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Lute Olson carried boarding pass A48 as he waited to board Southwest Airlines flight 1737 to Los Angeles early Thursday morning. He was alert and analytical.

He talked about A-1.

\u201cThis is the best UCLA team since John Wooden,\u2019\u2019 he told me.

I didn\u2019t know what to say.


He nodded.

\u201cI think so.\u201d

Who would know more than Olson, who coached Arizona against 13 UCLA teams ranked in the AP\u2019s Top 10?

But there is one thing almost no one knows. As good as Arizona was during the Olson years \u2013 it went 4-0 against No. 1-ranked teams from 1987-2001 \u2013 the Wildcats were never able to beat a Top 10 UCLA team at Pauley Pavilion.

When ranked in the Top 10 in Los Angeles, the Bruins are 15-0 against Arizona (and 5-0 against Olson). It is the most imposing statistic in the UA\u2019s long record book.

Average margin of victory: 15.6 points.

It is the one barrier that remains for the Arizona basketball empire. Beat the Bruins at their best, at their place, when no one expects it.

Can this truly be the best UCLA team since John Wooden? That dates to 1975. That is a period that includes nine UCLA head coaches and 12 teams that finished in the AP Top 10.

\u201cUCLA is the college version of the Golden State Warriors,\u201d UA coach Sean Miller said Monday.

There is no higher compliment.

I contend that Arizona\u2019s 2001 Final Four runnerup had more across-the-board talent than this UCLA team, and that Olson\u2019s Dream Team of 1988, the 35-3 club of Steve Kerr and Sean Elliott, had the mystique that no post-Wooden Pac-12 team has matched. But after 20 games, the Run N\u2019 Stun Bruins have put themselves in the conversation.

On Friday, before his team\u2019s afternoon workout, Miller compared the Bruins to Duke\u2019s 2001 national title team \u2013 Shane Battier, Elton Brand and the guys \u2013 the same team that beat the Wildcats in the championship game.

\u201cI have never seen offensive personnel like this,\u2019\u2019 he said.

Sometimes the Bruins are a blur, much like the history of this dramatic rivalry.

The lead-up to Saturday\u2019s game could be substituted with the anticipation of the \u201994 UA-UCLA game at Pauley Pavilion.

The \u201994 Bruins, undefeated and ranked No. 2, were averaging 93.3 points per game. This year\u2019s UCLA team is averaging 93.4.

How\u2019s that for a coincidence?

The \u201994 Bruins led the nation with a 52.4 field goal percentage entering the game. This year\u2019s UCLA club is shooting 53.6 percent, which also leads the nation.

The key word to Miller\u2019s analysis of the 2017 Bruins offense: \u201cEpic.\u2019\u2019

Olson entered the \u201994 game with a sense of reality. Even though the No. 9 Wildcats would ultimately end up in the Final Four, he prefaced the game by saying \u201cno one in their right mind can expect us to beat UCLA at UCLA.\u2019\u2019

The Bruins were ranked No. 1 in the old UPI poll, voted by the coaches, and UCLA coach Jim Harrick was so full of fight that he said something a coach rarely says publicly.

\u201cWe have five guys they have to contain. But they only have three guys we have to contain.\u2019\u2019

Same then. Same now.

The Bruins won, 74-66, but it merely set the stage for a rematch in Tucson, won by the Wildcats 98-74. The Bruins unraveled, finishing just 21-7, getting swept by Jason Kidd\u2019s Cal team and suffering the indignity of being eliminated in the first-round of the NCAA tournament by Tulsa, 112-102.

As stunning as UCLA\u2019s 1994 collapse was, it set the stage for something more grand: the 1995 national championship.

The difference between the \u201994 Bruins and the \u201917 Bruins is much more than a gulf of 23 years. The \u201994 Bruins stayed in school; Ed O\u2019Bannon , Tyus Edney, George Zidek and Charles O\u2019Bannon all returned in \u201995.

That doesn\u2019t happen any more.

This Bruins team is likely to be Won And Done, with emphasis on Won. If you blink you might miss it.

