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The Daily Wildcat

Tucson, AZ

The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

“As Capel visits, thank Jim”

It was April Fools Day, 2009.

Arizona basketball fans, already on edge, didn’t know if it was a sick, cruel joke.

Then-athletic director Jim Livengood, after two interim head coaches had served his basketball power program, was trying to fill Lute Olson’s shoes — shoes that could seemingly never be filled. Fans were concerned, nervous to the point of scrounging through online forums, clicking refresh buttons, eyes bleeding while waiting for a conclusion.

And they blamed poor Jim.

Newspapers cited other newspapers as sources, blogs and message boards blew up and ESPN ran this on its ticker: “”Oklahoma’s Jeff Capel negotiating with Arizona.””

Rumor mill or not, it didn’t happen. Reports of Arizona hiring Gonzaga’s Mark Few and USC’s Tim Floyd didn’t come to fruition either.

On Sunday Sean Miller, not Capel, will be Arizona’s head coach. On Sunday, Miller will be at home in the McKale Center locker room. On Sunday at 2 p.m., Jeff Capel will visit Tucson as the Oklahoma Sooners face the Wildcats.

April Fools to you, ESPN, for reporting news with unsubstantial sources. That flub gave a glimpse of the unfortunate jumping-of-the-gun the media often gets caught doing; it was also a lesson that recruiting and coaching turnover can take a lot of crazy, meaningful turns.

What if the world wide leader in anonymous sources was right and Capel came to Arizona? Would he bring the next Blake Griffin or the next Willie Warren to the desert? Would the Wildcats not have missed the NCAA Tournament last season?

More likely, Arizona would be worse off than it is today.

Despite past recruiting and coaching success, the 35-year-old Capel brings a Sooner squad to Tucson on a downturn.

The Blake Griffins and Willie Warrens of the world, who compete in the NBA, are in Oklahama’s past. The Sooners of the present have lost their last four games, including an 18-point defeat at the hands of Virginia and a four-pont loss to itty-bitty Chaminade University in Hawaii.

In contrast, the Wildcats are on the rise. Derrick Williams is making front-page appearances on NBA Draft boards and is No. 1 in ESPN stat-wizard John Hollinger’s Player Efficiency Rating. The Wildcats appear to have gotten their Blake Griffin anyway — not to say Williams is anywhere near Griffin in talent, but he’s up there in terms of importance to his team.

Considering the “”Where would Arizona be?”” question goes further than Williams, too. Without Miller to coach Arizona, where would Williams’ fellow sophomores Momo Jones, Solomon Hill, Kyryl Natyazhko and Kevin Parrom be playing?

At USC where Williams, Jones and Hill committed? At Xavier, where Parrom was to play under Miller? In the Big East or ACC?

They wouldn’t be at Arizona if Capel was hired, that’s for sure.

For fans, the whole whirlwind of those few days before and after April Fools Day, 2009, was probably the most literal sense of bleeding red and blue ever experienced. Everyone questioned Livengood’s way of going about the hiring process, and skepticism still lingered when Miller was seemingly hired as the 10th option.

That’s because the media made it appear as if Livengood had been turned down by formidable coaches like John Calipari, Rick Pitino, Mark Few, Tim Floyd and Jeff Capel, and all hope was lost.

But with Miller’s Wildcats at 6-1 and improving as he said they would, the April Fools joke might not be on the fans, but on us, the media.

It’s funny that Livengood resides in Las Vegas nowadays, because regardless of what really happened that April of 2009, it’s probably safe to say that no athletic director is a betting man when it comes to replacing Hall of Fame head coaches.

Maybe he knew what he was doing after all. He at least deserves a little credit.

— Kevin Zimmerman is a journalism senior. He can be reached at sports@wildcat.arizona.edu.

Top players

Derrick Williams, Arizona

21 points, seven rebounds per game

Williams is coming off an 18-point, 10-rebound performance against Rice University. While ESPN’s PER rankings say he’s the most efficient player in the country, the forward must stay out of foul trouble and stay on the floor.

Cade Davis, Oklahoma

17 points, five rebounds per game

The senior plays 36 minutes per contest for head coach Jeff Capel and shoots 41 percent from the 3-point line.

Andrew Fitzgerald, Oklahoma

13 points, five rebounds per game

The 6-foot-8, 237-pound forward should be a tough test for Arizona’s Williams.

Why Arizona will win: Ranking in the Top 30 in the offensive categories of points per game, assists per game and field goal percentage, look for Arizona to have the advantage against an Oklahoma team that has trouble moving the ball and getting good looks at the basket.

Why Oklahoma will win: The Sooners have played a tougher schedule than the Wildcats. Though they have losses against Virginia and Chaminade, they also competed with a Top-15 Kentucky team and an Arkansas program on the rise.

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