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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Clash of the future ‘Cats?

    Rick Pitino
    Rick Pitino

    Inside Arizona Basketball

    INDIANAPOLIS – After a combined 1,218 games, Rick Pitino and Tom Izzo finally faced one another.

    They combined for 37 years of head coaching, and just Sunday shook hands in a post-game exchange for the very first time.

    It’s no surprise that it only took a matter of minutes for those future Hall-of-Famers to circulate Tucson’s rumor mill as Lute Olson’s successor.

    That’s what longevity in college coaching gets you these days – a spot in the Dream 5 coaches for every crumbling BCS powerhouse that suddenly lacks one.

    When Michigan State and Louisville clashed in the Elite Eight on Sunday in Indianapolis, you wonder, could either coach guide Arizona to that scenario?

    More like, fantasize.

    Almost immediately following the retirement of Olson last October, high profile names like Pitino and Izzo have taken on a life of their own around southern Arizona.

    My roommate’s sister-in-law’s hairdresser’s taxi driver claims Pitino’s wife bought a multi-million dollar house in the Foothills.

    My aunt’s second cousin’s waitress’ flight attendant’s co-worker claims Pitino’s son will attend the UA this fall.

    Can’t believe you actually bought that one.

    As Arizona fans orgasm just thinking about Pitino, Izzo, the second coming of John Wooden or Red Auerbach, UA athletic director Jim Livengood faces more than just crossroads.

    Obvious crossroads, as in who exactly takes control of a combustion crazier than Jordan Hill’s hairdo.

    But the real crossroads come with the philosophy Livengood wants establish.

    Currently on Page 2 of Arizona’s basketball media guide, there’s a collage of ex-Wildcats in the NBA.

    These days, is it really about how many five-star recruits turn pro?

    Or is it production when it really matters in March?

    Therein lies the philosophical stance.

    Maybe the next coach could work on redesigning that page with Pacific 10 Conference Championships or Final Four appearances, rather than succumbing to the one-and-done generation.

    I’m all for students or athletes rising to the next level without a degree. That’s why we chose to attend the UA, to build a résumé and improve odds at succeeding. If an athlete can accomplish his career goals without a diploma, so be it.

    With that said, there’s a recruiting philosophy the next coach must establish and do what’s best for the program.

    Gilbert Arenas told me on Sunday that Arizona needs a big-name guy who can lure in the five-star recruits with a ring, some bling and the promises we’ve seen in the past.

    “”When you were a guard, if (you) wanted to go to the NBA, (you’d) go to Arizona because they produce great guards,”” Arenas said. “”You need something to lure kids there.””

    But really, is it the size of the dog in the fight, or size of the fight in the dog?

    Does a coach really need a team chuckfull of prima donna AAU overlords to be successful?

    Here’s why I like these two coaches, and how they’ve been successful.

    • Sean Miller. Can you name one Xavier player? Not one? Regardless, Miller has taken his Musketeers to a Sweet 16 and Elite Eight in the past two seasons and, more importantly, extinguished the borderline-offensive “”mid-major”” label from a small private school in Cincinnati playing in the Atlantic 10.

  • Jay Wright. Since 2005, Jay Wright has been to the Sweet 16 twice, an Elite Eight and a Final Four this season. Yet still, it’s not the recruiting class that gets his guard-rich team deep in the Tournament year after year. It’s the senior leadership and high character players that have obviously been more effective than, say, the Marcus Williams types of the world.
  • Sunday’s Elite Eight game between Pitino and Izzo made Arizona look like a Division II team. The guys on both Michigan State and Louisville simply played with intensity and used quickness and no-look passes to the best of their natural athletic ability.

    How many first-round NBA Draft picks does Izzo’s team have? Zero.

    Somehow, the Arizona game had three. All on Arizona, the team that lost by about 65 points.

    From a marketing standpoint, the UA – and every college for that matter – would benefit most from hiring a top-tier coach like Pitino or Izzo.

    Those are the press conferences that ESPN would air live, and break throughout the day with updates on contract negotiations.

    Sound familiar? ESPN saturated the John Calipari-to-Kentucky story all throughout yesterday. That’s exposure.

    Would you see a live Lon Kruger – probably a third or fourth tier coach – press conference from Tucson? Absolutely not. But look at the job Kruger has done at UNLV, developing guys like senior Wink Adams.

    Arizona needs to reload with a coach that brings quality recruits, whether that coach is a top-gun candidate or diamond-in-the-rough name. It doesn’t matter.

    The Wildcats can’t afford to shoot themselves in the foot and see stars.

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

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