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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Time to end jersey name game

    Adam Gaubsports editor
    Adam Gaub
    sports editor

    Gaub’s Gospel

    On the verge of yet another contract extension, Arizona men’s basketball head coach Lute Olson would appear to be heading into the final years of his coaching tenure, having reached the Basketball Hall of Fame, won the National Championship, made it to four final fours and all before reaching the age of 71.

    This is not one of his better seasons. Nobody is going to argue that this year’s edition of Arizona men’s basketball should rank up there among the top teams that Olson has coached. Yet one bad season does not an out-of-touch coach make.

    Olson may in fact be better than ever, and the fault for the unusually un-Olson-esque loss total this year lies much more with the players than with the coaches. Instead, it is the players, who have failed to buy into Olson’s concept of team basketball – placing team before self – who have been the disease that has rotted our team from the inside out this year.

    It starts with a name – pick a name, any name.

    And no, this is not singling out any certain bad apples on the team, but an indication of a problem common to college and pro sports alike – having an athlete’s name pressed across the back of his polyester and nylon threads.

    After throwing down a monster dunk, draining a 3-pointer or getting to the charity stripe after knocking down a big shot, far too many athletes these days love popping their jersey and showing the crowd, the cameras, the refs and the other team just what their name and number are.

    Players are egoistic, and we as fans make them that way – showing up at sporting events en masse with basketball jerseys donned, showing our love for our favorite star. This problem can be see even more clearly on teams that are mediocre or worse – and Arizona has crawled dangerously close to mediocre this season – because fans tend to pin their hopes on a small group of players who are entertaining to watch, deigning themselves worthy of “”tolerating”” the efforts of the other, less prestigious members of the team.

    Olson’s program is not broken. It has brought 21 straight NCAA appearances (soon to be 22 if we split this weekend at Cal and Stanford) and national prestige to a program that was nothing but a wide spot in the road on the highway of college basketball before Olson arrived from Iowa.

    Olson has done for the Arizona basketball program what Joe Paterno has done for the Penn State football program.

    Wildcat basketballers were wearing shorts shorter than any eye had seen at a sorority sleepover when Lute first set foot in the Old Pueblo.

    The two men have not only made their respective programs into what they are today, but each has become the recognizable face of his program – heck, football was still being played with leather helmets seemingly when Paterno started, and Wildcat basketballers were wearing shorts shorter than any eye had seen at a sorority sleepover when Lute first set foot in the Old Pueblo.

    Joe Paterno has coached Penn State for four decades as head coach and will enter his 56th season of coaching overall next year. He refuses to quit despite having one of his most successful teams ever in 2005, finishing No. 3 in the final polls after defeating Florida State 26-23 in a triple overtime Orange Bowl Jan. 3.

    It hasn’t always been peachy for Paterno, who endured two difficult seasons before the Nittany Lions returned to prominence this season, with fans and media members alike calling for the longtime head coach to step down.

    The same fervor has not yet been built over Olson, and maybe it never will be, but for those who know Penn State football, the difficulty Paterno had to endure was almost as unbelievable. The same people who jeered the 79-year-old coach for being out-of-date and unable to connect with his players from behind his coke-bottle glasses cheered and celebrated the man as triumphant when his team defeated Bobby Bowden’s Seminoles.

    Olson’s team is not his best this year, but he still deserves our respect not only for what he has done for this program but for the way he continues to run this program and conducts himself as a man. So quit fretting, take off the jersey, throw on a Wildcats shirt and support the team. Better days are just ahead.

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