Lonzo Ball? T.J. Leaf?

Those fuzzy-faced basketball assassins, bound for the NBA, won\u2019t be around long enough to sustain much of a fear in Tucson, or approach the career of Bruins guard Bryce Alford, who is 2-4 against Arizona.

Until this year, Bryce Alford was The Show against Arizona. Now it\u2019s the Zo Show. Lonzo\u2019s show.

\u201cI have never seen a point guard play as dominantly as he has,\u2019\u2019 Miller said.

Arizona hasn\u2019t played a Top 10 UCLA team since January 2009 at Pauley Pavilion. A basketball eternity has since passed. Sean Miller was then coaching Xavier to the Elite Eight. UCLA coach Steve Alford was piloting the New Mexico Lobos, a season that would end in a second-round NIT game.

Now all eyes are on the defense and discipline of Miller. He will try to stall the UCLA express, roaring down the tracks, no stops scheduled.

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Let\u2019s say you have 70 possessions in a college basketball game, like the one Thursday night at USC\u2019s Galen Center.

You miss 35 shots. You commit 10 turnovers.

That means you\u2019ve got to make your bread in about 25 possessions. The margin for error is sometimes something as simple as someone banking in a 3-pointer to beat the shot clock with 33 seconds remaining.

Someone like Lauri Markkanen.

\u201cIt was a backbreaker,\u201d said USC coach Andy Enfeld.

Trojan guard Jordan McLaughlin had another description.

\u201cIt was a heartbreaker.\u201d

It was both. Arizona beat the Trojans 73-66 because Markkanen had \u201cjaata suonissa\u201d.

That\u2019s Finnish for \u201cice in veins.\u201d

It was \u201ckytkin.\u201d

That\u2019s Finnish for \u201cclutch.\u201d

In the analytics that so dominate all sports, especially college basketball, the kenpom.com metrics list a factor called \u201cluck.\u201d Nothing complicated about that.

Kenpom.com ranked USC No. 5 of 351 college basketball teams in the luck factor entering Thursday\u2019s game. I\u2019m not sure how kenpom.com computes the luck category, but it probably has something to do with the Trojans beating Texas A&M, SMU, BYU, Troy, Oregon State and Wyoming by single digits.

On Thursday, USC\u2019s luck changed.

Markkanen banked in a 22-footer as the shot clock ran dangerously close to 0:0 with Arizona fading into the sunset, barely clinging to a 67-64 lead.

Arizona entered the game ranked as the No. 152nd luckiest team in college basketball and it only climbed to No. 136 after beating the Trojans. Maybe that\u2019s because the Wildcats have had to squirm to close out sloppy victories over Cal, Utah, Colorado and now USC since the Pac-12 season began.

It\u2019s not luck. It\u2019s more like survival.

Surely Arizona would be No. 1 in kenpom.com\u2019s survival metric, if he ever invents one.

The reactions from each team\u2019s locker rooms was fully different Thursday.

Enfeld was so befuddled he argued that Markkanen\u2019s winning 3-pointer came about a minute earlier, or with about 1:40 on the clock.

\u201cThat was a huge shot,\u201d he said. \u201cWe played great defense and we had all the momentum. I thought we could win the game.\u201d

Instead it was a piece of \u201conni.\u201d That\u2019s Finnish for \u201cluck.\u201d

\u201cHe\u2019d been making shots all night,\u201d said McLaughlin. \u201cIt was a tough shot. Credit to him.\u201d

Miller kept the Wildcats in their locker room for such an extended period that by the time he began his radio show, Enfeld and the Trojans had exited their postgame media obligations and hit the nearby freeway.

Miller has a good poker face, but this time you could tell he was steamed by another narrow escape.

He spoke about the \u201cfinal 14 minutes\u201d the way a coach would talk about being told his leading scorer will miss the season\u2019s first 19 games.

