Saturday, April 21, 2007

That's it

I hope all of you read the Hansen piece on Jim Rosborough's firing from the Arizona coaching staff. If you haven't check it out; I'll wait.

The departure of Roz, as Hansen notes, is a sad day for the program. In the interest of full disclosure, I'll admit to being a huge Roz guy, because when I was a student reporter covering the team, he was the only person in the program who never once big-leagued me. After every game, he'd give me as much time as I wanted, one-on-one, and treated me fairly. I know the same went for Hansen during his no-comm days with Olson, because it was often Hansen and I talking to Roz while everyone else huddled around the players for some non-quotes in the locker room. When I look back over my few days as a sportswriter, I find that I enjoyed my time with assistant coaches more than any athletes, with the very notable exception of Mark Grace. Roz was the first assistant I built a good working relationship with, and taught me how important it was to get to know the cooks instead of just talking to the chef.

I haven't always been kind to Hansen, for many of the same reasons that I am rarely kind to regular sports columnists in general; the job description is probably the greatest enemy of good opinion writing. It doesn't help that Hansen's never been particularly humorous (at least not in writing) and only has the "Remember in 1979?" shtick to carry his columns when there's really nothing worth offering comment on. But there have also been times when Hansen has proven himself to be the only guy up to the job of calling out the big boys in the athletic department. That he managed to do his job for the better part of a decade while being a persona non grata with the basketball team is a pretty big testament to his chops. Bad taste in shirts aside, Hansen is the kind of journalist you wish more up-and-coming guys had the balls to be.

I might differ with some of Hansen's specific take in his piece -- the Arizona program stopped being a "family" the second Bobbi died, in truth, and it's been a "business" ever since the Nike Elite contract -- but four sentences pretty much succinctly wrapped up why Roz's departure means I won't be watching Arizona basketball until Shakes is out of the picture:

Such is the sway of Olson. Such is the $16 million-a-year industry, a monster, Olson has built from the ground up. Many of us have worshipped and fed the monster.

But now, for the first time, the monster is insatiably hungry and it has begun to eat its own.

Any time you can come close to justifying the use of the term "monster" to describe what something has become, you know it's time to hit the panic button. I find it funny that of the 56 comments left on Hansen's story, not one person took issue with Hansen's "monster" epithet, instead choosing to call him a racist because he accurately noted that Arizona's not going to fire it's only minority assistant -- no matter how much of a cocksucker he is -- to bring in another white, veteran coach. It's no secret that Tucson's been willing to put up with just about anything in an effort to maintain a top-flight basketball program; I just didn't realize that they were so comfortable with it being explicitly stated.

Not me. Roz was the last remnant of the group of guys who made Arizona into something special. He was the last link to Lute Olson, Human Being, an entity we haven't seen pretty much since 1997. Roz was a relatively ambition-free dinosaur in league with raptors who would rape their mothers for a better job (or, more precisely, the job of the guy in front of them). Perhaps my fondest memory of Roz was talking to him after he had coached a handful of games while Lute was out. I asked him how it went, and he didn't waste a second. "I hated it," he said. "Nothing but stress." He went on to assure me that what few ideas he had about one day being a head coach disappeared after that short stint. If nothing else, it was refreshing to hear at least one person in the world of athletics not overestimate his abilities.

I realize that Arizona really doesn't care about fans like me. I haven't bought a ticket to a basketball game in years, I don't buy any new gear, and I'm certainly not in the pool of potential big-money donors. The McKale Center will continue to sell out, the team will continue (at least in the short term) to get waxed against any moderately talented team, and people will continue to blame everyone except the guy at the top.

I'll just be another alum who will keep his gear tucked away in a drawer somewhere, waiting for a good reason to pull it out again.

1 comment:

Bryan Rosenbaum said...

It's been awfully hard to root for the Cats the last few years, even when they were good, because we're supposed to root for assholes like Salim Stoudamire, Marcus Williams and Chris Rodgers. I understand something was wrong with the coaching staff - not entirely blaming Lute but knowing he needed to do something - and it's hard to see a great guy like Roz leave. Arizona isn't better off without him, and from the sounds of O'Neill, he sounds like he's in the asshole mold like Lute is. But hey, as long as he preaches defense, maybe I'll be okay with him.

I was at Rincon Market the other day and walked past Mustafa Shakur on my way out. I smiled and nodded at him, he did the same, and I carried on with my day; but I couldn't help feeling strangely sorry for him. Maybe sorry isn't the right word - he's a 6-3 point guard who will be playing pro somewhere soon - but I couldn't help but wonder how many assholes treat him poorly because he failed to live up to expectations. Then I wondered why we don't celebrate this guy's career - by all accounts, he was a great person, student and always gave a great effort on the floor (he's one of the few guys on the team I think we can all somehow relate to) - but instead we have douchebags wearing Iguodala throwback jerseys.

Guys like Roz and Shakur are types we might not see around here for a long time.