South Florida appears to have its next coach and hopefully he has completed the coursework that he says he has. Yesterday, the school announced that Orlando Antigua would be its next head coach. Antigua is expected to continue to serve as an assistant at Kentucky through their Final Four run. The deal, which is reportedly five years, adds Antigua to a growing Calipari coaching tree that already includes Josh Pastner, Derek Kellogg, and Bruiser Flint. Antigua is best known for spearheading Kentucky’s recent ridiculous recruiting run. He will not be recruiting anything close to the same caliber of player in Tampa, but getting better players into the program will be the first step in making it respectable.
Antigua is just getting his head coaching career started while across the country Mike Montgomery appears to have decided to end his. Yesterday, Montgomery announced that he would be stepping down as the coach at California and retiring. Montgomery coached at three schools–California, Stanford, and Montana–for 32 seasons and in the NBA for the Golden State Warriors for two seasons. Outside of his time in the NBA during which his teams went 34-48 in each of his two seasons, Montgomery was very successful at all three schools he coached at going 677-317, but will be best remembered for making Stanford into one of the top programs in the country before he left the Farm to head to the NBA.
Staying in the Pac-12, Washington State announced that it hired former Oregon coach Ernie Kent to be its next head coach. After having a degree of success under Tony Bennett (not exactly shocking anymore) the Cougars went through a rough patch with Ken Bone, who was fired after five seasons. With his 13 seasons at Oregon, which included two Elite 8 appearances, Kent would appear to be ideally suited to compete in the Pac-12. Having said that perhaps the biggest key for Kent was his relationship with athletic director Bill Moos, who had hired Kent to his first head coaching position at St. Mary’s.
Former Arizona star Jason Gardner (last seen having this done to him by Jason Williams–seriously, no foul was called on that) was named as the new coach at IUPUI yesterday. Gardner is best known for his time at Arizona, but he subsequently played overseas before serving as an assistant at Loyola then Memphis. Outside of his professional experience and name recognition, Gardner also was a Mr. Basketball in Indiana in 1999, which could serve him well as he tries to recruit within the state although he will have an uphill battle trying to get recruits over much more well-known in-state schools.
We had two players announce that they were entering the NBA Draft yesterday. One had been expected for over a year while the other one was a bit of a surprise. The first (and obvious) one was Andrew Wiggins, who announced that he would be leaving Kansas after his freshman season. Wiggins’ draft stock may have dropped from what it was before the season (an unquestioned #1 overall pick), but he is still a top-five pick at worst. The announcement out of Missouri was a little more surprising as Jordan Clarkson has elected to enter the NBA Draft after his junior season. While Clarkson’s numbers this season may have been close to what Wiggins put up, he is closer to a late first round pick at best so this might end up backfiring on him if he were to slip into the second round.
We are a little less than a month away from the start of another college basketball season and as teams start to get in to the swing of things, we here at the AAC microsite will be doing the same things. The offseason in college basketball can be a tedious stream of coaching changes, arrests, transfers, recruiting, and injury news. But it is still an important part of the game and since we know you have had better things to do than sit at home and track the minutiae of each AAC team’s offseason, we figured we would do it for you as the perfect way to launch our coverage for this season. Look for a full conference preview in the next week as well as the standard Morning Fives, some other fun coverage, and maybe even a new writer or two, who knows.
Rick Pitino Has Nothing To Complain About, Although We Doubt That Will Stop Him From Doing It Anyway.
In fact, the most controversy surrounding Louisville from the offseason came when a pair of Boston radio hosts hung up on Pitino during a promotional interview after telling him that, “he ruined the Celtics.” Hilarious stuff, really. Pitino also gave a struggling assistant coach a job in the coolest way possible. Put it this way, if you are Pitino and the worst press of the offseason is that you were hung up on early during a promotional interview, you can live with that. The bottom line is that the Cardinals are loaded with talent and could be insanely deep if Ware makes it back to the court quicker than expected.
If it wasn’t for forward Tyler Olander’s DUI idiocy and suspension, it would have been a nice, quiet offseason for coach Kevin Ollie and his Huskies – especially when compared with previous offseasons. But the DUI charges against Olander have since been dropped and the forward has been reinstated, which is a huge boon to team with major frontcourt issues. Also, freshman guard Terrence Samuelcleared up eligibility concerns over the summer, adding more depth to an already loaded backcourt. The only remaining question is whether another key freshman, Kentan Facey, will be cleared to play with the team as he deals with eligibility concerns stemming from his time at a high school in Jamaica. The 6’9″ Facey is a prized recruit and will be an important frontcourt contributor if he is cleared to play. The Huskies look poised to quickly return to the NCAA Tournament this year.