\u201cYou have to address it if you\u2019re the coach,\u201d he said. \u201cI\u2019m going to start to sit guys.\u201d

That was Miller\u2019s way of saying his team\u2019s puzzling inability to finish an all-but-defeated opponent is not going to be tolerated.

There are no dog days in college basketball. The games count too much in January when a lot of teams run low on fuel, but unlike an extended baseball season, any basketball game in the Pac-12, especially one in Los Angeles, is currency that leads toward more favorable seeding in the NCAA Tournament.

It was, however, a dog days performance by Arizona. You so rarely get away with one of those, on the road, that you\u2019d almost think Miller would smile all the way to the hotel, order the bus to stop at In-N-Out Burger and treat the whole team.

Not this time.

\u201cIn USC\u2019s run at the end of the game, we essentially gave them 42 points in 16 minutes,\u201d he said. \u201cThat speaks to the effort of USC.\u201d

And to Arizona\u2019s relative indifference.

The Trojans aren\u2019t likely to go far in March. They lost way too much from last year\u2019s NCAA team, one that beat Arizona in four overtimes at the Galen Center. Julian Jacobs and Nikola Jovanovic jumped early to the pros (neither was drafted) and Katin Reinhardt transferred to Marquette. Worse, 6-foot 10-inch \u201cstretch 4\u201d Benny Boatwright has a knee injury and hasn\u2019t played since November.

Enfeld suggested Boatwright\u2019s absence was a game-changer. \u201cHe matches up well with Markkanen,\u201d he said. \u201cThey\u2019re the same player.\u201d

Well, not really.

Boatwright is not listed in any 2017 NBA Draft projections, not in the first round, but he did average 11.5 points as a freshman and is tall enough that he might\u2019ve put a hand in Markkanen\u2019s face on the game-deciding 3-pointer.

Talk about your luck (or bad luck) factor.

Ultimately, Arizona was able to kill the clock even though it stopped playing aggressively and created suspense where a better, deeper team \u2013 one with Allonzo Trier \u2014 might\u2019ve lived comfortably with a 56-35 lead and 9:55 remaining.

Instead, the Wildcats were much like a football team that goes into a prevent defense and finds itself yielding long passes and momentum-changing touchdowns just when you thought all was safe.

That might work against USC and Colorado, but when the Wildcats play at 18-1 UCLA Saturday at Pauley Pavilion, the \u201cluck\u201d equation probably won\u2019t matter much.

You can beat the Trojans with a late bank shot, but to beat the Bruins you\u2019ve got to deliver a blow for 40 minutes.

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Picard, right, handed the keys to new athletic director Dick Clausen in 1958.","byline":"Jack W. 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When Pop McKale retired in 1957, he said, \u201cMy successor isn\u2019t going to have a picnic.\u201d He cited the need to build a basketball arena, expand Arizona Stadium and leave the old Border Conference.

Here was his hook of his retirement speech: \u201cWe need to move across Cherry Avenue.\u201d

Now, 60 years later, Arizona is still trying to move across the street.

Oh, sure, the school literally moved its athletic plant east of Arizona Stadium with the construction of McKale Center in 1972, but Pop\u2019s six full-time successors never did sit down to a picnic.

Over the last 100 years, whenever Arizona hired an athletic director, it chose similar bloodlines. It hired a baseball coach (McKale), a football coach (Dick Clausen), two basketball coaches (Cedric Dempsey and Dave Strack), a high school coach (Jim Livengood) and the son of an athletic director (Greg Byrne).

All struggled to figuratively get across Cherry Avenue \u2014 even Byrne, who leaves to become Alabama\u2019s AD at a time of crisis for the UA athletic department.

Has it ever been any different?

Byrne kept the UA in step with its Pac-12 colleagues, but it required unprecedented debt service, an exhaustive work schedule and, much like McKale in 1957, a warning that his successor wouldn\u2019t enjoy much of a honeymoon.

\u201cWhoever is hired must stay focused on our infrastructure,\u201d Byrne told me Monday. \u201c(Rebuilding) Arizona Stadium has to be a priority.\u201d

That\u2019s a much-overdue project that will cost in excess of $100 million. Byrne took the first steps to assess a $200 fee to every student \u2014 a fee that could raise about $8 million per year for the stadium\u2019s renovation \u2014 but Byrne backed off in the face of student resistance.

