Men’s basketball. Softball. Football.
While those are not the only sports played at the University of Arizona, they are surely three of the most prominent. Each have had varying degrees of success, while two of the three can show off national championship trophies.
In the case of softball there’s eight of them.
The most recent seasons for those teams ran the gamut, with softball reaching the World Series, basketball being solid and football just terrible. But one thing they all have in common is they will be going into their next seasons with new coaches.
Welcome to the Great University of Arizona reset.
In many eyes, Arizona Athletics has hit a bit of a rough patch of late and was in need of a new direction. Maybe that’s true for some programs, but it’s certainly not the case for all of them.
The three mentioned here encompass the entire range, from very necessary change to unwanted change, with a stop in between for sure, change probably made sense.
In the case of football, replacing Kevin Sumlin and his staff with Jedd Fisch and his was necessary. Losers of 12 consecutive games, the program had reached new lows and needed to do something — anything — to turn the tide.
With basketball, the Sean Miller saga was well known and while the team’s performance did not necessitate a change, there was ample reason to make one. And from what we have seen so far Tommy Lloyd, most recently a Gonzaga assistant, was a solid choice to lead the program.
As for softball, that’s an entirely different situation. Mike Candrea earned the right to coach for as long as he wanted, and this past season saw him do an outstanding job. The legend decided to call it a career, though, and former Wildcat great Caitlin Lowe seems like a perfect choice to replace him.
The jobs facing all three new coaches could not really be more different, yet in at least one key way they all share the same pressure.
Their programs need them to win, and the sooner the better.
While the success other sports have seen — specifically women’s basketball, baseball, golf and tennis, all of which are in great shape — most people likely identify the University of Arizona with men’s hoops, football or softball.
Right or wrong, fair or not, that’s how it is.
What is Arizona without a successful men’s basketball program or elite softball program? How can the school be at its best if the football team is one of the country’s worst?
When it comes to men’s basketball and softball, there will not be much of a grace period for the new coaches. Both teams will be expected to at least sustain a similar level of success as they’ve been experiencing, with drop offs of any kind likely to be met with questions of whether or not they are up to the task.
Whether that’s right or wrong, fair or not, that’s how it is going to be.
That may not be a bad thing, though. None of the expectations are of the unreasonable variety, with their being in place because we all know success is attainable for each of the new coaches.
And really, therein lies the beauty in this reset.
If Fisch, Lloyd and Lowe turn out to be excellent choices to lead their respective programs, Arizona will be in great shape for a long time to come. All three are on the younger side, with legitimate chances to establish themselves as head coaches for the first school that gave them an opportunity.
Similar to how fans get attached to players who stick around and improve over the course of multiple seasons, the same can be true for the coaches. There is always something to be said for a “home grown” leader, and though neither Fisch nor Lloyd attended Arizona and each had coaching stops elsewhere, in terms of being head coaches the list for now begins and ends with Arizona.
The same holds true for Lowe, though her connections to the school run very, very deep. If she turns out to be the next Adia Barnes, well, that would be terrific.
Now, even if the coaches are successful no one is saying they will stick around as long as Candrea, who coached 36 seasons or another Arizona legend, Lute Olson, who guided the Cats for 24. Few coaches in any sport at any level stay in one place that long, and it would be silly to expect that.
But it would be nice.
That’s a discussion for down the road — ideally very, very far down the road.
For now Fisch, Lloyd and Lowe are not the newest law office, but instead possibly the future of three of the University of Arizona’s most important athletics programs.
No one can be sure of how they will fare. Any combination of the three could reach great heights in Tucson or find out that they bit off more than they could chew.
Whatever happens, this is one of the most interesting times Arizona Athletics has experienced in, well, ever. The reset button was pressed, with the result being a fresh start.