The first big disappointment of Sean Miller's college basketball career came in 1987. That's when North Carolina coach Dean Smith chose to offer a scholarship to New York point guard King Rice and not Miller.
Miller made the best of the situation, becoming a standout at Pittsburgh and is now earning $2 million annually as Arizona's basketball coach. Rice, by comparison, worked several years as a personal trainer and has been an assistant coach at Illinois State and Providence. He now is in his fourth year on the Vanderbilt staff.
So in the big picture, Miller isn't likely to be discouraged nor knocked off path by Arizona's season-gone-suddenly-wrong. My advice is to take a look at the current RPI listings and get a good laugh out of the company Arizona keeps. The Wildcats were ranked No. 90 through Friday's games, followed closely by Wofford, William & Mary and Harvard.
How's that for a not-so-final four: Arizona, Wofford, William & Mary, Harvard.
Miller could've stayed in a comfy situation at Xavier. Through Friday, the Musketeers were ranked No. 16 in the RPI listings, 13-0 at home, averaging 10,120 (a season sellout) at the raucous Cintas Center.
He chose, instead, to take on what has become a rebuilding job more demanding than almost anyone could've imagined.
But remember how quickly things can change. Midway through Lute Olson's first season at Arizona, the Wildcats started 0-4 in the Pac-10. At that time, Arizona had lost 37 of its last 42 conference games and the financially challenged athletic department was on the hook for a court-ordered $695,000 settlement to ex-coach Ben Lindsey, who sued the university for wrongful termination.
Two years later Arizona won the first of 11 Pac-10 championships and a judge reduced Lindsey's settlement to $215,000. By that time, with McKale Center beginning a 25-year run of sellout crowds, it was pocket change.
And Lindsey survived nicely, too. Now 70, he was inducted into the Grand Canyon University sports Hall of Fame a few weeks ago.
The moral of this basketball story is simple: This hard time for UA hoops will pass, and quickly, too.
Cougars move fast, hire quality athletic director
Washington State president Elson S. Floyd had an impressive week, one that reverberated through the Pac-10.
He filled his vacant athletic director position in record time, eight days, by hiring ex-Oregon AD Bill Moos. It was a dynamic transaction that gives the Cougars the most resourceful AD in a league stocked with, shall we say, men and women of lesser skill.
Beyond that, Elson upset the Pac-10's salary structure by paying Moos $455,000 per year, which, according to Elson, is the third-highest paid sum in the league. Only USC's Mike Garrett and Oregon's Mike Bellotti are believed to earn more.
That doesn't mean UA president Robert Shelton will have to match or exceed Moos' salary. But the longer Arizona goes without replacing Jim Livengood, the more expectations grow.
A long and secret search adds to those expectations, especially when someone like interim AD Rocky LaRose, who is as capable as most elite-level athletic directors in college sports, is already holding down the fort.
MLB Network to telecast final games at Hi Corbett
The MLB Network won't ignore the final season of spring training in Tucson. In fact, it will record for posterity the final spring training games played here. The network will televise 45 spring training games in Florida and Arizona, and is scheduled to broadcast the March 30 Rockies vs. Dodgers game, the next-to-last game to be played at Hi Corbett Field. The MLB Network will cap its spring coverage by televising the March 31 Diamondbacks vs. Rockies game, also at Hi Corbett. The Rockies will play two games in Albuquerque after leaving Tucson. … Canyon del Oro graduate Ian Kinsler, 27, isn't crowing much about his 30-30 season in 2009. He told reporters in Phoenix last week, "I am sick of people talking about my potential." Kinsler hit .253 with 31 homers, 31 steals and 86 RBIs, but Texas manager Ron Washington last week told baseball writers that Kinsler underachieved. "The problem was him," Washington said. … After having his scholarship diminished at the UA, former Catalina High School home run champion Shaun Cooper has transferred to Pima College and is making the most of it. Cooper was hitting .360 in his first 50 at-bats for Edgar Soto's club. Cooper hit a 4A state-record-tying 37 home runs at Catalina. He batted .300 in 18 starts for Arizona as a freshman. … Catalina Foothills senior quarterback Adam Larriva, who closed his prep career with two consecutive victories and four touchdown passes in those games, will get to play another game next month. He will be the quarterback for Team USA in the Global Bowl, a team of American high school seniors who will play the Belgium All-Stars on March 20 in Amiens, France. Larriva's Falcons teammate, Elliott Koester, who made 127 tackles last season, is also part of the team of former Santa Rita coach Jeff Scurran.