Every Pac-12 school except maybe Stanford and USC faces similar financial obstacles to get across their own Cherry Avenue.

\u201cI think it will be critical for the Pac-12 to be very focused on maximizing conference revenues for its institutions,\u201d Byrne said. \u201cThe SEC and Big Ten are distancing themselves from the other Power 5 conferences, and that\u2019s going to be extremely important to the Pac-12 in the next five years.\u201d

The Pac-12 Networks have not come close to returning $10 million per school, per year, as was initially projected. It is closer to $1.5 million per year.

Arizona\u2019s wish list includes about $2 million to redo Hillenbrand Stadium and make it comparable to SEC softball facilities and at least as much, or more, to make modern Drachman Stadium (track) and the Hillenbrand Aquatic Center.

Rich Rodriguez has been campaigning for an indoor football practice facility and the nationally recognized golf programs are at a disadvantage because their practice facility is almost closer to Tubac than Tucson. And the new AD may need to make coaching changes in two or three sports, including football.

Other than that, schedule a picnic.

The hiring of a 21st-century athletic director is nothing like the days in which Arizona acquired Dempsey from Houston, at which time he built one of the nation\u2019s top 10 athletic programs.

Dempsey\u2019s reign, and the first decade of Livengood\u2019s years, remains the most successful period in UA sports history.

Now Arizona struggles to maintain a spot in the top 35 of the yearly all-sports rankings. The competition has intensified, spending has soared to preposterous levels (for fans and administrators), and Byrne\u2019s replacement won\u2019t find three Hall of Fame-timber assistant ADs on staff, the way Dempsey did with John Perrin, Bob Bockrath and Mary Roby.

College athletics changes by the day. Until Oregon State hired Pitt AD Scott Barnes two weeks ago, the last five ADs hired in the Pac-12 came from nontraditional roles.

Colorado hired Rick George, a Major League Baseball executive.

USC hired Lynn Swann, a celebrity football alumnus.

Cal hired Michael Williams, an investment banker.

Arizona State hired Ray Anderson, the NFL\u2019s vice president of operations.

Washington hired Jennifer Cohen, who is one of three female ADs among 65 spots in Power 5 conferences.

Anything goes. Byrne\u2019s replacement could come from anywhere.

On Wednesday, the UA confirmed that outgoing president Ann Weaver Hart will hire the AD. (Her choice requires Board of Regents approval.) It\u2019s not the best timing; Hart won\u2019t be around when the AD wonders if the new president will be an ally or a boss from hell.

This is a fragile time for the future of UA sports, one that demands Hart not delay the selection process.

Now that Byrne is gone, Sean Miller is the centerpiece of the athletic department.

What if Thad Matta leaves Ohio State or Mike Krzyzewski retires at Duke? Dominoes would fall. If Miller is in limbo, who knows what might happen?

\u201cYou never know who\u2019s ready to move,\u201d Dempsey said this week. \u201cRemember, when we hired Lute (Olson) away from Iowa (in 1983), people said it couldn\u2019t be done. We just caught him at the right time.\u201d

Arizona hired Olson two days after the 1983 Sweet 16.

The Final Four is 71 days away. Arizona needs to have Miller\u2019s next boss in place when it starts.

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As dawn broke Saturday morning in Tuscaloosa, Ala., Greg Byrne pulled a cap low on his head and began a 90-minute walking tour of the University of Alabama campus.

He was accompanied by one of the most powerful men in Alabama, Finis E. \u201cFess\u201d St. John IV, a third-generation Birmingham-area attorney and member of the Alabama Board of Trustees.

\u201cI wasn\u2019t attempting to avoid being recognized,\u201d Byrne said Monday afternoon in his office at McKale Center. \u201cIt was early in the morning and chilly outside.\u201d

It was a power walk like few others in Byrne\u2019s 45 years.

