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Energized Livengood eager to stay as UA’s athletic director

Citizen Staff Writer
NO. 12 ARIZONA (21-13) VS. NO. 1 LOUISVILLE (30-5) 4:07 P.M. FRIDAY, INDIANAPOLIS TV: CBS RADIO: 1290 AM, 107.5 FM



A Sweet 16 edition of sense and nonsense:

1. Arizona athletic director Jim Livengood still has to make the most important decision of his professional life – who will coach Arizona basketball after this season – and he sounds like he would like to stick around to see how the choice plays out.

Livengood will be 65 when his contract expires June 30, 2010, and when I talked to him last summer, I got the impression he was ready to retire. I got that impression because he said this:

“I’m not tired. I’m still energized. I’m still enthusiastic. But do I want to do this for a long time more? Absolutely not.”

Livengood struck a different tone when the Citizen sat down with him last month.

“The biggest thing right now, is I think I want to go longer. I feel good. I’m healthy. I like what I’m doing. I feel I still have a commitment to do a number of things.”

If Livengood is willing to stay, then it will be up to university president Robert Shelton and the Board of Regents to grant his wish.

2. The best thing about Chase Budinger’s two games in the NCAA Tournament?

He kept attacking the basket. He doesn’t have explosive one-on-one skills, but he’s crafty and has excellent body control. Keep driving, Chase.

3. UA associate head coach Mike Dunlap said the break after the Pac-10 Tournament allowed the Wildcats to refocus on their zone defense and being more aggressive, as they were in big nonconference victories early in the season.

“That’s who we are – taking chances,” Dunlap said. “We had wandered away from that. That happens.”

4. Utah and Cleveland State combined to shoot 11 of 55 (20 percent) from 3-point range against Arizona, which is a reflection of good defense and just plain good luck.

Sometimes, even wide-open attempts don’t fall.

Dunlap concedes that “we have to have a little bit of luck,” but adds that UA’s more frenetic pace on defense even affected those open jump shooters.

“When you’re pressing and trapping and rotating, they feel rushed, even if they look open,” Dunlap said.

5. Arizona is the biggest long shot in the Sweet 16, a nine-point underdog to Louisville, the NCAA Tournament’s overall top seed. Sounds about right.

6. Louisville is one of the nation’s finest defensive teams, allowing opponents to shoot 39.4 percent from the field and 30.5 percent from behind the 3-point arc.

If an opponent solves Louisville’s press, it then faces an active 2-3 zone loaded with elite athletes.

Here is what West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said about the Cardinals’ zone this season: “They have incredible size. They stretch from one end of the floor to the other.”

7. There was so much good guard play in the first weekend of the tournament, but it’s hard to beat UA point guard Nic Wise, who scored 50 points, had 10 assists and hit all 17 of his free throw attempts.

“Nic’s a winner,” assistant coach Reggie Geary said on the postgame radio show Sunday. “That’s his thing coming into Arizona. We knew he was a winner and could be successful at this level. Now, he’s getting some national spotlight, which is great.”

8. For as good as Wise has been playing, he’ll need to be all that and more against Louisville.

9. CBS stubbornly chose last week to cut to and from multiple fantastic finishes instead of delivering two games at once in a split screen. Bad move. With TVs as wide as basketball players are tall, there’s plenty of screen room to comfortably show us more than one game.

10. Anybody seen ASU guard James Harden?

11. If you put together a Final Four wish list of head coaches for Arizona, it very well could read like this: Louisville’s Rick Pitino, Michigan State’s Tom Izzo, Memphis’ John Calipari and Pittsburgh’s Jamie Dixon.

Yeah, but what if UA interim head coach Russ Pennell beats all of them – in that order – in the next couple of weeks?

It could happen.

12. Jamelle Horne is off the hook. Not only has Arizona’s Sweet 16 run made his costly last-second intentional foul against UAB irrelevant, but college basketball has a new brain-freeze moment of the season.

With his team trailing Missouri by two points with 5.5 seconds left, Marquette’s Lazar Hayward hesitated on the in-bounds pass and stepped on the end line. The Tigers got the ball back and won 83-79 in the second round.

13. UA freshman guard Kyle Fogg appeared completely unfazed in his first NCAA Tournament, playing 72 of a possible 80 minutes last week.

His offense comes and goes, but what Arizona mostly needs is his all-the-time defensive peskiness. Fogg had seven steals in two games.

“Kyle Fogg is a big X-factor on our team,” Geary said. “With his long arms, and his quick feet, he can do some really positive things on the defensive end.”

14. Pennell was on ESPN’s “Pardon the Interruption” on Monday afternoon. Tony Kornheiser asked him how he and Dunlap exist as “co-head coaches” and how that works during a game.

“Well, the best part is I get paid more than him,” Pennell joked to Kornheiser and co-host Michael Wilbon.

“Mike is an unbelievable basketball mind. . . . I just felt like it would be very foolish for me to not draw upon his wisdom. He has just been really good helping our players, especially with their development and also on the defensive end of the floor.

“There is really no confusion. There is comfort in that. We can take turns playing like you guys do – good cop, bad cop.”

15. My revised Final Four: Louisville vs. Memphis and North Carolina vs. Pitt.

16. Lute Olson’s parting gift to the UA program was last spring’s all-new coaching staff: Pennell, Dunlap and Geary.

Anthony Gimino’s e-mail


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