If somebody was lost at sea since 2007 and returned to hear the news about Arizona qualifying for the Elite Eight on Thursday, what would the reaction be?
“That’s great to hear. Lute’s finally got them back where they belong. Great to see it happen after that collapse in 2005 against Illinois. When is he hanging it up? What is he 80?”
You were lost only four years ago, but since then, Lute Olson took a leave of absence and eventually retired. In the meantime, a couple of coaches replaced him as caretakers, each for a season, and then they finally hired this young, 42-year-old guy named Sean Miller.
Arizona is in the Elite Eight and Lute is not the coach? What?
Believe it. Nobody, not even Miller, can say they are not surprised. Last season, the Wildcats failed to make the NCAA tournament … (interrupted)
Whoa, whoa, whoa. Didn’t make NCAA tournament? Don’t they go every year?
Until Miller’s first year last season they went 25 straight years. But it’s not his fault the streak was snapped. The interim coaches — Kevin O’Neill and Russ Pennell — did not actively recruit in the two years after Lute left. A lot of turnover occurred as Miller brought in five of his own guys last year — three at the last minute because the USC coach left amid turmoil and those guys shifted their allegiance to Arizona. Miller told the Tucson media that he has a three-year plan to coach Arizona back to prominence.
Hold on. Arizona lost Olson, used two interim coaches, hired Miller … lost out on some recruits, all in the last four years … didn’t make the NCAA tournament last year. … and this guy Miller, in only his second year, has Arizona in the Elite Eight?
Like I said. Believe it. The Wildcats also won the regular-season Pac-10 title this year.
C’mon. Being lost at sea is troubling enough for my brain to process.
In my opinion, Miller’s coaching performance and the Wildcats’ 93-77 dominating win over No. 1 seed and defending national champion Duke on Thursday in Anaheim ranks as one of the program’s top five victories in their history.
Not to beat my own drum, but I have followed the Wildcats since Fred Snowden coached in the early 1970s. I sat in McKale Center with the 6,000 or so fans in Olson’s first year at Arizona in 1983-84 after the embarrassing year of Ben Lindsey as head coach. Yes, I also attended most of the games when Lindsey’s team went 4-24.
I covered the Wildcats for The Arizona Daily Star during their historic run through the NCAA tournament in 1997. I have watched probably more than 1,100 Arizona basketball games in my lifetime (I turn 44 in July).