[Note by SoCalStites, 03/30/09 11:55 AM PDT ] DCRockett17's thoughts on the basketball season.
Although it wouldn't be the most marketable slogan, it would have been some serious truth in advertising. The Cats had a classic up-then down-then back up-then back down-then soaring-then crashing in flames season. It was hard to even set expectations for the team because of all the unknowns coming into the season. It's harder still to decide whether the team underperformed, met expectations, or exceeded them even after it's all over. Ultimately, I think we can all agree that the guys played hard until the very end, and made a nice little dash to the Sweet Sixteen as a reward for their efforts. That was satisfying because this group really deserved something good after going through so much. In a way I'm glad the last game was a dud rather than some gut-wrenching loss. At least there are no what ifs. This team and coaching staff absolutely maxed out, and that makes it much easier to say goodbye to one of the weirdest seasons ever and move forward.
A couple semi-coherent thoughts on what lies ahead...
1. The Coaching Carousel - To my mind, the next coach needs to "fit" what Arizona has been about historically: athleticism and up tempo. Between Howland, Floyd, and Bennett the conference has enough grind-it-out teams, thanks for asking. So, no Jamie Dixon (style). No Lon Kruger (re-tread). And, most likely no Jeff Capel (not sold yet), Travis Ford (can he recruit?), or Mike Anderson (too soon, but I'm a Mizzou undergrad and I love Anderson). The next coach also needs to get us back into SoCal (which is why I think it would be a VERY good idea to keep Reggie Geary around).To that end the new coach must be open to "one and done" players. Folks need to get over the notion that the Brandon Jennings' of the world owe Arizona something. So who fits the bill?
- Rick Pitino: It's very difficult to put any stock in the Pitino rumors. Why he would go to Tucson and start all over with no natural ties to the Southwest, and with so many kids coming back to Louisville? Moving right along...
- John Calipari: Cal seems slightly more realistic assuming Arizona makes it worth his while (I'm rubbing my thumb and forefinger together to signify cash, which is just as good as money I'm told). Although Cal makes as much or more than Pitino, Arizona offers Cal a chance to coach at a traditional powerhouse. As much as anyone, Calipari should appreciate the value of a school that sells itself. I doubt he'd have to work as hard to get outstanding recruits to Arizona as he did to Memphis. He plays up tempo and even better defense than Howland or Bennett, and that should play well out West.
- Mark Few: Few may well be telling the truth about being a lifer at Gonzaga. Moving to Arizona now would, in my estimation, be win-win for everyone (except Gonzaga obviously). Few's up-tempo offensive focus would represent a clear-cut return to the Lute Olsen era and clear distinction from UCLA and USC. If I were Livengood that's the guy I'd target.
Hiring Pitino or Cal would be a no-doubt-about-it home run, but I have little reason to believe that Pitino would move to Tucson and Cal is apparently talking to Kentucky. That's a bidding war Arizona almost certainly cannot win. Few, though more of a solid double in the right centerfield gap than a home run, has a program that is a clearly and consistently better than all his direct competitors in the WCC. After being a solid-to-very good recruiter at Gonzaga, he'd be an excellent recruiter at Arizona. (Recruiting is often the kryptonite for mid-major coaches who jump to a high major.) Of course, Mark Few may not jump up and eat right out of Jim Livengood's hand should he extend it. Few may be perfectly content where he is.
2. Who Stays? Who Goes? - Jordan and Chase are no-brainers to declare. This is definitely the time to go. Nic didn't declare last year, if memory serves, so he may as well go to the camp. He has the kind of game that is tailor-made for the pre-draft camp setting. If he decides not to declare I see little reason for him to transfer. I really don't see Livengood settling on a down tempo coach, though I could be wrong. I put Horne in the same category in terms of whether he should transfer. Unless the incoming coach says he wants to develop Horne exclusively as a 4/5 (rather than as a 3/4, which is his pro position), I see little reason for him to sit out a year to play elsewhere. Lavender is a tougher call. Will the new coach want him? I think he brings some value, particularly on the defensive end and as more of a true distributor. Those are tougher to find than it sometimes appears. Garland Judkins I have a tougher time seeing back in Tucson, though not impossible. The kid's gotta decide if he's ready to commit.