Money: Stats tell story of where he and Norman stand among UA guardsby Javier Morales on Nov. 14, 2010, under Sports
The last time Eric Money attended a game at McKale Center, he said it was “20-some odd years ago” and he acknowledged that he did not have a front-row seat behind the basket like Sunday afternoon.
“I sat probably in the middle of the arena somewhere,” Money told me as Arizona was defeating Idaho State 90-42. “Today, I was blessed to get a pretty nice seat.”
Money, 55, then flashed that trademark smile that endeared Arizona fans after he and Coniel Norman — teammates at Detroit’s Kettering High School — trusted former coach Fred Snowden enough to leave a different culture from the streets of Detroit to a modernized Tucson.
McKale Center is the house that Money and Norman built as part of Snowden’s first recruiting class — the renowned “Kiddie Korps” –in 1972. The arena opened that very season on Feb. 1, 1973 in an 87-69 win over Wyoming with Money and Norman scoring more than half of the team’s points despite being freshmen.
Money said the christening of the arena and the general euphoria about the program indicates that Snowden, who passed away in 1994 at 58, is the originator of Arizona’s basketball success.
“I would say if you are the originator of anything it would have to be a significant factor to latter success,” he said. “Freddie laid the groundwork. I can put it to you like this: When we first came to the university, we couldn’t draw 600 in Bear Down.
“When we transferred to McKale, there were 13,658 fans that were here the first time we played in this arena. That was all a tribute to Freddie.”
Money and Norman — still arguably the best guard tandem in Arizona history even through the Lute Olson years — played a significant role in making Arizona recognizable before all those Final Four teams.
“The real restoration of Arizona basketball started in 1972,” said Money, who currently is a teacher and assistant coach at View Park Prep in Los Angeles. “I mean, they won six games before we got here.
“The first year we were here, we went 16-10, and the year after that, we were 19-7. The year after that, they were 22-7. It progressively got better.”
Money said, “They were 22-7″, because he and Norman were not around. They declared hardship and entered the NBA draft after their sophomore season. Money eventually played 10 years in the NBA, but his longtime friend Norman played only parts of three seasons.
Norman’s life became derailed to the point that he became homeless after suffering through substance abuse. Family and friends feared the worst because his whereabouts were unknown. After 27 years of being separated from his family and Detroit roots, Norman surfaced in February when he sought help at a Los Angeles hospital after suffering from depression.
Norman returned to Detroit this summer and is residing at Piquette Square, a $23 million apartment complex for homeless veterans. He currently is employed within the Southwest Solution’s Green Works program, a landscaping operation that allows the disadvantaged a chance to earn a paycheck.
“Unfortunately, I have not been able to get in touch with ‘Corn’”, Money said, referencing Norman’s nickname of “Popcorn”.
“Me and Corn have been friends for over 40 some-odd years. After we were both in the pros, we kind of lost touch but in terms of endearment — how he’s endeared to my heart — we can never lose touch.”
Their bond grew closer after moving from Detroit to Tucson because the lifestyle was different.
“We were born and raised in Detroit in pretty much an all-black environment,” Money said. “And then we were thrust into a pretty much all-white environment (in Tucson). But more so than anything, the heat out here and the change of scenery were the biggest changes.”
Money and Norman still litter the Arizona record books almost 40 years after their arrival in Tucson. Norman remains the career scoring average leader of 23.9 points per game (before the three-point line and shot-clock were instituted). Money’s 18.9 scoring average in 1972-73 remains the best scoring average for a freshman point guard.
Money also recorded 13 assists as a sophomore at BYU, which still ranks in the UA’s top 10 list.
Are they the best backcourt in Arizona history? Better than Khalid Reeves and Damon Stoudamire?
“If I was to say that, I would be tooting my own horn,” Money said. “But I think the statistics speak for themselves.
“If they look back in the record books, they can put him (Norman) against any guard that came through here.”
Norman told me in July that he does not regret leaving Arizona after his sophomore season. Money shares the same opinion, but he does wonder about what could have been.
Two years after their departure — when they would have been seniors — the Wildcats lost in the Elite Eight to UCLA.
“If you can walk in as a true freshman and go 16-10, and the following year go 19-7 … the third year, I don’t know,” he said. “If they won 22 games without us, I don’t think we would have lost any more.
“The toughest thing was leaving my dear friends like (the late) Al Fleming and Bob Elliott. I figured I may have let them down a little. We are still best of friends. I love them dearly.”