Pima men's, women's teams set for playoffs
Ranked No. 7 in the NJCAA Division II women's basketball poll, Pima College and coach Todd Holthaus begin region playoffs Tuesday at home. The women's team gets the early game, at 5:30 p.m. PCC finished third nationally last season and is 23-7. Karl Pieroway's Aztecs men's team also qualified for a home game in the region playoffs, and will tip off Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. … Jerry Carrillo's 26-4 Cochise College men's basketball team, the ACCAC regular-season champs, will await the survivor of four midweek games. It will play a much-anticipated title game Saturday night at Cochise with the winner advancing against the Region 18 champ. The ACCAC could become even more interesting next season if Yavapai College hires Kenny Carrillo, Jerry's brother, as its next head coach. The Carrillo brothers are Salpointe Catholic and UA grads. Kenny has coached at Mountain View High School, Oregon State and Southern Utah. … Ka'Deem Carey, CDO's star tailback, took advantage of the rodeo week vacation to accompany Amphitheater's state-finalist basketball team to Prescott over the weekend. Carey grew up with many of Amphi's basketball players and joined them at practices, games and a team barbecue. Carey was an off-the-bench rotation player for CDO's basketball team this season. … It doesn't look as though Josh Pastner will reach the NCAA tournament in his first season as head coach at Memphis. Pastner's team was ranked No. 61 in the RPI listings through Friday, having lost 92-75 in his first game in his hometown as a head coach, against Houston, on Wednesday. Memphis has won 20 games but its strength of schedule is dismal, at No. 107.
Ex-Pima lefty Lachapelle tops No. 1 Texas in debut
In his major-college baseball debut last week, ex-Sahuaro and Pima College left-hander Mike Lachapelle shut down and beat No. 1-ranked Texas 3-1 on the Longhorns' turf. Lachapelle allowed one run in six innings for the New Mexico Lobos and was assisted by ex-Mountain View High outfielder Kenny Held, who drove in two runs in New Mexico's win. Lachapelle pitched a no-hitter for PCC last year. … Sabino and UA grad Nate Tyler won again on the Gateway Tour last week, earning $10,000 with rounds of 64-67 in the Phoenix area. That puts his earnings at $40,754 through six events. Palo Verde grad Ben Kern and Salpointe grad Brian Prouty finished second and third, respectively. Tyler will attempt to qualify for the PGA Tour's Shell Houston Open in April. … Rincon/University grad Michael Thompson remains the No. 1 money winner on the NGA Hooters Tour, with $28,951 in that association's winter series played mostly in Georgia and Florida. … Reigning Pima County Amateur champion Matt Bergstrom drained a 25-foot putt in sudden death last week at Randolph North to give him and teammate Cyrus Whitney the 2010 Roy Tatum Best Ball championship, as conducted by the Arizona Golf Association. … A day after pocketing $850,000 as runner-up in the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship, Paul Casey donated $100,000 to youth sports activities in Houston. Casey won his only PGA Tour event last year in Houston.
MY TWO CENTS
Basketball fans are mistreated when local games start at 8:30
Arizona's next athletic director would do well to form a coalition with ASU's Lisa Love to make a stand on 8:30 p.m. basketball starting times. They need to put their fans first and just say no.
Arizona and UCLA will play in the dreaded 8:30 game Thursday at McKale Center, compliments of Fox Sports. It will be the fifth UA home game at 8:30 p.m. (or later) this season.
Those games should be played in Pacific time, not in Arizona. If you dump on the fans long enough, and make attending and watching weeknight games inconvenient, it sends a message that you don't care what they think.
It can't be a good way to do business.