Monday, April 28, 2008

Three Wildcats Drafted in NFL Draft

Three former Arizona Wildcats are now pro pics and have a chance to be playing on Sundays this fall.

The first to go was fan favorite Antoine Cason. A rare first round pic for the Wildcats, Cason went 27th overall to the San Diego Chargers. Cason was the first, first round pic for former Wildcats since Trung Candidate in the 1999 draft.

"I’m just going to go in there and do what I can do to better myself as a player and get ready for the NFL," Cason said. "But I’m sure it’s going to be a challenge every week.”

Cason is from Long Beach, California and playing in San Diego will be a homecoming of sorts.

Also drafted: inside linebacker Spencer Larson went 183 overall to the Denver Broncos, cornerback Wilrey Fontenot went 212 to the Atlanta Falcons and defensive tackle Lionel Dotson 245 to the Miami Dolphins.

Defensive End Louis Holmes reportedly signed with the San Fransisco 49ers.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Wildcats replace K.O.

Just one day after Kevin O'Neil was reassigned within the athletic department it appears like Lute Olson has chosen his replacement. Several media outlets in Tucson and Phoenix are reporting that it's Russ Pennell-who was an assistant coach under Rob Evans at Arizona State. Evans is no longer with ASU.

He spent the past season working on The Sun Devils Radio Network. An official announcement can not be made until the job has been posted on the universities website for two week. As of Thursday night it had not yet been posted.

This will be the third assient coach in as many years. Kevin O'Neil was hired one year ago to replace Jim Rosborough.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

O'Neil reassigned

The saga of Arizona basketball rolls on (and on, and on, and on).

Wednesday Arizona A.D. Jim Livengood reassigned Kevin O'Neil to a fundraising role until the end of the fiscal year in June. After that it's anyone's guess what O'Neil will do.

O'Neil most plausible course of action will be to return to the NBA, most likely as an assistant coach. His name has not be mentioned with any of the current openings (Chicago Bulls and New York Knick).

The move allows Lute Olson to look for someone to fill the job that O'Neil held for a year. Several names have come up, including former ASU assistant Russ Pennell and ex U.A. assistant Rodney Tention. Tention was fired by Loyola Marymount earlier this season as the head coach.

Sadly this move doesn't appear to change any of the problems the university will face. O'Neil can still sue the university if they don't pay him the $375,000 it owes him for the 2008-09 season. O'Neil could also sue over a verbal promise to take over as head coach when Olson retires-all indications are that this deal is now off the table.

This move is the final slap in the face for O'Neil, who has been called a cancer on the team by some Wildcat fans. For whatever reason the relationship between Olson and O'Neil soured at some point over the past season and it has been downhill since then.

But why didn't the university just let him go? They are going to have to pay him, no matter what, right? It seems to me that it would be more respectful just to pay him to go away.

Instead they decided to give him a meaningless job, for about 60 days. 60 days!

What is he going to do over those days. Make a few calls. Take a few vacation days. Take a few sick days.

The entire thing is seedy and mysterious. Then again it has been all along.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

NFL Draft

Saturday is the start of the NFL draft, here are the Wildcats who could get picked this weekend. Not all of these players will get drafted, I think Cason and Larsen are sure things. We'll see about the rest. Tune in Monday and I'll recap who went where.

Antoine Cason Cornerback 6'0" 191 pounds
Lionel Dotson Defensive Tackle 6'3" 296 pounds
Wilrey Fontenot Cornerback 5'8" 171 pounds
Louis Holmes Defensive End 6'3" 263 pounds
Chris Jennings Running Back 5'10" 217 pounds
Spencer Larsen Inside Linebacker 6'1" 238 pounds
Garon McHone Long Snapper 6'3" 275 pounds
Dominic Patrick Safety 6'0" 211 pounds

Monday, April 21, 2008

Jay John to Cal

Jay John, the man most thought would replace Kevin O'Neil as Lute's number two man was hired by the University of California reports say. Cal hired Mike Montgomery earlier in the month to be their head coach.

Jay John left Arizona to be the head man at Oregon State. The Beavers let him go earlier this year after six and one half seasons in Corvallis.

As of today, O'Neil is still on the Arizona staff. At Olson's return press conference he said O'Neil would not be back.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Arizona ASU Rivial takes Center Stage on ESPN

Well the news we all knew about in Tucson is out around the world,thanks to a story that ran on on April 15. Arizona State’s athletic department is (gulp) in a lot better shape then the U of A’s. Most Wildcat and Sun Devil Fans are aware of what has happened over the past school year, but in case you don’t know here’s the run down.