As far as interesting news goes, there is no team in the conference that has had a quieter offseason than the Bearcats. The offseason started with a bang when senior guard Sean Kilpatrick announced he would return for his senior season, but since then, it’s been all crickets. I guess you could count gangly forward Justin Jackson putting on 20 pounds or highly-touted 2014 recruit Qadri Moore’s commitment to the Bearcats big news, but that would be stretching the definition. In some cases the lack of news might not be such a good thing, but coach Mick Cronin still needs to break in a new starting point guard and find anyone who can be a legitimate anchor in the post, so Cronin has probably welcomed an offseason without distractions of either kind. Kilpatrick’s return makes life a bit easier for Cronin and the team has plenty of athleticism, but points will be hard to come by and rebounds may be harder to come by still.
If things weren’t going bad enough for the Utah basketball team, what with a 1-7 start to Pac-12 play, they got worse news yesterday when leading scorer and rebounder, freshman Jordan Loveridge, was held out of practice with a hyperextended knee suffered in practice on Tuesday. The good news is that the results of his MRI showed no structural damage or any issues with ligaments, but Loveridge is considered day-to-day and may miss Saturday’s game with Colorado.
Following UCLA’s home court loss to cross-town rival USC on Wednesday night, Ben Howland says his team has a lot of soul-searching to do in advance of the back half of the conference schedule. And, according to senior guard Larry Drew, the Bruins had guys who weren’t “all the way into the game on the defensive end.” There is still plenty of time to turn things back around, but after fighting off rumors of his impending demise earlier in the season with some big wins, once again Howland finds himself in need of stringing together several wins in order to feel entirely comfortable about his job. Or, as Bruins Nation puts it, in typically understated fashion, “pathetic, delusional, dumpster fire, disgraceful.” I’m beginning to think those people aren’t enamored of the direction of the UCLA program.
You know how you always hear announcers talk about how a shooter who is struggling might suddenly right himself if he gets to the foul line and gets a couple unhampered looks at the hoop? Well, maybe that is what has happened to Stanford. On Sunday night, they played a Utah team that was completely uninterested in playing basketball and, as a result, the Cardinal got to roll to a blowout win, turning in their best offensive performance of the year against little more than brother-in-law defense. That was the equivalent of the shooter in a mini-slump getting to the free throw line and having a chance to see the ball go through the hoop. Repeatedly. Because on Wednesday night, they continued that hot-shooting and took it to previously unbeaten Oregon. And now that we’ve all of a sudden seen the type of offensive explosion out of Stanford that we had hoped to see all year, we’ve got to wonder if this is the start of a run. Oh, and the Ducks still haven’t swept a trip to the Bay Area since, like the Garfield presidency.
Thursday night was another wild night around the conference, highlighted by Sean Miller’s first win at Washington in his fourth season as Arizona’s head coach. Still, despite coming away with a road win, it was yet another underwhelming win for the Wildcats. Turnovers, poor shooting and uninspiring offense were the order of the night, and while wins are always better than losses (now there’s some hard-won wisdom for ya!), this ‘Cats team isn’t scaring anybody lately.
Lastly, the newest selections for the Pac-12 Men’s Basketball Hall of Honor, to be inducted prior to the conference championship game in March, were announced on Thursday. Washington’s Nate Robinson is the most recent player to be selected, with the other big names including UCLA’s Lucius Allen, Utah’s Keith Van Horn, Cal’s Shareef Abdur-Rahim and Arizona’s Jason Gardner. The full list is here.
In this week’s Burning Question, along with the usual suspects from your friendly neighborhood RTC Pac-12 microsite, we’ve invited Adam Butler of Pachoops to weigh in on this week’s big question about the Arizona program. Without further ado, here it is:
Mark Lyons arrives in Tucson, along with a heralded freshman class. In the absence of other enticing options at the point guard, can Lyons earn a spot among the great names in Point Guard U’s history? Or is he merely a stopgap solution on the way to something else?
