RELATED LINK AT WILDABOUTAZCATS: What could have been …
Imagine that you are drifting off to a sound sleep …
Breaking News: USC has announced self-imposed sanctions that will ban it from postseason play this season and place restrictions on recruiting — including the loss of a scholarship — before the 2010-11 season. …
Arizona interim coach Phil Johnson opted to not face the Tucson media regarding USC’s decision today, noting that he is “focused on leading the Arizona program with my undivided attention and undying effort,” according to a UA press release.
Johnson, who accompanied Tim Floyd to Arizona from USC, is in the midst of a 4-10 season after agreeing to remain in Tucson as the interim coach following Floyd’s abrupt resignation when news of alleged infractions surfaced in Los Angeles involving the recruitment of former USC standout O.J. Mayo.
Floyd’s hiring at Arizona on April 3 by former UA athletic director Jim Livengood ultimately rocked both programs. A month after Floyd’s arrival in Tucson, Yahoo! Sports reported that Louis Johnson, a former associate of O.J. Mayo’s, told federal and NCAA investigators that Floyd paid cash to have Mayo sign with the Trojans. On June 10, Floyd stepped down as Arizona’s coach before coaching a game with the Wildcats amid growing scrutiny from the UA administration and members of the Arizona Board of Regents.
Livengood, whose contract was set to expire at the end of this school year, was fired within a week of Floyd’s resignation, setting up a dubious distinction for the Arizona athletic department. UA president Robert Shelton was forced to search for an athletic director and head men’s basketball coach at the same time less than a month before Arizona’s basketball players were to report for summer school.
Shelton asked Johnson to remain as interim coach. Johnson, citing his respect for Lute Olson (his former boss at Arizona) and the Wildcat program, decided to stay for at least one season. He is the third consecutive interim coach at Arizona, following Kevin O’Neill (who is now the head coach at USC) and Russ Pennell.
Sheldon hired Xavier athletic director Mike Bobinksi in late June to fill Arizona’s AD position. Bobinksi attempted to bring Sean Miller with him, but Miller said the timing was not right in terms of the recruiting calendar and that “he wants to coach at Xavier for as long as Xavier wants him.”
Miller, 41, is considered a top candidate for the permanent job in 2010-11 because of his affiliation with Bobinski, but Miller continues to deny any interest in the UA post. His Musketeers are ranked No. 12 and primed for another deep NCAA tournament run. Miller enhanced his image as a recruiter earlier this summer when high-profile recruit Lance Stephenson agreed to play for Xavier. The Musketeers also feature touted recruits Kyryl Natyazhko of Ukraine and Kevin Parrom of New York.
One of Arizona’s top recruits, Derrick Williams, who followed Floyd from USC, changed his mind and is playing at Memphis under former UA player and assistant coach Josh Pastner. Another recruit, Renardo Sidney, contemplated joining Floyd at Arizona after committing to him at USC, but he opted for Mississippi State.
Johnson was able to keep Solomon Hill and Lamont “MoMo” Jones on the Arizona roster after they also left USC for Arizona. UA senior guard Nic Wise decided to stay in Tucson after flirting with the NBA or playing professionally overseas. Jamelle Horne is also back with the Wildcats as a junior forward. The last permanent coach for Wise and Horne was Lute Olson in 2006-07.
Highly-rated recruit Dwayne Polee of Los Angeles Westchester committed to Arizona after Floyd was hired, but he re-opened his recruitment after Floyd resigned.
Arizona’s recruitment of top-notch talent figured to be restored after Floyd’s hiring but now the Wildcats are mired in three consecutive years of uncertainty. Because of the turmoil and lack of consistent influx of talent, the UA’s NCAA tournament streak of 25 consecutive years is in serious jeopardy.
As it stand right now, Johnson and the Wildcats would be hard-pressed to get to .500. That is the goal now for the once-proud Arizona program, which in past years set its sights on a Final Four and potential national championship.
… you now awake from your deep sleep, shaking off the nightmare. You come to your senses that what you dreamed is not true, and you have never been more relieved.
Arizona is still feeling the effects of Olson’s turbulent retirement phase with Miller trying to coach a program that for two years put recruiting on hold. The Wildcats are 7-7 and figure to be better than a .500 team with Williams a potential Pac-10 Freshman of the Year performer. Miller’s recruiting agenda is in full swing as talented Class of 2010 point guard Josh Selby of Baltimore takes an official visit this weekend to Tucson. Doron Lamb, a shooting guard from Mouth of Wilson (Va.) Oak Hill Academy, is also expected to visit Tucson.
The UA’s replacement for Livengood, who fortunately for him was hired by UNLV last month, is still to be decided with Xavier’s Bobinksi a possibility.
USC’s offseason was tumultuous following the departure of underclassmen DeMar DeRozan, Taj Gibson and Daniel Hackett to the NBA and Floyd’s forced resignation during the offseason. O’Neill’s hire, Floyd’s staff staying at the school with O’Neill, and the addition of transfers Mike Gerrity (North Carolina-Charlotte) and Alex Stepheson (North Carolina) seemed to right the ship.
The Trojans, however, are now stuck in a nightmare Arizona avoided.