Thursday, October 30, 2008

How far have we fallen?

The past 18 months have been nothing short of brutal for Wildcat Basketball fans. The roller coaster of emotions that the program and its' fans have endured has been long and winding. I thought I would take the opportunity to document just what we have lost and endured in the last 18 months and what the future looks like.

I think the logical starting point is the reassigning of Assistant Coach Jim Rosborough to make room for Kevin O'Neil. Coach Roz was a player favorite and the move came as a shock to most people in and around the program. The reason given was that we had become a weak defensive team and KO was (and is) regarded as one of the best defensive coaches in America. All seemed to be fine until the start of last season when Coach O unexpectedly takes a leave of absence and KO is left to be the interim head coach. Several of our recruits express concern over Lute's long term plans and who will be their coach at the University of Arizona should they commit. Athletic Director Jim Livengood addresses this by naming KO as Lute's successor with no definite time table in place. KO's coaching style immediately rubs freshman Lavell Lucas Perry the wrong way and he transfers to Michigan. The class of 2008 begins to take shape as All-American PG Brandon Jennings de-commits from USC and commits to the U of A. This along with the commitments of PF Emanuel Negudu and Combo Guard Brendon Lavender give the Cats a top 25 recruiting class for the millionth time in a row. It gets better when 7'0ft tall center Jeff Withey de-commits from Louisville and commits to the Cats.

The season is nothing short of F.U.B.A.R. and the players stage a mini revolt against KO behind the scenes. Lute moves to have KO reassigned and the University scrambles to avoid a law suit over having publicly named KO the head coach in waiting. Thankfully KO takes a new job and spares us anymore heartache over his short tenure as our head coach. This of course leaves an opening on the staff and opens the discussion as to how the hierarchy of assistants should be shuffled. Before the problem could get clearer Coach Miles Simon is let go with little or no explanation. Many players and recruits are concerned about the instability but feel loyal to playing for Lute and Coach Pastner.

Pastner tells Lute that he wants to be named the #2 guy in the program when they hire new staff to fill the 2 vacant positions. Coach O balks at this request and hires Mike Dunlap and Reggie Geary (who had been previously stiffed over the Miles Simon hiring process). Lute names Dunlap the #2 and Pastner promptly accepts the #3 job at Memphis under John Calapari. Lute fills Pastners spot with former scummie assistant Russ Pennell.

Meanwhile Emanuel Negudu, who had been recruited by Pastner, no longer feels comfortable with the situation at Arizona and asks for a release from his Letter of Intent. Lute begrudgingly grants his request and Negudu signs with Tennessee and Coach Bruce Pearl. Then news comes that Jerry'd Bayless is leaving the program for the NBA, despite his original plan to play at least two years for Lute. When asked what changed he sites the internal chaos of the program. Chase Budinger waits until the last minute to withdraw his name from the draft and says that the prospect of playing one more year for Lute is what brought him back. Jamelle Horne tells anyone in ear shot that he is transferring and it takes guarantees and personal visits from Lute and the new staff to keep him in the fold. Then Nic Wise tells Coach O that he is seriously considering transferring and by some accounts had the paper work filled out and ready to submit but a last minute plea from Lute swings him back to staying. Just when it seemed the tide was turning incoming word leaks that PG Brandon Jennings, arguably the most talented player to ever commit to the Cats, is considering playing in Europe for a year rather then at Arizona. In the end he did choose to go to Europe, and ultimately failed to register a qualifying SAT/ACT score to be admitted. The new coaching staff takes 3 fairly low rated and under the radar players in Garland Judkins, Kyle Fogg and Darnell Shumpert to round out the 2008 recruiting class with Lavender and Withey. Abdul Gaddy the corner stone of our 2009 recruiting class also felt unsure about the situation around the program and de-commits. In light of Gaddy's commitment Lute offers 2009 PG Reger Dowell who previously had been committed to Alabama. Dowell immediately accepted the offer.

As the fall practices were set to begin the class of 2009 began to take shape with PG Abdul Gaddy recommitting to the Cats after meeting with the new staff and establishing a relationship with Reggie Geary. This along with the commitments of PG Reger Dowell, PF Mike Moser, SF Solomon Hill and PF Greg Smith give the Cats a top 5 recruiting class in the eyes of most experts. Shortly after committing to play at Arizona Greg Smith de-commits. He cites family issues as the reason. With the recommitment of Abdul Gaddy and the de-committing of Smith, it was decided that we needed to find an additional front court player to solidify the recruiting class. In order to make this possible Lute had to rescind Reger Dowell's scholarship offer. He did so immediately and sent Dowell off to find what would be his third school in 6 months.

Then just a few days after Media Day, ESPN announces the Lute is retiring. Of course none of the current players or recruits had been notified about this and learned the news through outside sources like any other fan. With no certainty about who will be coaching them in college Gaddy, Hill and Moser all de-commit within three days of the announcement. Mike Dunlap, who was named #2 over Josh Pastner, declined the interim head coaching job when he was offered it. Now former scummy Russ Pennell, who has never been the head coach of a program higher then AAU level, is our Interim Head Coach. The latest blow is the news that Freshman Center Jeff Withey is transferring. That leaves us with one player from the original recruiting class of 2008(Lavender) and no one from the class of 2009.

I am a loyal and dedicated fan. My faith does not and will not waiver but I want people to realize how dire the situation is. We are no where near an elite program right now, we will be lucky to finish in the middle of the Pac-10 this year and next year will be difficult at best to watch. Remember that each program gets 13 scholarship players and at the end of this season we will have lost 6 of the 13 scholarship players we have recruited in the last 4 years. Of the 7 remaining players on our roster only Alex Jacobson, a work in progress to say the least, is over 6'7 ft tall. The only players left that were rated higher then 3 stars by any of the recruiting services will be Nic Wise and Jamelle Horne.

As it stands right now we have NO ONE in our 2009 recruiting class, largely because we won't be able to name a coach until March at the earliest. It stands to reason that the 2009 class is a wash. This means that we have a starting line up in 2010 that looks like this:
PG - Lavender SG- Judkins SF - Johnson PF- Horne C- Jacobson Bench - Fogg/Shumpert

And then empty bench space……….

Obviously we will fill some of these spots with JUCO players or late signings, but let’s be honest and accept how bleak the situation is. Honestly it could get worse; Jamelle Horne could realistically transfer still as could Lavender.

Who ever we hire to be the next Head Coach has some serious rebuilding to do. The depths to which this program will have fallen at the end of this season may scare away some of the top candidates. Prepare your self Wildcat fans; it will get worse before it gets better.


dr said...

I was already depressed. Then this blog. Where did I put that 9mm?????

cleaverb said...

They looked pretty good against FAU.
Watching Judkins and Fogg play gives me hope for this season.
I'm easy, but i thought Pennel looked
the coach part, and just maybe the season will not be a complete loss.
Middle of the PAC, yes.
Third or fourth place.