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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Keeping Secrets

    As the second half of Pacific 10 Conference basketball begins tonight, the search for Arizona’s next head coach continues in the front offices of McKale Center. UA athletic director Jim Livengood sat down with the Arizona Daily Wildcat on Wednesday to discuss the harm of Internet rumors, maintaining the search’s secrecy and avoiding the “”double-edged sword”” of contacting potential coaches.

    We’ve reached February and the big search, of course, continues. How’s the process going as rumors and names continue to mount?

    The good news is there’s time because we’re still in the course of the season. The bad news is there’s time. The people that would be identified – and many have – as potential coaches, the biggest danger in all of this is exposure. If somebody’s going to be exposed, then someone who was going to be a candidate can’t be a candidate now.

    There’s been six zillion rumors mills; Somebody saw somebody looking at a house, somebody saw somebody at the airport – every day I get somebody telling me they saw this or saw that. Normally my reaction is ‘gosh that’s great’ and just leave it at that. The process itself is working as it should be working.

    The dynamic of this, because we’re looking for a person who in all likelihood could be still coaching right now, and having great success at a school – it’s not a normal situation. All those dynamics have changed when you’re looking during the year.

    You talked about the people telling you about the names that have been dropped. How do you handle that? When you hear a name, what’s your initial reaction?

    I don’t have a reaction. And I’m very careful when somebody asks me about that. I’m probably saying more to you right now than I’ve said to anybody. I don’t want to give anybody a false impression. Confidentiality is so crucial to this process at this time.

    Do you think confidentiality today is the most difficult it’s been ever, finding a basketball coach?

    By far. The environment that we’re in with regard to this process in season like this is part of it. The other part of is, I just think there’s so many things that are spread out in regards that are not true. Until you know it isn’t true, you’re going to go with it.

    And of course, you can’t confirm or deny any of these things.

    That’s really hard right there, even with close friends. I don’t talk to close friends about it. I know, and (President) Robert (Shelton) knows what we’re doing and what’s going on. It’s early in terms of the finalization. It’s not early in terms of going through this process.

    How aware are you of the names and rumors that are written on the Internet?

    I spend very little time on the Internet, but I have an awful lot of people who are friends, staff, who keep track of it pretty well. I just quite candidly don’t have the time. I just have so many other things on my plate that spending my time on the Internet isn’t productive.

    I always will take a pretty good glimpse of most of the newspapers in the Pac-10, certainly our local newspapers, knowing what’s in the Wildcat that day, the Star that day, the Citizen. There are so many people out there that want to share information; I will get an email saying, “”Hey Jim, you need to check out this Web site.”” If that’s the case I’ll probably go look at it.

    It’s difficult to keep everything within your circle. How difficult is it to make the contact to the appropriate party and get in touch with the coach?

    At this point now, I have somebody else that does that.

    Is that a search firm like you did with (UA women’s basketball) coach Niya Butts last year?

    It’s not a search firm, just a third party. It’s a third party that has the ability to be able to have a conversation with another third party and so on. Because that’s the tricky part. My responsibility along with President Shelton is to find the best coach we can for the University of Arizona. But it’s also our responsibility to not be disruptive to another program as well. I would hate that same thing with one of our coaches. We’re trying to be good colleagues.

    Of course you heard about that with (UA football) coach Mike Stoops during the Las Vegas Bowl with Iowa. (Stoops was reported to be a finalist for the Iowa coaching vacancy during the week of the Vegas Bowl). You were just on the other end of that.

    In fact, that’s a great example because of how disruptive that was. There’s just nothing to it, but once that starts, it gains arms and legs and feathers and wings, and it just keeps flying. Like a lot of things, sometimes when something like that is at least plausible, then all of the sudden it does get a life to it. It never comes at a time that could be less damaging.

    At that time, it was the most damaging.

    Oh yeah, because it became the story.

    You said conversations between you and potential coaches go through another third party. It sounds like there are a few levels that it goes through.

    I don’t think a number of levels; I think at least one level. Because it’s critically important that I and we not be disruptive to a program. I’m talking about a third party that I might use and another third party that might be connected with the coach. That communication can sometimes take place. During the middle of the season, the last thing I want to do is be disruptive to a group of young men or young women who are student athletes because I need a coach. I think for the most part, people are pretty honorable in that.

    Of course hiring coach Butts wasn’t as high profile as this may be right now, but do you think this gave you any experience in this?

    That was a very high profile search, and very critical search for us. It came at a different time, because it came after the season. Every search is different, and there all treated different. Not because of the sport or individual, but because of the dynamics involved.

    Would you say this is the most difficult search you’ve had?

    I would say it is definitely the most difficult because of when it is. Every one of our searches is important, but from (a) financial standpoint how important it is to Arizona athletics.

    There’s a report about Bob Knight being interested in the Georgia job. Are you surprised anything like that hasn’t happened here where there’s been a published report of someone being interested?

    No, not at all. I think coaches for the most part are very careful about saying things. They don’t want to appear too eager, appear not eager. My comment is always going to be the same: ‘no comment’, or ‘it would be inappropriate for me to comment.’ I’m really not surprised in that sense. This is a well-publicized job that was real publicized early in the fall that it was going to be open.

    Russ has done a great job this season with the team. Do you think that the team’s success so far this year has taken the spotlight off of this search for you? Do you think it would be a different story if this team didn’t have a shot?

    That’s a good question. It’s hard to say. I guess poorly put, the analogy would be sometimes it’s hard to tell whether it’s a great marketing effort in a particular, or the fact the sport wins. It’s a little bit a chicken and egg of what creates excitement in the sport. I guess in this case right here, the success that this team has had, which I think has been phenomenal … but I don’t know it’s taken anything off. What I do know, from day one when I put Russ in that position, is that this team feels that our attention is on this team, and we really have gone a long way to do that.

    Do you think the success of this season so far makes this job even more desirable to have? How much impact do you think the success has?

    I think it always will have impact. Arizona basketball is so popular, anything you can do to continue to show. The tremendous highlights of the Houston game were shown all over the country. Part of it where you saw the floor, saw McKale, saw enthusiasm, can’t do anything but help you. Those are all positives.

    It even felt like the old McKale.

    Those highlights, those clips around the country just can’t hurt you.

    You said you’ve wanted to win the press conference, the attention from the team’s success itself: How big would it be for this team to make the NCAA Tournament?

    I don’t worry about the streak as much as some people do. That doesn’t mean it isn’t important. It’s very important. It’s part of our tradition, part of our being. I’m more concerned at making sure this team plays to its potential, and this season is what these guys wanted it to be. Right now as we head into Corvallis and play the Beavers (tonight) that’s what’s important to me. If it ends up we’re in the NCAA Tournament, absolutely I’m ecstatic for our players. But for me, the journey is as we’re going along. Would I like it? Absolutely.

    Coach Olson has been at the games, looking healthy, have you been in contact with him?

    I’ve talked with him a number of times; I think he’s doing good. It’s just great to have him there. I know it’s great for our players, great for our fans and he’s doing good.

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