The Sun Devils beat the Wildcats for the third year in a row on the football field.

Both the men’s and women’s basketball team got beat twice each by the Sun Devils.

The Sun Devils beat the Wildcats in softball, in Tucson, for the first time since 1991.

The Sun Devils beat the Wildcats in the one baseball game they have played thus far.

Granted, there has been Wildcat success, for sure. For example, the Arizona men’s and women’s teams won the National Championships in swimming and diving. Let’s also not forget that overall the ASU men’s basketball team did not make the NCAA tournament, Arizona did. Does that make a difference? I think it does.

The rivalry is alive as it has ever been. Sadly it’s us that keep getting kicked in the gut,-seemingly week after week. The more we get punched the harder and harder it becomes to get up.

So let’s for a moment deal with this issue of how ASU has passed Wildcat Nation buy and what he can do about this.

Change at the top?
Let’s consider what happened at ASU to get them where they are today.

They hired a knew president named Michael Crow. Crow hired his own athletic director, Lisa Love. Love then made changes both with the men’s basketball program, firring Rob Evans and replacing him with Herb Sendek as well as with football program firing Dirk Koetter and replacing him with Dennis Erickson. Those changes seem to have made all the difference. Now should Arizona do the same?

The U of A has all ready hired a knew president in Robert Shelton. Now I would be in favor of Shelton pulling the trigger on letting A.D. Jim Livengood go ASAP.

So what about football?
Chances are that Mike Stoops is gone by the 2010 season. If he wins he gets credit for turning around a bad program and is one the first train out of two to a big and better program. If he losses the pressure to fire Stoops becomes to great for any AD to endure and he has no choice but to let him go. Will 2010 be too late to ever turn around the program? It’s possible. If Stoops does turn it around, he gets lots of credit from the national media and he is on the first train out of town.

OK, what happens with Lute?
No Arizona fan wants to hear this, trust me I know. Look, good chance that Olson is also gone by 2010 as well. What happens when someone needs to replace him? Well, we have already seen what Livengood had in mind and it didn’t really work out for reason that have been already covered on this blog.

Something needs to be done, I mean we are talking about a rival that is hot as ever. I know I would never ever wear, yellow, maroon or gold. I would never want my child to go to Arizona State. It goes without saying that I would never, ever, ever cheer for ASU for any reason ever.

So please Wildcats, Bear Down and lets turn this puppy around. Never do I want to read what I was forced to read this week. Never again.

To read the story from just go here

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Worest Moments in Arizona Basketball History

Over the next few days I thought it would be fun to write about my favorite and my least favorite Arizona basketball and Arizona football memories. First up is “Nate’s Worst Arizona Men’s Basketball Memories.” One rule, I have to remember it. There a lot of games, like the 1988 Final Four game I just don't. I hope you like it and I hope it does not bring you to tears.

10. Arizona swept by ASU in the ’08 season Need I say anything more.

9. 1995 Arizona losses to Miami of Ohio in the first round of the tournament I don’t remember a lot about this game. I do remember watching this game in junior high school. One of the worst moments for an Arizona fan, just a year removed from the Final Four.

8. 1994 Final Four game loss to Arkansas President Bill Clinton was at this game. Anything worst then losing in front of the president? I was camping with my dad during this game, but I remember listening to Brian Jeffries call of the game. At least Arkansas won it all, right?

7. Arizona’s loss to Kansas in the 2003 elight eight Another year Arizona fans thought for sure they would be in the Final Four. I guess not. Kansas destroyed Arizona’s fun, just as Arizona had done to them in 1997. Jason Gardner had a chance to hit a last second shot that would have won it, but Kansas’s Kirk Hinrich blocked it. There went Arizona’s hope for a Final Four. And there almost went my beer mug at Maloney’s, across the room and at the TV. Lucky for me all the cops around the building stopped me. I just cried in my hot wings. Ugh.

6. Lute Olson leave of absence during the 2007-08 Lute Olson calls it off for a year for what he said was a person health issue. While he was gone Kevin O’Neil takes over and all hell breaks out. It wasn’t a great season, true. But what made it bad for me was hearing Wildcat fans pointing fingers and arguing about all kinds of things. Who undercut whom. The media wants to know too much, the media isn’t digging deep enough. It was bad and it was not fun at all.

