The Star’s longtime columnist breaks down Arizona’s women’s basketball win over Oregon; explains why the Wildcats’ work ethic trumps other teams’ talent; tells why Jedd Fisch and Ricky Hunley will be following the Super Bowl; explains what the Pac-12’s facilities race means for Arizona; and argues that separating home fans and visiting players will keep both sides safe:
Adia Barnes already a role model for female coaches
Of the 25 high school girls basketball teams in the greater Tucson area, 23 are coached by men. The only two female head coaches are Cienega’s Heather Mott and Tucson High’s Annette Gutierrez.
It doesn’t mean the men who coach girls high school basketball in Tucson aren’t fully qualified and positive leaders of young women. Sahuaro’s Steve Botkin, Flowing Wells’ Michael Perkins, Pueblo’s Izzy Galindo and many others are among Tucson’s most accomplished coaches, in any sport.
But as Arizona coach Adia Barnes prepared the No. 8 Wildcats for Friday’s impressive 63-48 victory over the No. 19 Oregon Ducks, she reiterated that she would like to “grow the game,” helping to create more head coaching opportunities for female head coaches at all levels.
“I never had a female coach in my 13 years in the EuroLeague,” said Barnes.
“We had one female assistant coach in Russia and that was it. Even in the AAU system, there are so few women’s coaches. We need to develop more programs to mentor women and help them get into coaching.”
Barnes is concerned that too many women’s basketball coaches are “pigeon-holed” as career assistants.
One of the notable things about Barnes — beyond her remarkable rise as one of the top coaches in NCAA women’s basketball — is that she embraces her position to be a role model, willingly giving time to work toward the greater good of women’s basketball.
After Friday’s win over the Ducks, Barnes was accompanied to her postgame press conference by Tanisha Wright, head coach of the WNBA Atlanta Dream. Rather than just talk about the X’s and O’s of beating Oregon, Barnes spent time talking about her “mentors,” including Dawn Staley, coach of No. 1 South Carolina, and Tara VanDerveer, coach of No. 2 Stanford.
“I love what Dawn is doing; I want to do that,” said Barnes. Staley has become a visible mentor for women’s basketball coaches, establishing a strong relationship with Barnes, who was one of Staley’s assistant coaches on last summer’s gold medal-winning Team USA at the Women’s AmeriCup Games.
While talking about Staley and Vanderveer, Barnes nodded to Wright, sitting in the audience at the McKale media room and said, “I think that those women are the trailblazers in the game, the women that changed the game.”
And now, in addition to being a full-time mother of two, coach of a top-10 program and one of Tucson’s leading public figures, Barnes is changing the game, too.
Cats outplayed, out-defended Ducks
If the women’s basketball rosters of Oregon and Arizona were combined and put into a draft pool for evaluation, it’s almost sure that the first three selections would be Oregon center Nyara Sabally, point guard Endyia Rogers and shooting guard Te-Hina Paopao, who all were the equivalent of five-star prospects.
As UA coach Adia Barnes said after beating Oregon on Friday: “If you look at our team, we don’t have an all-star.”
But Arizona dominated, leading by as many as 21 points in the fourth quarter, and won 63-48.
Said Oregon coach Kelly Graves: “You could tell they played harder than us, and they wanted it a little more than us. And that’s how it came across.”
Barnes did not celebrate. Playing hard is her mantra. She said, “we’re not close to where we want to be.”
So how did Arizona win so decisively? In the final 5:25 of the third quarter, UA assistant coach Salvo Coppa, who is surely among the leading defensive minds in college basketball, applied a trapping defense that turned the Ducks inside out. Oregon turned the ball over six times in 5½ minutes.
Here’s how it went:
5:25: Traveling under pressure
4:05: Shot clock violation
3:31: Lost ball to a double-team
2:01: Lost ball to a double-team
1:15: Offensive foul in traffic
:02: Intercepted pass under pressure
Oregon committed a season-high 21 turnovers; its previous high was 20 against No. 1 South Carolina. Arizona’s defense makes up for a lack of recruiting rankings.
Arizona might not have a first-team All-Pac-12 choice this season, although senior Cate Reese belongs in the conversation. The Wildcats win because of the collective, not because of a star power.
Jedd Fisch up-front with Arizona’s midyear enrollees
About 10 of the UA’s leading high school football recruits enrolled in college this semester, choosing to bypass their final few months of high school. That is no small decision.
You miss the prom. You miss the day-to-day social interaction with your best friends. If you hoped to play baseball or basketball, you have to make the tough decision to leave town and get out of your comfort/fun zone.
Wildcat coach Jedd Fisch did not encourage the mid-semester enrollees to graduate early and move to Tucson. Instead, Fisch said he told them “my best semester in high school was the spring semester of my senior year.”
But, Fisch added, “I wasn’t going to college to try to win a starting job, either.”
I asked freshman quarterback Noah Fifita of Anaheim, California’s Servite High School if it was a tough decision to bypass his final five months of high school.
“It was; I am missing out on a lot of things I looked forward to,” he said. “But I’m planning to go home for the prom and for graduation. I also know I need to start training at a higher level, learn a new offense and basically start over. My mom came with me for the first week to Tucson, which made the transition easier. I know what I’m getting into. Coach Fisch didn’t pressure me one way or the other.”
