How good is the Arizona job?
Arizona generally has been included among the nation’s best basketball jobs, and rightfully so. The Wildcats have been to 25 straight NCAA Tournaments. That’s 1985 through 2009. That’s a heck of a run.
‘Zona routinely leads the Pac-10 in attendance, which next to NCAA Tournament wins is as good a place to start as anywhere in measuring the quality of a program. So all in all, Arizona ranks somewhere between 6 and 15 in ranking the best programs in America.
‘Zona is not one of the blueblood schools — North Carolina, Kansas, Duke, Indiana, Kentucky and UCLA — but ranks right below them, with the likes of Michigan State, Louisville, Connecticut, Syracuse, Maryland and a few others I’ve probably left out. Just ahead of the likes of the Bedlam rivals, Texas, Purdue, Arkansas, Wake Forest and Georgetown. That crowd.
But as Arizona keeps looking for a coach, and Jeff Capel’s name keeps popping up and will until ‘Zona hires someone else, there is one worrisome issue with Arizona basketball. The Wildcats really never have done anything without Lute Olson.
In the history of ‘Zona basketball, the Wildcats have only four NCAA Tournament victories without Olson, and two of those came this season, with interim coach Russ Pennell. That puts UofA even with Connecticut, which had four NCAA wins before Jim Calhoun took over and turned the Huskies into a national power.
That’s always cause for concern when measuring a job. Is it the program, or is it the coach?
Places like Kansas, where Phog Allen, Larry Brown and Bill Self all coached NCAA title teams, it’s obvious the program is elite. Same with Kentucky, where until Billy Gillispie, Eddie Sutton was the only coach since the Depression who DIDN’T win an NCAA championship (Adolph Rupp, Joe B. Hall, Rick Pitino and Tubby Smith). And UCLA. And Carolina. And Duke.
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