Memories from Maui Classics past — not all greatby Steve Rivera on Nov. 22, 2009, under Sports
The Arizona Wildcats face Wisconsin in the first game of the Maui Invitational. It’ll be the first game I won’t see in person since Damon Stoudamire proved to be heroic in a game against Washington State in 1995.
It’ll only be my third missed game since the 1991-92 season.
It doesn’t bother that I’m not there on the beaches in Lahaina. In fact, rare was the time I had a chance to get to the beach on Lahaina. When you’re covering a team you don’t have time because you’re too busy writing or going to events.
Times change. Newspapers fold as was the case in the Tucson Citizen back in May. And in the wisdom of former interim UA coach Kevin O’Neill “it is what it is.’’
But I do have some fond moments from the Island and the four Maui Invites I covered.
Here are my top seven:
- Back then in 1993, no one really knew what to expect from smallish guards Khalid Reeves and Damon Stoudamire. Reeves was a senior; Stoudamire a junior. And then they had all these young guys: Joseph Blair, Corey Williams, Reggie Geary, Joe McLean and the rest. But Arizona found a way to stay close to No. 5 Kentucky back in the day when the tournament was held around Christmas time. UA had just knocked off No. 16 Boston College and was seemingly poised to knock off UK. It would have had Reeves boxed out Jeff Brassow on a last-second rebound and UA would have won. Instead, it lost 93-92. It was easily one of the better games I ever saw UA play in 20 years.
- Four years later, then No. 1 Arizona faced Kentucky again. This time it wasn’t even close. The defending national champion UA Wildcats handed UK an 89-74 defeat. Remember that UA had defeated Kentucky seven months earlier for the national title.
- OK, so it was crazy talk but the Cats wanted to go undefeated in its quest to win a back-to-back title. Young kids wanting to have it all. After beating Kentucky, UA fell to Duke in a highly charged game, 95-89. Duke was ranked No. 3 at the time. All I remember from the game – well after the game – was now-colleague Javier Morales rushing me to the Maui airport because I had just minutes to spare or I’d miss my plane and not return in time for Thanksgiving.
- During that tournament a funny thing – to me at least – happened on the beach. In a rare moment where the players and coaches had some time to relax, Olson and some friends went to the beach and joined some team managers. He asked for some sun screen and proceeded to use what was left in the tube. He then tossed the item back, saying thanks, and enjoyed the rest of his sun-tanning day.
- In 2000-01, Arizona entered the season as the No. 1 team in the nation. It began the season in Hawaii, destroying host Chaminade, 97-57; beating Dayton, 76-59; and then getting by No. 8 Illinois 79-76 in tough, physical game. It would set the tone for its later games with the Illini. UA went on to beat Illinois four months later to get to the Final Four in Minnesota.
- In 2000, it was also the time Olson was going through a tough time with his then-ill wife, Bobbi. Although there had been some rumors of her poor health, you knew then things weren’t looking that great for her overall recovery from ovarian cancer. She didn’t make the trip and she ALWAYS made the trips. Olson had been so concerned about her he had considered not going to Hawaii but because he didn’t want to cause alarm (although he wanted to be with her) he made the trip. About five weeks later, Bobbi passed away.
- In 2005, Arizona returned to the island for some of the worst basketball it has ever played on that small gym. It started off by beating unranked Kansas, 61-49. It wasn’t pretty and it got even worse after that. It lost to No. 3 Connecticut 79-70 in a game it could have easily won but didn’t. It then lost to No. 12 Michigan State, 74-71, when it couldn’t hit its free throws. The one bright spot for the weekend was former UA player Kirk Walters, who pretty good against his home-state team. But that was one of the last times Walters had that good of a game in his career. Itw as the first time UA had finished worse than second in the tournament as it came in fourth.
See, there wasn’t much beach time, outside of a shopping trip or two. There was the occasional lunch at Bubba Gumps and the hamburger at Cheeseburger in Paradise, but that’s it.