Arizona basketball changed forever the day that Lute Olson was hired in 1983. But it wasn't until 1987-88 that the Wildcats left their mark on the national landscape of college basketball.
Arizona's first Final Four appearance came in 1988, and brothers Sean and Brad Malone are looking to tell the complete story in their documentary '88.
This project has been in the works for seven years now, and has gained steam with each interview they have been able to conduct.
Having already interviewed guys like Lute Olson, Steve Kerr, Sean Elliott, and Jay Bilas, the Malones need your help to tell the complete story of that team, and interview different personalities from around the college basketball world. They have a Kickstarter, where you can contribute and receive great incentives for your help.
"I wanted to make a movie about Arizona basketball, and the first thing I thought of was the (National Championship) '97 team," Brad told me. "But for me, and I think for Sean too, when we think of Arizona basketball, we think of that '87-88 season."
"As Steve Kerr said when we interviewed him, the first time you do anything, it's special, and for us, that team is why we love Arizona basketball today. Even if we win four more National Titles, that team will always be our favorite team."
"In a lot of ways, you can look at that 87-88 team as the beginning of an era," Sean added. "We thought it was a great example of what the program means to people as a whole, telling that story through the lens of that season."
"We're making this with a national audience in mind," he continued. "The story of the culture of Arizona basketball. The identity that Tucson found in Arizona basketball. The success that Arizona basketball has enjoyed through the decades. We think it's a story that sports fans everywhere can appreciate and relate to, and we're trying to keep that in mind as we produce the film, to make sure that we're making a film that any sports fan can appreciate, not just Arizona fans."
They also pointed out that every stat related to the NBA Draft always starts with 1988 when you're comparing Arizona to other schools, which just solidifies that the true beginning of this "Arizona brand" as Jay Bilas says, starts with this 1988 team.
Arizona entered the 1998 NCAA Tournament as a one-seed, and advanced out of the West Region with wins over Cornell, Seton Hall, Iowa, and North Carolina. The game against the Tar Heels was the closest, but was still an 18-point margin of victory. You can watch that entire game here.
"I remember I was sick," Brad said of his memories of the UNC game. "Just seeing Lute Olson so happy with Bobbi Olson. Basically in a short period of time, they climbed the mountain top from basically nothing."
Arizona went on to lose to Oklahoma 86-78 in the Final Four.
"Besides '05 against Illinois, the '88 loss to Oklahoma was probably the hardest (loss) for me," Brad continued. "Just because, when you're a kid, you don't think you're going to lose."
The Wildcats returned home to a huge gathering in Arizona Stadium, which Sean got to attend, but Brad did not for some reason.
"My mom took me, and I was just seven, so I was still a little guy," Sean said of that day. "I just remember the warmth in which Tucson welcomed back the team, and there were a ton of people there, 30,000 people there. And that made a huge impression to me to this day...just how a team could lose a game in the Final Four and still come home to such a warm reception. It was pretty meaningful."
"I don't know why mom didn't take me also," Brad joked. "I've always wondered that. Why didn't Mom take me out of school to go to that? Maybe we should ask her that for the movie."
"I think missing a day of second grade isn't as important as 7th grade," Sean responded. "Maybe you had a presentation on the Berlin Wall that day or something."
Sean said that Lute Olson found his way to the stage that day and danced to this glorious rap:
"I remember it made quite the impression on Kenny Lofton."
One of the more interesting things that could come out of this movie is from the Duke game in McKale Center on December 30th, 1987.
"Duke played in the Fiesta Bowl Classic, and Coach Olson and Coach K, there's always been a big story how they got into it, and there was a disagreement, and so we asked Steve (Kerr) about that, and he told us a totally different version of the story that we hadn't heard before."
"It's definitely something I was shocked about," Brad continued. "It's shocking and funny."
"You know those movies where they tell the same story from five different perspectives? That's how this incident is," Sean added. "Steve told us about Coach Olson saying something that would be out of character for Coach Olson, and he remembers it quite differently, and Sean Elliott remembers it quite differently too. So that's going to be a funny part of the movie when we piece together that story of Coach K and Coach Olson getting into it at the end of the game."
But the Malones do need your help to get even more on that Duke game, and so much more from Arizona's first-ever Final Four team.
"We're not going at this half-hearted," Sean said. "We want to tell the whole story. We want to interview everyone from that team. We want to interview influential and contemporary broadcasters and writers from that time. We want to interview opposing coaches. We really want to get a view of Arizona basketball from 10,000 feet from people like Jay Bilas, or hopefully people like Dick Vitale or Jim Boeheim. Really give us the full view of what Arizona basketball means on the national scene."
"We're aiming very high with the production value and quality."
Remember to help support the Malones and their dream of making this documentary by contributing to the Kickstarter. You can also find them on Facebook and on Twitter. And here's info on their company Waterfoot Films.