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Coach hire on back burner as UA savors moment

Citizen Staff Writer



MIAMI – Arizona heads to Indianapolis for the Sweet 16 with a coaching staff in limbo and a head coach still needing to be hired.

It’s a problem Arizona athletic director Jim Livengood isn’t ready to deal with right now.

“This is about (enjoying) this moment right now,” Livengood said, just moments after UA beat Cleveland State 71-57 at America Airlines Arena on Sunday.

“This is about right now and getting this team home safely and getting ready to go to Indy next week.”

There is no set timetable in hiring the next coach, but “we’re right on schedule” on what will be done,” Livengood said.

He added that he and UA president Robert Shelton are the ones who know the schedule.

“(The hiring) is so foreign to what we’re doing right now,” he said, of enjoying the moment. “Anything I would say or anyone would say takes away from the moment and that shouldn’t happen.”

He knew it

Dewey Pennell, father of Arizona interim coach Russ Pennell, said about five weeks ago that UA had a chance to make it to the Sweet 16.

Russ said his father told him the team had one more good run in it and it was good enough to make it to the third round.

“I looked at him and thought, ‘Man, are you going crazy or what?’ ” Russ Pennell said.

Pennell said his dad’s pick wasn’t a “bold prediction” because he really meant it.

Words from Wise

Nic Wise said he told his team after UA lost to Arizona State recently that “I wanted to be in the national championship game. That’s the way we’re playing. We know we can be here and we have the talent to do it.

“We’re proving it now, and we’re peaking at the right time.”

Unusual path

UA junior Chase Budinger was asked about his long journey to get to the Sweet 16, having played for three coaches in three years.

“I don’t think anybody signed up for what has happened, especially me, Nic and Jordan (Hill) coming here three years ago,” he said. “We thought we would be playing for one coach our whole college career.

“You know, things change on you. You just have to go with it and stay positive. I think that’s what we’ve done.”

Olson calls

Just before the team opened the doors for the media to come in for interviews after Sunday’s game, a phone rang in the locker room.

It apparently was former coach Lute Olson. It’s not clear who received the call.

“I don’t have my phone on me, but he made a call because right in the middle of one of our coach’s speeches I heard it go off and it was him,” Pennell said. “So, we’ll forgive whoever’s phone that was.”

Pennell said he anticipated a call from Olson at some point.

“Coach has been real good about calling and staying in touch with us all year,” Pennell said.

This and that

This will be Arizona’s 13th Sweet 16 appearance . . . UA is now 2-1 vs. the No. 13 seed in its tournament history. . . After scoring 15 points, UA’s Chase Budinger moved into 11th place on the school’s all-time scoring list with 1,675 points . . . UA is 8-0 when the Big Three (Budinger, Wise and Hill) each score 15 points or more . . . Wise set an Arizona Tournament record by going 10 for 10 from the free throw line.

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