He visited all of the Crimson Tide landmarks: the Denny Chimes, the Woods Quad and Gorgas Library. Twelve hours earlier, Byrne and his wife, Regina, were dinner guests of sainted Alabama football coach Nick Saban and his wife, Terry.

\u201cIt was awesome,\u201d Byrne says.

A month earlier, while in New York City for the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame banquet, Byrne was contacted by representatives of Alabama president Stuart R. Bell. Byrne wasn\u2019t pursing a job. In fact, he recently purchased a home at Skyline Country Club and was waiting for renovations to be completed to expedite the move.

\u201cI wasn\u2019t looking for a job,\u201d he says. \u201cI have been \u2018all-in\u2019 on Arizona from the day I got here.\u201d

Last week, while in Tampa for a meeting of the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics\u2014 Byrne is the NACDA\u2019s third vice-president \u2014 he agreed to fly to Tuscaloosa on a Crimson Tide jet and meet with Saban, Bell and St. John.

He accepted the job Saturday night.

By Sunday at noon Alabama\u2019s next athletic director was back in Tucson. But Byrne didn\u2019t go home and pack. He went to McKale Center to watch Arizona\u2019s women\u2019s basketball team play Washington State.

\u201cI sat alone in a corner,\u201d he says, his voice breaking with emotion. \u201cI just love Adia. \u2026\u201d

As Byrne discussed the first season of coach Adia Barnes, he retrieved a box of Kleenex from his desk. He stopped about 30 seconds to compose himself.

\u201cRegina always told me I\u2019d cry at the grand opening of a Safeway,\u201d he said with a smile. Over the next 40 minutes, reflecting on his 6\u00bd years in Tucson, Byrne stopped three times to apply Kleenex and dab away tears.

By noon Monday, more than 280 messages had stacked up on his phone. He scheduled an early Tuesday staff meeting so he can say goodbye in person, one by one.

Let\u2019s hope he stocked up on extra Kleenex.

\u201cIt\u2019s hard to believe there\u2019s an athletic director anywhere who did a better job for his university than Greg did for us,\u201d Arizona basketball coach Sean Miller said.

Whatever Alabama is to pay Byrne \u2014 it\u2019s probably about $1 million more than the $700,000 he was paid at Arizona \u2014 it\u2019s difficult to put a value on his years at Arizona.

\u201cHe\u2019s bright and he\u2019s transparent and he did a great job there,\u201d said iconic Arizona AD Cedric Dempsey, the man who persuaded Byrne to leave Starkville, Mississippi, in 2010 and become the seventh AD in UA history. \u201cHe\u2019ll be hard to replace.\u201d

Byrne became the most untraditional athletic director in Pac-12 history. He didn\u2019t sit in a bunker, count pennies and balance budgets. He insisted on getting to know each of the school\u2019s 500 student-athletes on a first-name basis, one by one. Who does that?

If you want to get him to reach for a Kleenex, ask him about the night he toured the upper deck on the east side of Arizona Stadium, introducing himself to those in the cheap seats.

\u201cSome of those people could only afford to buy two $10 tickets to one game a year,\u201d he remembers. \u201cI loved talking to them. I really cared. I have a lot of weaknesses, but I\u2019m not a phony.\u201d

Byrne worked all sides of the UA family. He was a dinner companion of Hollywood producer Scott Stuber, flew to Florida to golf with Ryder Cup captain Jim Furyk and wasn\u2019t camera shy when photographers focused on him sitting with actor Greg Kinnear.

That was a strength. He created a bond with those in the cheap seats and with those who produced \u201cYou, Me and Dupree.\u201d Over time, you, me and Dupree became part of Byrne\u2019s extended family.

For the past 6\u00bd years, Arizona\u2019s athletic department enjoyed more financial growth and outside attention than at any time in history. It was an image-changer. Byrne orchestrated all of it, exchanging Twitter messages with strangers, declaring Phoenix to be \u201cWildcat Country,\u201d and raising more than $140 million to build a better football stadium, spruce up a state-of-the-art basketball arena and get the word out.

