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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Wanted: Answers in McKale

    Bryan Roy - Sports writer
    Bryan Roy – Sports writer

    On Tucson’s hardwood these days, the “”more questions than answers”” theme follows a common trend across both locker rooms.

    In the Arizona men’s basketball program, UA athletics director Jim Livengood currently pays two head coach salaries for both legendary head coach Lute Olson and first-hired-as-assistant-now-interim head coach Kevin O’Neill.

    And after an inaugural 19-15 roller coaster season, the power hungry O’Neill may not even come back to inherit the program while Olson returns next season to regain his throne.

    Underlying rifts between the two coaches occurred when originally different coaching styles became extreme polar opposites, as O’Neill implemented his “”highly-touted”” man-to-man defense and slow-paced set-play offense.

    Causing frustration for Wildcat faithful, O’Neill stunted the growth of an underdeveloped bench by shunning both his assistant coaches and reserve players all season.

    Think that basketball program has a cloudy future with personnel after its tumultuous year? The Arizona women’s basketball team doesn’t even have a head coach.

    Livengood fired Joan Bonvicini last week after 17 years at the head coaching position, coming just days after her top assistant, Kellee Barney, resigned.

    Despite the fact that Bonvicini’s $139,000 contract – a Pacific 10 Conference low – had one year remaining, her 29-63 record over the past three years forced an urgentshake-up.

    Livengood will give the search for Bonvicini’s successor roughly a three-week timeline – setting the deadline at the conclusion of both the men’s and women’s NCAA tournaments. Assistant athletics director Rocky LaRose will spearhead the “”nationwide”” manhunt after closely following the Wildcats throughout the Pac-10 Tournament.

    Ultimately, the women’s basketball program needs a revamp. Through these different avenues, LaRose has options and opportunities to restore fresh banners to McKale’s lonely rafters.

    The farm system conferences

    An easy approach comes from sifting through the local “”farm system”” conferences. Why not use the Pac-10’s prestige to attract the West Coast Conference and Western Athletic Conference coaches of the year?

    With just two years at the position, Adrian Wiggins led Fresno State to the program’s best season, including an astounding 32-4 home record at the Save Mart Center. Wiggins touted a 49-25 overall record at Fresno State.

    Then there’s Kelly Graves of Gonzaga, who took three years to build his program into the school’s best season finish. In the 2005-2006 season, Graves led his program to a perfect 14-0 conference record along with a nation-leading 23-game win streak.

    And that’s exactly what Arizona needs: a complete overhaul in a three-year range. On the head coaching food chain, Tucson absolutely becomes a big upgrade from Fresno, Calif., or Spokane, Wash.

    Digging within the program

    Since day one of the 2007-08 women’s basketball season, the most noticeable difference came from the reactions I received when asking the team about the addition of assistant coach Bernard Scott at media day.

    Added to the staff as the de facto post specialist, Scott also took responsibility for scouting, player development and recruiting.

    The three Arizona forwards agreed: “”He’s very dedicated to what he’s doing and wanting us to get better,”” said freshman Ify Ibekwe. “”He’s made an impact already just personality-wise.””

    “”Coach Scott has helped me very much,”” said junior Beatrice Bofia. “”He’s teaching us some good moves.””

    “”He just brings an awesome attitude,”” said senior Shannon Hobson. “”You know he knows what he’s talking about.””

    The consensus was clear – Scott jumped into the program as a well-liked and respected assistant who knew his role with the team.

    Prior to Arizona, Scott served two seasons as an assistant coach for Dayton, helping the Flyers to a school-best 17-12 record in the 2005-06 season. Two years prior, Scott assisted his alma mater, Toledo, to a 2003 Mid-American Conference regular season championship.

    As his resume continues to build – from mid-majors to this BCS school – a future job as a head coach is inevitable. Scott brought a respected reputation to Arizona, which should advance the 29-year-old to another level.

    Maybe in Tucson as soon as next season?

    Bryan Roy is a journalism freshman. He can be reached at sports@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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