Three odd things about me: I’ve never chewed gum (my Mom wouldn’t let me, so I never started); I’ve never tasted alcohol (I watched other people doing it while I was growing up, so I never started); and I’ve never bought a lottery ticket (I understand mathematics). However, I have been told by people who do buy lottery tickets that they experience this brief moment of near-euphoria when doing so. Despite having both feet firmly on the ground and deep-down knowing that they are not going to win some gigantic, life-changing jackpot, for a fleeting instant, they imagine what would happen if they did win. Many tell me that the glorious instant of “what if?” is worth the expense of the tickets and the inevitable letdown that comes with not winning.
While I plan on getting through life without ever buying a lottery ticket, I don’t think that I would mind experiencing a bit of that short-term near-euphoria. And, not being selfish, I would like to share it with others. So, just for a few moments, let’s all imagine that Steve Kerr would like to become the head basketball coach at his alma mater.
Kerr’s was the first name to come to just about everybody’s mind when it was announced that the University of Arizona had fired embattled coach Sean Miller. Back in the late 1980s, Sean Elliott told me that he thought that Kerr would be the UA head coach someday. Sean thought that Kerr would become Lute Olson’s assistant and then take over when Lute eventually stepped down.
Instead, Kerr had a wildly successful pro career, playing on five NBA championship teams, becoming only the second non-Celtic NBA player ever to play on four consecutive world championship teams. He won three straight with the Chicago Bulls, including hitting the game-winning (and series-clinching) shot against the Utah Jazz. He then won two more with San Antonio.
He then quickly became a polished and much-sought-after television commentator, followed by a successful stint as the general manager of the Phoenix Suns. Then, in an “Aw heck, why not?” move, he became the head coach of the Golden State Warriors. His first year, he became only the second rookie coach to win an NBA title. The next year, the Warriors broke the NBA record for wins in a season, beating the record held by one of the Bulls teams on which Kerr had played. He guided the Warriors to five straight NBA Finals, winning three titles.
So, let’s imagine that he felt that he had done all he could in the Bay Area and, at 55 (a really good age), he was looking for new worlds to conquer. He swims out to Alcatraz (just to show that he can), stands on the shoreline, and whispers “I want to coach at Arizona.”
The next morning, Arizona Athletic Director is hosting a press conference. Heeke is beaming to the point where, if he were to die from joy at that moment, it would take the undertaker two weeks to wipe the smile off his face.
The entire basketball world takes notice. Kerr has bona fides from Arizona, the NCAA, the NBA, and international basketball. He’s such a proven winner, he wouldn’t even have to recruit. Kids would be pounding down his door. And unlike his predecessor, Kerr appears to actually like other people and he enjoys coaching.
Then he drops the bombshell. He doesn’t want any one-and-dones. He wants kids who will stick around for three or four years so Kerr can do some actual coaching. Now twice as many kids are pounding down his door.
He does press conferences with a smile on his face. He’s funny and smart and engaging. Tucson is electrified. Can you imagine? It’s like getting Adele to teach your kid how to sing. Or hiring Matt Damon to teach classes on how to smirk.
And then the season starts and Kerr’s Cats win 25 of their first 20 games. Kerr holds a presser and uses Feynman diagrams to explain how such a thing is possible.
I’m sorry…my euphoria time has expired. As Eminem would say, it’s back to reality.
But first, I asked my daughter, who played college basketball, what she thought of offering the men’s job to Adia Barnes. Her response was, “Why? That would be a step down.”
When someone actually asked Barnes about the possibility, her response was classic. She said, “Absolutely not,” she said. “Zero interest. Guys don’t listen to crap, no. You tell a guy to go right, he going left three times. No, they don’t listen.”
Arizona will eventually hire somebody and those of us who have been basking in the glory of greatness and near-greatness for a third-of-a-century are hoping that they get it right.
Unfortunately, their pick won’t be perfect.
EXTRA POINTS: We’re just past the halfway point of the spring prep sports season and Northwest schools are challenging for conference titles and spots at state tournaments in virtually every sport.
• Junior Tiffany Luu led Canyon Del Oro to an impressive 8-1 win over Salpointe in girls tennis. Luu is 7-0 in both singles and doubles this season. The undefeated Dorados take on 9-0 Catalina Foothills on Thursday. Foothills won the state championship in 2019, so, with last season having been canceled due to the pandemic, the Falcons are defending state champs.
• In boys volleyball, Marana, Mountain View and Ironwood Ridge are all the Top 11 in the state and all have a shot at the conference crown.
• Perennial softball power Ironwood Ridge is tied with Mountain View for first place in the 5A-Sonoran, with Marana one game back in third place.
• Ironwood Ridge and Marana are the top two baseball teams in the 5A Sonoran and both should make some noise at state next month.
• In boys tennis, Marana sits atop the Division I, Tucson Section standings, while CDO and Ironwood Ridge are tied for second behind Foothills in D-II.
• And in beach volleyball, Ironwood Ridge is in first place in the Division 1, Section I standings.
We’ll have some track & field updates next week.