Not all of it worked. This isn\u2019t Alabama.

The UA\u2019s swimming program, once among the nation\u2019s three or four powerhouses, imploded when Byrne hired the wrong head coach. The men\u2019s golf program, once a threat to win the NCAA title year after year, has bottomed out. The man he hired to run Arizona\u2019s football operation, Rich Rodriguez, is in the struggle of his coaching lifetime.

But those things are predictable; there are limitations at Arizona and its $85 million athletic budget that Byrne won\u2019t encounter at Alabama, which has a budget of about $190 million.

His departure isn\u2019t unlike Dempsey\u2019s decision to leave Arizona in 1994 to become executive director of the NCAA. The right people notice when you do a good job.

\u201cGreg\u2019s reputation in the industry is very strong,\u201d Dempsey says. \u201cI thought it would be hard to keep him much longer.\u201d

With a Kleenex in hand, Byrne talked about the sleepless nights he\u2019s spent and the importance of his successor remaking Arizona Stadium, something that could cost in excess of $100 million.

\u201cThis is a special place,\u201d he says. \u201cI put every bit of myself into this job until, frankly, I ran low on energy. Before we move to Alabama, I\u2019m going to take a month off to recharge. I\u2019ve never done anything like that.\u201d

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After 6\u00bd years as Arizona\u2019s director of athletics, Greg Byrne will be named to a similar position at the University of Alabama, possibly as soon as Monday.

Jeff Stevens, a prominent UA donor and the co-namesake of the Lowell-Stevens Football Facility, confirmed Byrne\u2019s departure to the Star late Sunday.

Byrne is expected to be replaced on an interim basis by Erika Barnes, the UA\u2019s senior associate athletic director and a former Arizona softball player.

Byrne, 45, will replace Alabama athletic director Bill Battle, 74, who has undergone treatment for multiple myeloma cancer for two years. The school announced Battle\u2019s retirement late Sunday, after word broke that Byrne was headed to Tuscaloosa.

Arizona made an effort to retain Byrne, Stevens said, but the athletic director chose to return to the Southeastern Conference. Byrne served as Mississippi State\u2019s athletic director from 2008-10.

\u201cGreg was offered similar money at Arizona,\u201d Stevens said. \u201cBut at the end of the day he chose to go to Alabama.\u201d

Byrne makes about $700,000 per year at Arizona. He recently received a $500,000 bonus for staying at the UA through 2016.\u00a0

Byrne, the son of a former athletic director at Nebraska, Oregon and Texas A&M, was hired by Arizona in March 2010, replacing Jim Livengood. Byrne told the Star that an athletic director is fortunate if he can endure 10 years on the job \u201cbecause of inherent political issues that arise.\u201d

Byrne did not respond to a request for an interview Sunday night.

At Arizona, Byrne began with an athletic department budget of about $45 million. In the 2015-16 fiscal year, the U.S. Department of Education reported that Arizona\u2019s athletic budget reached $85 million.

Alabama\u2019s numbers dwarf that of the UA. Alabama reported football revenues of $103 million in the 2015 season, according to USA Today; Arizona had football revenues of $23 million in the same period.

During his time in Tucson, Byrne fired football coach Mike Stoops and hired Rich Rodriguez. He also hired baseball coach Jay Johnson from Nevada, moved the school\u2019s baseball operation to Hi Corbett Field and oversaw both the opening of the Lowell-Stevens Football Facility and a $30 million renovation of McKale Center.

Byrne\u2019s use of Twitter and email \u2014 his \u201cWildcat Wednesdays\u201d dispatches are sent to UA fans weekly \u2014 put him ahead of the times in the older, often-stodgy world of athletic directors. He became, outside of basketball coach Sean Miller, the most recognizable member of the university.

Byrne\u2019s biggest accomplishment may have been the hire he didn\u2019t have to make. The AD successfully negotiated an extension with Miller after the coach interviewed at Maryland in 2011. The commitment, which included a vow to improve Arizona\u2019s facilities and allow Miller\u2019s team to take charter flights, cemented a bond between the two men.

