Wednesday, December 26, 2007
An open letter to Pepe and Diesel
Dear Pepe and Diesel,
Psssst.. Come on back. It’s okay. I’ll even make the first move. Things will be good again, I swear. Ever since I took over the reigns at McKale Center in Tucson, the Arizona basketball team has become infinitely more likeable – by being everything Arizona is not.
Sure, we don’t have that freakishly gifted athlete that we can call on in the clutch to go up and slam home a put-back, sweeping the crowd off its feet, forcing our opponent to call a time out and letting our pep band belt out a couple verses of “Moondance.”
And, okay, we’re not particularly all that exciting to watch. Our offensive style is more UCLA and Washington State than it is Kentucky in the mid-90s or the Wildcats you’re used to. Aesthetics-wise, we’re a better fit for the Big East or Big Ten. But, you see, this is the way the Pac-10 is going, and it’s not necessarily a bad thing – we’re playing in arguably the best or second-best conference in all of college basketball right now. We plan on winning it again soon.
And, I know, our uniforms look different now. Our shorts look weird, they’re lacking trim and the ‘CATS’ is placed far too high up the sides, and our jerseys have an unnecessary and distracting stripe down the back sides, but just look past all that for a moment.
Because, you know what? I think, despite the lack of high-flying, fast-break basketball that made Arizona so appealing in the first place, you’re going to love us again. It may not happen overnight, and you may find some of our games ugly and choppy, but we’d love to have you on board again.
I know you’re tired of the Purdues and Seton Halls beating your more talented teams, and so am I. Perhaps more worryingly, you’re tired of us having too many assholes that are difficult to root for, like Marcus Williams and Chris Rodgers, and not enough true student-athletes to be proud of. And I know you may have had poor relations with Shakes and found him to be too under-achieving at times and too hasty towards the fans and media.
But I’m working on all of that, trust me. I really am. You think Chase Budinger will get a big head and pull a classic Arizona ‘phenom that doesn’t achieve all of his potential,’ like Williams or Hassan Adams? That’s not going to happen. I tell him every day that, with hard work, someday he’ll perhaps have the opportunity to be a good player in Europe. Jerryd Bayless is one of my favorite players to coach, but until he handles the ball better, he’s headed there too.
Plus, I don’t appeal to the crowd and all their “We want Bagga!” chanting. Hell, I’m dumbfounded as to why Daniel Dillon got a near-standing ovation when he entered the game last week! I’m going to make these kids earn their playing time and you can be damn well sure that they’ll play hard – or else I’ll threaten to cancel their Christmas, like I did last week.
The biggest difference between me and Shakes is our personalities, which is perhaps my biggest selling point to you. Face it, fellas, I’m you. I watch basketball, make funny and outrageous statements and have a few drinks – when was the last time you saw Shakes in the same local establishment you frequented? My weekly radio show has become a must-listen to simply because I don’t hold anything back. When asked if watching 17-18 basketball game films every day helps me become a better coach, I interrupted the interviewer and told him you’d be an “absolute psychopath!” if you didn’t. During a recent press conference, a media member’s phone rang, and I (semi-) jokingly fined him $500 or pro-rated it to his pay. When was the last time Shakes did any of that?
Finally, I think what I’m doing here is pretty significant. Already this season, we’ve battled against two teams that have far superior size and talent to us – Kansas and Texas A&M – and we beat A&M in one of the best environments I’ve seen at McKale in years. We went to Chicago and beat Illinois using our toughness, something Sean Singletary has been poking fun at us about for years. (An aside, Who the fuck is Sean Singletary anyway?)
Saturday night, we’re taking on a very, very talented team in Memphis – think A&M, but better. I’d appreciate it if you tuned in and checked us out. We may not win, but we may not lose, either. There’s a new king in town, and you’d have to be a complete moron like Laval Lucas-Perry if you didn’t see this thing out with me.