sports

Here’s what we need to help make 2022 waaaay better than the past two years:

Let’s have the investigative/legislative/punitive body finish its work on the University of Arizona men’s basketball program from what feels like a generation ago and be done with it.

Sean Miller’s tenure as Wildcat coach will be remembered as a disappointment, an era in which the Cats flirted with greatness a couple times, but couldn’t close the deal. It was a time when superstars played below their level or were denied the chance to shine (Lauri Markkanen not being given the chance to take the last shot in an excruciating loss in the NCAAs). And, ultimately, it all ended in scandal and disarray.

Raise your hand if you believe that Sean Miller knew what shady things were going on in and around his program. That collective gust of wind could be measured on the Beaufort Scale.

The current UA team is a delight. It reminds me of early Lute Olson squads, guys who just want to play ball and do whatever it takes to win. There is no underutilized DeAndre Ayton and no over-hyped Nico Mannion, just a collection of ballers who have gone from unranked in the preseason into the Top 10 heading into January. If they ever get another chance to play, they deserve the chance to compete for the Pac-12 title and go to the NCAA Tournament.

Other schools that committed similar violations have served their time and are good to go. (The UA self-imposed a postseason ban on themselves last year.)

This year’s team, under new coach Tommy Lloyd, deserves a chance to know what it’s playing for. And if things go right (and fairly), we Wildcat fans could be rooting for our squad into the second weekend of the Dance or beyond.

Happy days would be here again.

We need to have cooler heads prevail when it comes to this winter’s high-school sports. With COVID cases spiking yet again, I’m terrified that athletic administrators will overreact and cancel things that needn’t be canceled.

In full disclosure, I’m in my first year as coach of the varsity girls’ basketball team at Amphi High. The program has not had a winning team in 20 years. Two straight decades of losing teams (and I mean a bunch of 2-16 and 3-15 seasons). This year’s squad has worked hard and is 11-5 heading into conference play. The girls have a chance to have the program’s first winning season THIS CENTURY(!) and go to State. It would be devastating if they missed out on either or both of those opportunities.

I fully appreciate the gravity of the decisions that must be made by administrators, but we, as a society, need to learn from the recent past. A lot of the things that were done, in retrospect, may have erred on the side of caution.

Going forward, if you need to ban maskless and/or unvaccinated fans from attending, please do so. If the kids have to go back to wearing masks in the games, that would be infinitely better than canceling games.

(As I am writing this, the New York Times just reported that South Africa says that Omicron cases have dropped by 30 percent in the past week and that the spike in cases did not lead to a spike in deaths. That’s certainly cautious good news.)

I just hope that we can get through the winter sports of wrestling and basketball without any major disruptions (soccer is outdoors). Once we get to the spring sports, thing should be fine. With the exception of boys volleyball, they’re all outdoors (tennis, softball, baseball, track & field, beach volleyball). Here’s hoping.

It would be great if the two new Wildcat coaches (baseball’s Chip Hale and softball’s Caitlyn Lowe) can continue the tradition of excellence in their respective sports without missing a beat.

And for Adia Barnes, in her inexorable march toward world domination in all things, may we all just bask in her glory.

How cool would it be for the Arizona Wildcat football team to play in a bowl game next year? (Actually, at gloomy press time, how cool would it be for there to be a full slate of bowl games next year?) For Arizona to go from one win to six or more in one year would be a gargantuan leap, but the Cats managed to rope in one of the most impressive recruiting classes in the entire conference and who knows?

Finally, it would be great if some teams had a do-over. Let the Suns get back to the NBA Finals (and finish the job this year). Let the UA women make it to the Final Four again. And how about getting a professional baseball franchise in the Valley of the Sun?

Oh, wait…

EXTRA POINTS: The Flowing Wells girls won their own basketball tournament over the holidays, holding off a tough Mesa Westwood team in the championship game, 66-57. The Caballeros beat Desert Christian in the first round, squeaked by Sierra Vista Buena in the quarters, and hammered a tough Sunnyside team in the semis before beating Westwood for the title. Flowing Wells was led by junior (and former Explorer Player of the Week) Navine Mallon, who led the All-Tournament Team and scored 25 points in the championship game… The (my) Amphi girls made a spirited run to the championship game of the Central Arizona Holiday Classic in Casa Grande. The Panthers knocked off host Casa Grande in the tournament opener, then beat previously undefeated Kingman and 6A power Maricopa in the semis to reach the championship game, where they lost a close one to undefeated Sabino… The Marana girls played in back-to-back tournaments over the holidays, going 2-2 in the aforementioned Central Arizona Holiday Classic, then going 2-2 in the Lady Badgers Winter Classic in Prescott… The Marana boys basketball team made its annual holiday trek to Show Low and came away with the championship trophy in the White Mountain Holiday Classic…

Editor’s note: Tom Danehy coaches the Amphi varsity girls’ basketball team.

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