Byrne did not pursue vacant athletic directorships at USC, Texas and Florida over the past year, but may have been eyeing the Alabama job. Sports Business Journal reported that he first met with Alabama officials four months ago.

Byrne flew to Tuscaloosa on Saturday, according to a report from Sports Business Journal late Sunday. There he received the blessing of Alabama football coach Nick Saban.

Because he is leaving voluntarily, Byrne will not collect on more than $2 million of an unnamed donor\u2019s stock retention bonus established to keep him, Rodriguez and Miller in Tucson.

Byrne was scheduled to collect his portion of the retention bonus in 2020.

Byrne left his position as athletic director at Mississippi State after 2\u00bd seasons to move to Tucson. He previously worked in fundraising roles at Kentucky, Oregon State and Oregon. Byrne grew up in Eugene, Oregon, while his father, Bill, was the Ducks\u2019 athletic director.

The UA could turn to a pair of familiar faces to replace Byrne. TCU's Chris Del Conte and South Florida\u2019s Mark Harlan both rose through the ranks under Livengood at the UA.

Harlan, who holds two degrees from the UA, is in his third season as South Florida\u2019s athletic director after serving as an assistant AD at UCLA. Del Conte, a former senior associate AD at Arizona, is in his eighth year at TCU.

Stevens said Sunday that he expects Arizona to be a destination job.

\u201cPeople are going to say \u2018Oh, my God, the ship is sinking,\u201d\u2019 said Stevens, who made his fortune in the oil business. \u201cBut the bottom line is that this is a great job and we\u2019ll find someone who wants to be here and makes a difference.\u201d

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The Sultan of Swish did this Thursday night:

He hit a 3-pointer with 9:40 remaining in the first half.

He buried another 3-pointer at 9:13.

And again with a 3-pointer at 8:25.

Arizona led ASU 29-12 and exasperated Sun Devil coach Bobby Hurley called a timeout.

Can you imagine the conversation in the huddle?

\u201cWould someone guard that guy?\u201d

\u201cLike who?\u201d

\u201cDoes Joe Caldwell have any eligibility?\u201d

\u201cHe\u2019s 75.\u201d

\u201cHe\u2019d do a better job than you guys are doing.\u201d

On a night UA fans hoped to watch the 2017 debut of the \u2019Zo Show, it was Lauri Markkanen, the Finnish Sultan of Swish, who scored 30 points and put a 24-hour block on worries about still-missing-in-action Allonzo Trier.

No \u2019Zo? No problem.

The Zona Zoo chanted \u201cLOWW-REE! LOWW-REE!\u201d all night, much louder than they booed Hurley, which was a good thing. Arizona won 91-75. It wasn\u2019t that close.

\u201cWe were ready,\u201d Arizona coach Sean Miller said with emphasis.

That\u2019s probably what Muhammad Ali said after a first-round knockout in 1965.

Arizona hasn\u2019t marketed a nickname for any of its basketball players since the 1994 Final Four, when guards Damon Stoudamire and Kahlid Reeves became Thunder and Lightning. Now, a generation later, it\u2019s the Sultan of Swish and the Paint King, Markkanen\u2019s 7-foot partner, Dusan Ristic, who scored 16 points and helped to put the Sun Devils in an early basketball grave.

Asked if Swish and the Paint King made the difference, Hurley all but rolled his eyes.

\u201cPretty much, yeah,\u201d he said.

Markkanen isn\u2019t the first Arizona freshman to score 30 against the Sun Devils; Jerryd Bayless scored 39 against ASU in 2008, but the Sun Devils won that game at McKale. They were meaningless points on a scoreboard.

On Thursday, Markkanen made every move count. He played 30 minutes, scored 30 points and didn\u2019t commit a turnover.

About the only flaw in his game was failing to see Ristic, wide open for a layup, when Arizona led 57-41. Markkanen shot instead, missing from 20-feet.