Steve Kerr, Rob Gronkowski get key-card treatment
One of the many new large buildings on the UA campus is the Graduate hotel, which is, shall we say, not a Motel 6. Some of my family members stayed at the Graduate last week, sharing pool time with, among others, Major League Soccer’s Seattle Sounders and their spring training entourage. The 16-story hotel has one special feature: When you check in, you are given an electronic/magnetic card to gain entry to the elevator and your room. The cards are replicas of UA student ID cards of, among others, Steve Kerr, Rob Gronkowski, Nick Foles and prominent ex-Wildcat athletes. Kerr’s card, the size of a driver’s license, is spot-on from 1983-88, with his youthful mug shot and signature. If the names, image and likeness legislation had been legal when Kerr was a Wildcat, he might’ve made tens of thousands of dollars.
Jedd Fisch, Ricky Hunley have rooting interest in Super Bowl
Jedd Fisch was an assistant offensive coordinator on the Los Angeles Rams’ 2018 Super Bowl team, working with QB coach Zac Taylor, now head coach of the Super Bowl-bound Cincinnati Bengals. Taylor played college football at Wake Forest, but he was unable to beat out QB James MacPherson, who was a standout QB at Mountain View High School in the mid 1990s. Taylor ended up transferring to Nebraska as MacPherson led Wake Forest to a bowl victory over Oregon in 2002. MacPherson has been a scout for the Los Angeles Chargers since 2014. … Super Bowl bragging rights in Tucson this year belong to Arizona defensive line coach Ricky Hunley, who was the Bengals linebackers coach from 2002-06. Marana High School and UA grad Paul Robinson is the longest-tenured ex-Wildcat with Cincinnati blood; Robinson played 60 games for Cincinnati, including his NFL Rookie of the Year season, 1968, when he rushed for 1,023 yards as a Bengal.
Gap grows in high school hoops
The gap between the haves and have-nots in Tucson high school sports is sobering. Desert View High School’s Class 5A girls basketball team this season has lost games 85-2, 87-6, 67-3 and 74-6. The Jaguars’ roster lists 10 freshmen and three juniors. Another 5A school, Flowing Wells, is 26-1, outscoring its opponents 61-38 per game. Changes need to be made by the AIA and local school districts to help the competitive balance at Tucson’s athletic-challenged high schools. Desert View’s girls basketball program has gone 39-262 over the last 15 seasons. Why wait any longer to address the glaring issues and place the Jaguars in 1A or 2A and make basketball a more positive experience?
Facilities arms race continues
Arizona athletic director Dave Heeke hasn’t had much time to take a breath since he completed more than $100 million in facility building projects at Hillenbrand Stadium, Arizona Stadium, the Hillenbrand Aquatic Center and the Cole and Jeannie Davis Sports Center.
The UA is now planning to build a golf compound at Tucson Country Club for what might be $10 to $12 million, opening in the summer of 2023.
But the college sports facilities arms race accelerated last week, when three ex-Wildcats were part of keep-up-with-the-Joneses facility projects:
• Oregon announced it will build a “state-of-the-art” 6,000-square foot golf facility at the Emerald Valley Golf Club worth an estimated $8 to $10 million. Long-time PGA Tour standout Peter Jacobsen contributed to the project, which will be named “The Jake.” Oregon’s women’s golf coach, Derek Radley, was an assistant coach on Arizona’s 2018 NCAA women’s championship team.
• Former Arizona athletic director Greg Byrne, now in a similar capacity at Alabama, received approval to move forward with plans to build a $183 million basketball arena on the Crimson Tide campus. It will replace Coleman Coliseum, which was built in 1968 — only four years before McKale Center opened. Byrne announced that $63 million will come from the athletic department’s booster club. The new arena will seat 10,400.
• Utah athletic director Mark Harlan, an Arizona grad who worked in the UA athletic department for 12 years, received approval to build a $62 million indoor football practice facility for the Utes. It is scheduled to be completed in the summer of 2024. Utah opened an $85 million expansion to Rice-Eccles Field last season.
The pressure on Pac-12 athletic departments to keep pace is relentless. Last week, Oregon State announced it received $91 million from donors in the last year to transform Reser Stadium. That exceeded OSU’s goal of $85 million. The Beavers were given at least $1 million from 20 different donors.
Now Heeke must hope he can raise a similar amount of money, or more, to help with a transformation of the west side of Arizona Stadium.
My two cents: Time to protect visiting team, home fans from each other
The most dangerous interaction between fans, players and coaches I’ve seen in Pac-12 basketball was at Oregon’s old Mac Court. Lute Olson and UA players had to exit the court and walk across a corridor packed with loud and profane Oregon students and fans to access a stairway leading to a basement locker room.
Somehow, for more than 20 years, Olson and UA players resisted the urge to stop and engage the often out-of-line Oregon fans. It was a volatile situation that, thankfully, never blew up.
Now would be a good time, overdue, for Arizona’s administration to protect visiting players and coaches at McKale Center from those in the Zona Zoo, those who choose to yell at visiting players exiting the court dangerously close to the student section. Thursday’s arrest of UCLA’s Mac Etienne, who spat at some UA students hanging over the railing, could’ve been much worse.
I watched and rewatched video of the incident. Some UA students were asking for trouble. They got it. Etienne wasn’t the only person who acted inappropriately.
When Arizona plays at ASU on Monday, Wildcats players and coaches will enter and exit the court between the loud Sun Devil student section. That process, too, should be rerouted to avoid the next exchange between hostile fans and visiting teams.
Maybe Pac-12 commissioner George Kliavkoff could be proactive in helping to prevent another Mac Etienne situation.
Article Source: NBC Right Now