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His Kiddie Corps teams thrilled fans in the 1970s, but early defections might have cost UA an NCAA title.



The excitement that Fred Snowden brought to Tucson in the 1970s may come as muffled cheers to those who can vividly recall the national title success of Lute Olson, but for many it conjures a passion for what might have been.

Snowden’s Kiddie Korps, recruited as a class of five freshmen for his debut season in 1972-73, still has a hold on the basketball psyche of Tucson for its unfulfilled potential.

Snowden, known as ‘The Fox,” relied on his Michigan roots to help him recruit a Fab Five of guards Eric Money, Coniel Norman and Jim Rappis and forwards Al Fleming and John Irving. It was their job to revive the program from the depths of 6-20 in coach Bruce Larson’s final season.

After playing two-thirds of his first season in old Bear Down Gym, Snowden moved his Kiddie Korps into spacious new McKale Center on Feb. 1, 1973, routing Wyoming 87-69. They had already captured the imagination of Tucson and went on to finish 16-10 overall and in second-place in the wild and wacky Western Athletic Conference.

That wave of enthusiasm crested at 24-9 in 1975-76, in what should have been the senior season for the Kiddie Korps. But gone were Irving, who transferred to Hofstra after his first year, and Money and Norman, gone after spectacular sophomore seasons to the NBA.

Remaining were Fleming and Rappis, providing a steadying influence for Snowden and the showy batches of new recruits such as Bob Elliott, Herman Harris and Phil Taylor.

They formed the corps that knocked off then-No. 3 Nevada-Las Vegas in the West Regional semifinals in a spectacular overtime game 114-109. Harris and Rappis had one of best backcourt performances in UA history, combining for 55 points (23-of-36 field-goal shooting) and 21 assists.

Now just one victory from the Final Four, they had to face UCLA on its storied home court of Pauley Pavilion. A bad ankle injury slowed Rappis but not the Cats, who were tied at 58 with eight minutes to go. A 12-0 Bruin run put an end to the Final Four hopes and left many Wildcat fans to wonder … what if Money, Norman and Irving hadn’t left the program early?

If that was the peak of achievement during the Snowden era of 1972-82, then its emotional equivalent at McKale occurred Jan. 18 and Jan. 22 during UA’s first season in the Pacific-10 Conference. In what is surely among the most thrilling back-to-back games played at McKale, Snowden led UA to a 70-69 win over third-ranked UCLA, and followed it with a 74-72 win over USC. His stamp was permanently set on UA basketball as it moved into the Pac-10 era.

His Kiddie Corps teams thrilled fans in the 1970s, but early defections might have cost UA an NCAA title.

UA’s winningest coaches

Wins Coach Years

509 Fred A. Enke 1925-61

499 Lute Olson 1983-current

167 Fred Snowden 1972-82

136 Bruce Larson 1961-72

49 J.F. “Pop” McKale 1914-21

PHOTO MUG CAPTIONS: Photos courtesy of the University of Arizona






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