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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Livengood is a better man than I

    All Madden

    I don’t ever want to be the athletics director of a major university with a healthy athletic program.

    I’d rather do one of Mike Rowe’s dirty jobs for a living.

    Sure, the benefits are great: free tickets to all the sporting events on campus and more than a third of a million bucks a year.

    But Jim Livengood’s job is a thankless one. And for that, he’s a bigger man than I’ll ever be.

    On Wednesday afternoon I phoned into his office to talk to him about this past week, when Tucson was in panic mode over the search for the next men’s basketball head coach.

    “”Arizona Athletics, this is Brenda,”” Livengood’s executive assistant, Brenda Filippelli answered.

    I had to lie. I told her I had dialed the wrong number and hung up.

    I felt it was a courtesy from me. Sure, I had a few questions for the athletics director, but I realize how busy he has been. He had already received dozens of calls – from media and pissed off fans.

    Poor Brenda.

    One more phone call – which he would have returned, if he wasn’t there; he always returns calls – would have meant five fewer minutes of sleep for him. And he made it apparent during Tuesday’s press conference to introduce new hoops coach Sean Miller just how sleep-deprived he has been.

    Livengood was asked about his thoughts of going to bed Sunday night without a coach and waking up Monday with one.

    “”Back up on the part of going to bed,”” Livengood said. “”I’m not sure when that occurred.””

    Members of the media laughed. Livengood did not.

    For weeks and weeks, Livengood did his very best to find Lute Olson’s permanent successor, and until Miller was introduced, much of the Wildcat Nation called for his head. In a sense, he was sitting in the same hot seat Mike Stoops found himself in this fall: Win or be fired.

    But fans don’t get it. Livengood has to be a better salesman than Billy Mays with Oxi Clean. Making sure Miller had a flight in a private jet and a ride to McKale Center in a white limo was important. If he shows he cares, so will Miller.

    Livengood’s moves affect a team, a university and a community all at once. He sure didn’t have those pressures when he was a teacher or a coach years ago, when he probably received more thanks for the little things than he does now.

    In the end, Livengood succeeded, and now he is the hero. He ended up with a coach of whom everyone seems to approve.

    “”I think Livengood came out smelling like a rose,”” former ASU coach Bill Frieder told the East Valley Tribune.

    But what if he didn’t? What if he hired a coach virtually no one approved of? People would call him “”Livenbad,”” storm the Tucson streets with pitchforks and demand a replacement athletics director. There would be no thanks.

    What if Livengood didn’t get a coach who could “”win the press conference,”” and promise great things from a team that just lost its two best players to the NBA?

    Mr. Livengood might have the hardest job in Tucson, and it has nothing to do with athletics at all: pleasing people.

    Hopefully he is pleased I hung up.

    Lance Madden is a journalism junior. He can be reached at sports@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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