We Know Some Of What Mark Lyons Can Do, But Can He Run A National Championship Contender? (Streeter Lecka, Getty Images)
Adam Butler: As stop gaps go he’s certainly a better option than Curtis Painter but let’s dive deeper. The kid’s already been to four NCAA Tournaments and three Sweet Sixteens; he’s won three conference titles (counting his redshirt season) and twice been an All-Conference performer. His resume speaks for itself as he’s coming off a 15/3/3 season. But here’s what you aren’t going to read in his player bio: he’s playing for the coach he initially committed to; he’s finally getting a shot to prove he’s a worthy PG; and it’s his last opportunity to demonstrate that he’s not a disruptive malcontent. So what am I getting at? It’s do or die for Mark Lyons who controls his own destiny into PGU-lore. He and Arizona have somewhat serendipitously found one another in their respective time of point guard need and I have to think both parties will thrive. By some accounts Lyons is going to step onto this roster as the most talented player and – as previously stated – he’s stepping onto a pretty talented one. But what I believe makes Lyons more than a stopgap player is the toughness, swagger, grit, that je ne sais quoi that was so glaringly missing from the Wildcats’ 2011-12 team; an imperative component to any Sean Miller squad. Because of this I think Lyons’ role is bigger. He’s some version of a tone setter, helping to re-cement exactly what Arizona Basketball is. Of course all of my aforementioned high reward doesn’t come without high risk. He very well could be a disruptive malcontent on a formative and youthful team. His immediate emergence as starter and primary ball handler could cause discontent amongst the returners. His ballyhooed toughness may upset a team perceived as soft. So as all things high risk/high reward go, we’ll wait and see. Should be a good watch.
Washington – In coming back from what was a 13-point deficit with just 11 minutes left, the Huskies not only managed to pull off a season sweep of Apple Cup rival Washington State, they also, combined with California’s loss on Sunday, vaulted themselves into sole ownership of first place in the Pac-12. While their win over WSU certainly wasn’t a thing of beauty, the Huskies managed to gut one out, overcoming Terrence Ross’ foul trouble and ineffectiveness to put it away down the stretch. Despite shooting just 62.2% from the line for the season, the Huskies shot made 78.9% of their 19 second-half free throws, including 58%-free-throw-shooter Tony Wroten knocking down seven of his nine attempts in the second half. With a road trip to the Los Angeles schools the last remaining hurdle on the Husky schedule, it looks like it comes down to this: beat UCLA at the Sports Arena on Saturday and claim the regular season conference title.
Kyle Fogg Is Wrapping Up His Arizona Career With His Best Basketball Yet (Chris Morrison/US Presswire)
Player of the Week
Kyle Fogg, Senior, Arizona – Fogg has been rock-steady in his four seasons in Tucson, but with his career rapidly coming to a close, he has begun showing a newly developing personality: glass-eating double-double machine. After going 130 games as a Wildcat without once grabbing 10 or more rebounds, in the past four games Fogg has recorded two double-doubles, two near-misses with nine rebounds and has averaged 15.8 points and ten rebounds per game over that stretch. This week it was 18 points and 10.5 rebounds per night in helping to orchestrate a home-sweep of the Los Angeles schools and keeping the Wildcats in line for a opening-round bye in the Pac-12 Tournament. He came to Tucson as a Lute Olson recruit, but never played a minute for the icon whose health forced him to retirement. But over the years, Fogg has become a fixture in Tucson. When the Wildcats eventually open up the Pac-12 Tournament, Fogg will tie Jason Gardner for most games played in Arizona basketball history and he ranks in the top ten in the school’s list for minutes played and three-pointers.
Now that we’ve had a little bit of time to digest the news of Lute Olson’s retirement from Arizona after 24 seasons, it’s time to take a look at his legacy. Lute wore his humanity on his sleeve for the past year or so as he’s piloted the usually steady Arizona ship into some rough waters through a minefield of health issues, marital problems, leadership changes and various other snafus. But for the previous 34 years of coaching, Olson has consistently fielded talented teams that were a threat to win it all. Consider the following accomplishments of a first-ballot HOF career:
Olson’s numbers place him in an elite group of one-title coaches, including contemporaries Jim Boeheim, Tubby Smith, Rick Pitino, Roy Williams, Tom Izzo, and Gary Williams. The one thing, however, that separates him from those other names is that each of those coaches entered programs as new coaches where basketball was already an established way of life. In Tucson, Lute Olson IS Arizona basketball.
