If there’s one thing that the general public has been exposed to in the past couple weeks, it’s the fact that the Arizona Wildcats dugout is basically a party.
Another thing that’s happened is the discovery of just how smart and important to this team assistant coach Sergio Brown has been.
Here’s where these two things collide: 2007 UC-Irvine.
That 2007 Anteaters team was the first time Brown had been to Omaha as an assistant coach (he won the 1995 National Championship with Cal State Fullerton as a player). Irvine eliminated No. 5 National Seed ASU that year before losing to eventual champion Oregon State.
But just like 2016 Arizona, it was a loose bunch.
"When you talk about what the word team epitomizes, that group of guys were spectacular in how they grew and how they developed," Brown said of that Anteaters squad. "And more than anything, I think that team taught me to let your players have fun and let them be who they are."
That philosophy was apparent from the first day this new coaching staff set foot in Hi Corbett, and manifested itself in the first weekend against Rice with a renewed presence from the dugout.
"Your players teach you how to be a good coach, and what they respond to," Brown explained. "From that, and what I learned early in the year is what we were doing was creating an atmosphere in the dugout that allowed them to stay engaged in the game and engaged with their teammates."
"A nine inning game when you’re a kid that’s not playing at all, it’s tough to get through," he continued. "So you want to let them have a little bit of their own personality and own identity as a team to get them to bring something to the table."
As the regular season progressed, the Arizona dugout was not in people’s faces as much as it was at the beginning of the year. Looking back now to when I first saw this team in San Diego at the Tony Gwynn Classic, and the way they were in the final home series against Abilene Christian, it was night and day how loud the dugout actually was.
"People didn’t like that team," Brown said through a smile about 2007 UCI. "They maybe pushed the envelope a little more than maybe we should have, but they were having so much darn fun and they were doing everything right. It was kind of ‘Hey, this is your team. We’re going to stand out of your way as long as you’re playing hard and doing everything right on and off the field’."
"Now, we have some guys that are pretty extroverted, and some that are pretty introverted, but the one thing these guys are doing is having fun and being good teammates, and that’s the biggest thing."
"I’m at a loss for words with our guys sometimes and some of the stuff they do," Jay Johnson added on Sunday. "I just respect how much they do to prepare and the professionalism they play with, so my feeling is they’ve earned the right to have our dugout be the place they wanna be worse than any place in the world."