chimed in.
“Mark,” Olson joked to Few, “you and I need to talk to Rick. If you have an extra hanky to deal with the tears I’m shedding . . .
“If he (Barnes) screws up that talent he has . . . then something is wrong. It may be time for them to look to the football team to replace Rick.”
Few said the thing he’s looking forward to on Dec. 2 is the “burnt orange blazer” Barnes has promised to wear.
“That will never happen,” Barnes said.
Just as Olson won’t be wearing a “red Ultrasuede” jacket that Barnes said Olson might look sharp in.
Hall of Fame Challenge
When: Dec. 2
Where: U.S. Airways Center, Phoenix
Who: Arizona vs. Illinois; Texas vs. Gonzaga
Tickets: Visit ticketmaster.com or call (800) 277-1700.