5. Arizona losses to Stanford on buzzer beater in 2004 Stanford was undefeated, going into the game. Arizona looked like they would hand Stanford the first loss of the season. Then just when you were ready to breath out, Nick Robinson hit a 32-foot game winner. The fans, including golfer and graduate Tiger Woods stormed the court and Arizona fans had nothing else to do but be heart broken.

4. Arizona get blown out by Utah in 1998 elight eight Who didn’t think Arizona was the best team in the country that year? After going 18-1 in Pac-10 play Arizona was on their way to winning their second title in row. Remember the ‘Dos’ shirts? I wounder if I still have one? Anyway long story short, Utah put Arizona threw the ringer and it was over before it really started. I seem to remember throwing my shoe at the TV at one point. Arizona could have, should have won two in a row. But they didn’t. So it goes I guess.

3. Arizona blows big lead it Illinois in 2005 elight eight The game was in Chicago. All but a home game for the Illini. Yet halfway threw the second half Arizona fans were ready to by the Final Four tickets, shirts, hats and DVDs. Then it all feel apart. We can blame the refs for this one if we want to. But I’m not going to. I remember being, really, really pissed off. I don’t think I talked for hours. I just sat on the stair case outside my apartment with my head in my lap. That one still hurts.

2. The Death of Bobbi Olson in 2001 That wasn’t a game of course, but truly it was the saddest moment in men’s basketball history, for sure. Almost out of respect to Miss. O’ I couldn’t put this a the worst moment. I don’t think she would want that. But truth be told, Arizona basketball hasn’t been the same since then, mostly because Lute Olson has never been the same. She is missed very much by all of us in Wildcat land.

1. Arizona losses to Duke in the 2001 National Championship Game Just months after Olson lost his wife. This is a no brainier as far as I am concerned, who didn’t cry after this one? Who didn’t cry for the player and Olson, who really wanted this one. If the refs had it in for the Cats and loved the Blue Devils will always be debated. To be honest I think Arizona did have some bad breaks in that game, but hey you have to over come them. Anyone who has cheered for a team that lost a championship game knows how much it hurts. It make you wounder if you would have rather lost in the first round. I remember watching that game at the McKale Center and just having tear streaming down my face. Now that really, really, really suck. Just saying……

Now debate with yourself. But don’t worry, you’ll feel better when I put up my best Wildcat memories.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Arizona Spring Game Fun, a Look at my Time in the Spring Game

For at least a day football was king again in Tucson.

In one of the best events of the year about 4,000 fans watch the Arizona Wildcats play, well themselves in the fan friendly event.

The fun started at 11am when 20-30 car loads of fans tailgated at 3rd and Campbell. The smell of hamburgs, hot dogs and brats were in the air. Rock music and U.A. highlights could be heard. Beers and soda were being downed. Footballs flew threw the air. It was like game days, only a lot fewer people.

For those who choose to forgo the tailgating, head coach Mike Stoops and the team signed autographs, among other in stadium events.

The game it's self kicked off about 1:30. Besides being a little warm and baking in the sun it was a fun game to watch.

I do have one in game complaint. Where was the band? The Pride of Arizona should have been there. It was kind of sad without them.

After the game the players were again available for handshakes and autographs. We got a chance to talk to coach Stoops and Willie T among others.

All in all it was a good time and one of the best free events the U puts on all year.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

What to look for at this Saturday Spring Game

This Saturday Arizona Football will end it's spring practice schedule with the annual spring scrimmage game. It's always hard to learn a lot from these games. Just the fact the first game is still 20 weeks away is reason enough that you can't learn much about what to expect from this team, but still there are somethings I do hope to see/expect to see.

For several reason the defence almost always dominates these games. That being said I want to see the offence be crisper then they have been the past few scrimmages. That means I want to see cleaner routs by the receivers, I want to see quicker toss by the QBs, I want to see what it looks like when everything clicks.

Speaking of which I want to see Willie Tuitama look like the Willie of old. I want to see if he can run like he once did, I want to see if he can think and react like he once did. I want to see that the Willie we saw play a sub par game at best against ASU to end last season is not going to be the Willie we are going to see in the upcoming season.

I want to see Mike Thomas catch at least one long touchdown pass. One could make the argument as "Money Mike" Thomas goes, so goes the offence, so let's seem him kick some butt.

I want to see Arizona's running game to do just that, run. Nic Grigsby and Xavier Smith need to get several touch and they need to get yards with those touches.

Finlay the O-Line needs to give Willie and company time to run the plays. One could argue that this was the biggest hole in several of the teams of years past.