When Lute Olson stepped off the plane from the icy midwest in 1983, he encountered sunshine, babes and bikinis, but also an Arizona program that was so far off the map in terms of basketball success, you needed a magnifying glass to find it. In the 78 previous years of its existence, the program had managed to make it to three NCAA Tournaments (1951, 1976, 1977) and three NITs (1946, 1950, 1951). The combined NCAA record of those teams was 2-3, with both wins coming in the 1976 tournament (two upsets over Georgetown and UNLV to reach the Elite Eight). The combined NIT record was 0-3, which meant that, upon Lute Olson’s arrival, the Wildcats had enjoyed only a single year (1976) in its basketball history with postseason wins of any kind. To make matters worse, the team that Olson inherited was coming off the absolute worst year in the history of the program (4-24, 1-17 in the Pac-10).
To say that Olson built the Arizona program up from the ashes insults the concept of fire. After one mediocre year in 1983-84 (11-17), Olson found the mojo that he had utilized during previous stints at Long Beach St. (24-2) and Iowa ( 168-90), and set off onto the triumphant career in the desert that we’re talking about today. The key, of course, was recruiting, and Lute mined the west coast hoops hotbeds (especially SoCal) on an annual basis, and it showed on the court. Prior to Lute’s arrival in Tucson, Arizona had produced one first-round draft pick (Larry Demic in 1979). Beginning in 1989 with the transcendental Sean Elliott, Olson put 13 first-rounders and 17 second-rounders into the NBA Draft, including such fantastic pros like Steve Kerr, Damon Stoudamire, Mike Bibby, Jason Terry, Gilbert Arenas, Richard Jefferson, and Andre Iguodala. By the time Lute got it really going in the mid-90s, Arizona had become a chic destination school for America’s blue chippers, and he was able to recruit nationally – Jason Gardner (Indianapolis) and Loren Woods (St. Louis via Wake Forest) from the 2001 runner-up team come to mind, but there were many others. Let there be no question – Arizona basketball wouldn’t exist on the national stage were it not for Lute Olson. Here’s his crowning moment.
There’s no doubt that Lute was a tremendous program-builder, teacher and recruiter, but if we had to pick one criticism of his illustrious career, it would be that his teams sometimes appeared to lose focus and/or lack motivation. Maybe it was the laid-back lifestyle of Tucson or simply something about the kids Olson tended to recruit, but in our view, it is somewhat telling that he won his sole national championship in 1997 with a #4 seed. Don’t take that the wrong way – that was a SICK team that just hadn’t come together until very late in the season (and we had the privilege of watch cut down the nets). But they were an underdog in each of their three games against #1 seeds Kentucky, UNC and Kansas, and we always felt that Lute relished and managed the underdog role a little more than he was able to do so as the favorite. Let’s make the case statistically.
As stated above, Lute Olson has gone to five Final Fours. Here are the NCAA Tournament seeds for those years – #5, #1, #2, #4, #2 (avg. = 2.8). Arizona also received five #1 seeds during Olson’s tenure. Here’s the result for those five Tourneys – F4, S16, E8, R32, E8 (avg. = 2.6 games won). When Lute was expected to go to the F4, he went once; when he was not expected to go, he went four other times. This quick examination of the numbers confirms what we wrote last year when we surveyed the top overachieving and underachieving programs of the 64/65-team era of the NCAA Tournament. From 1985-2007, Arizona averaged a #4.1 seed in the NCAAs. The historical model (above) suggests that Arizona should have won 44.1 NCAA contests over this period – the Cats won 39, which means they ‘underachieved’ by nearly five Ws, and therefore puts UA in terms of performance in the bottom third of schools with greater than eight appearances over the era. The most obvious examples of this phenomenon were first-round upsets in 1992 (#3 UA loses to #14 ETSU), 1993 (#2 UA loses to #15 Santa Clara), and 1999 (#4 UA loses to #13 Oklahoma). Even Olson’s most talented and decorated team, the 1998 #1 Wildcats led by Mike Bibby and Jason Terry, had a major letdown in the E8 against #3 Utah, getting run out of the gym by 25 points. What were we saying about focus and motivation?
(Photo Credit: Tucson Citizen)
It’ll be sad to see Lute Olson go. Even last year, when Kevin O’Neill was busily turning Arizona into Tennessee ca. 1998 (ugh), we still thought the Silver Fox would make his way back to the sidelines again. You could always count on Olson teams to have athletes who made the game fun to watch. If his medical problems are serious enough to warrant missing another season, then he probably is making the right decision in riding off into the desert sunset. Best of luck to him and his family.