As for the other side of the ball, there is not a lot you can say other then I want to see the defence hit and read the plays. The defence is not going to hit too hard, after all they don't want to hurt any of there own players. I want to see Sterling Lewis, Brooks Reed and Ricky Elmore get some touches on Willie.

Oh and I want to see some good brats and beers too at the pregame tailgate. Ummmm.

Arizona Spring Game
When: This Saturday April 12th, 1:30pm, tailgating will be allowed starting at 11:30am on Gittings lawn (in front of the dance building at Campbell and 3rd)

Friday, April 4, 2008

New Women's Basketball coach

Arizona has hired Kentucky assistant Niya Butts as the new head coach of the women's basketball team.

Butts played for The University of Tennessee under famed women's coach Pat Summitt. 30 year-old Butts won two National Championships while at U.T. (1997, 1998).

She replaces long time head coach Joan Bonvicini who was let go at the end of the season.

"I’m just so excited about everything that is going on," Butts said. " I can’t express it enough."

It's been a long few years for the Arizona program. Following the death of Shawntinice Polk in 2005, the program really feel of the map. Butts has her work cut out for her to get the program back on the map.

"I know that Arizona will soon move towards the top of that conference I’m hoping here in the near future, and I will work tirelessly to make that happen," Butts said. "But I think that in the Pac-10 definitely Arizona can be one of the top teams, and I’m just looking forward to getting to work and making that happen."

Butts will hire staff of the next few weeks.

This could be a critical hire four Arizona A.D. Jim Livengood, who over the past few years has taken heat for not turning around the football program and mishandling the Lute Olson leave of absence. The department could also use some of the revenue that could be raised by a women's basketball team that draws more fans.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Has Lute Olson lost it?

Arizona basketball coach Lute Olson held a welcome back news conference Tuesday and he came out firing. It was Olson unlike most have ever seen him. I'm not sure if I like this new Lute.

First he called out Arizona Daily Star basketball beat writer Bruce Pascoe, calling him "Columbo" when referring to him asking questions and digging around about the real reason Olson was gone.

He then had an exchange with Tucson Citizen writer Rennee Schafer Horton over a story that may or may not have ran in The Citizen.

Next he attacked long time adversary Greg Hanson.

"There's a lot of things I wouldn't go through you with, too. Because I've seen and heard plenty of things." Olson said when asked about why he went out side the U of A SID office while he was on leave. "So the good thing is you're (Hanson) not going to have to talk to me and I'm not going to have to talk to you. We're back where we were a few years ago."

Olson was referring to a long time feud and dislike between the two. No one seems to be sure when this dates back to, but the running story is it started when Olson was close to going to Kentucky in the mid 1990s. According to his book "LUTE! Seasons of my Life" Olson mended fences with Hanson as one of the dieing wishes of his first wife Bobbi.

Olson then talked about Kevin O'Neil, all but saying he would not return.

"I said, 'Kevin, I don't know what your feeling is — do you want to be an assistant here for three more years, five more years?' He said no," Olson said. "He said, 'No, my preference would be a good-level college basketball program and, if not, become an assistant in the pros."

This lead to another testy exchange with Pascoe, when Olson wouldn't say who he would hire to replace O'Neil, because O'Neil is still on staff today. And that's they way it went for almost an hour. Olson and Pascoe had it out at least two more times.

So the question should be asked has Olson lost it? To me the answer is maybe. In this case Olson is getting a pass, locally because he is so beloved and nationally because he is thought of as being such a good guy.

I mean, let's face it, if this was Bobby Knight he would be getting hell for it. Kight has gotten hell for less. But Olson is not Knight and he's not getting it. At least not yet.

Maybe he should be.

There is no doubt that Olson came off somewhat of a bully. He attacked members of the media, who couldn't really go anywhere, who couldn't really answer him back and who were only really doing there jobs.

This entire issue could have been avoided if Olson had been more open about why he was gone. But he choose not to.

"Frankly, even though I realize I'm a public figure, I don't think I need to go into every nuance of my private life," Olson said. "There were things going on in my life that did create some health issues that I needed time to address. But it was not a health scare, which is what I really tried to articulate early on."

Worse yet, this what most people feared when debating what to write and what not to write when it came to the Olson issue. If you get black balled your done. Yet if you do not write the news, your done then too.

So were do we go from here? With any luck, it's all over. The issue is dead. Someone will replace Kevin O'Neil and O'Neil will not be the next coach at Arizona. Olson will calm down over the next few weeks and by the time next season comes along all the tension with the local media and Olson will be long gone.

With any luck, all will be good in Wildcat land.