\u201cC\u2019mon, Lauri,\u201d Ristic shouted as they ran down court. \u201cI was open.\u201d

So was Markkanen.

After the game, as if he hadn\u2019t done enough, Markkanen sat for an interview with ESPN\u2019s Bill Walton, handled five minutes of questions from reporters in the school\u2019s media office, and then met a writer from Finland\u2019s Ilta-Sanomat newspaper for a 10-minute Q&A session in a McKale Center lobby.

About all that needed to be said was condensed into three words by Miller: \u201cLauri was spectacular.\u201d

For 30 years, and again Thursday, the most telling difference between the basketball programs at Arizona and ASU is the ability to succeed on the road.

The Sun Devils weren\u2019t prepared for the energy at McKale, which Miller almost put to poetry, saying \u201cthe way McKale felt tonight.\u201d

Arizona led 14-2 and the Sun Devils were glassy-eyed.

\u201cThat\u2019s a different type of environment, something we haven\u2019t seen this season besides San Diego State,\u201d said ASU point guard Tra Holder. \u201cIt took us a while to get our feet wet.\u201d

Since Lute Olson was hired in 1983, Arizona is now 189-110 in conference road games, a winning percentage of 63.2.

In the same period, ASU is 93-207, or 31 percent.

That\u2019s the difference between the programs, and it showed on Thursday. Incredibly, the Sun Devils have had winning conference road records only three times in 35 years (1995, 2009 and 2010).

Before you can win a game like the one at McKale on Thursday, the culture of your program has to change. That is Hurley\u2019s charge and it\u2019s an overwhelming project. Inconceivably, the Sun Devils opened the season losing 82-63 to an awful Northern Iowa team, one that is just 5-11 this season.

On Thursday, Hurley said: \u201cWe never got it to a margin we could put any significant game pressure on them.\u201d

Maybe in Tempe on March 4. Holder added that he also hopes to get \u201ca crack\u201d at Arizona in the Pac-12 tournament. But that\u2019s a story for another day.

The Sun Devils have four perimeter players \u2014 Holder, Shannon Evans II, Obinna Oleka and Torian Graham \u2014 who can play and produce for any team in America. But until Hurley can successfully recruit someone over 6 feet 6 inches tall who can earn 30 minutes a game and put a hand in the face of someone like Markkanen or Ristic, the Sun Devils will have difficulty breaking .500 in the Pac-12.

On Thursday, ASU was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The energy at McKale on Thursday was suitable for a game matching Top 10 teams, but that was predictable because there hasn\u2019t been a single second of suspense at McKale all season.

UCLA won\u2019t show up at McKale for another 43 days. Perhaps that\u2019s enough time for Allonzo Trier to get back in uniform and form a Big 3 with the Sultan of Swish and the Paint King.

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For the first time in its history, Arizona sold media rights to TV stations KOOL in Phoenix and KOLD in Tucson for its final game of the 1965 basketball season.

KOOL? KOLD? To anyone outside of Tucson, that would\u2019ve been the reception to an Arizona-ASU basketball game on March 3, 1965.

Icy at best.

The TV stations paid Arizona $3,800 for a live statewide broadcast (about $30,000 in today\u2019s money) and, looking back 52 years, you wonder why it even mattered.

Arizona was 16-9. ASU 13-13.

But because the Sun Devils were on a 15-0 streak against the Wildcats, and because Arizona had not played in a postseason tournament for 14 seasons, Arizona athletic director Dick Clausen believed it was Payback Time; he wanted the state to be aware that times were changing.

Clausen wanted the state legislature to understand that there was enough interest in Tucson to support the building of a transformative basketball arena.

Beating the Sun Devils and ending a basketball curse that dated to 1957 would trigger the deal and give Clausen leverage with the legislators. No longer would he hear the \u201cASU has an old arena and it\u2019s still in the Top 10\u201d brush-off.

Indeed, the Sun Devils soared into the AP\u2019s Top 10 in 1962, 1963 and 1964. Other than John Wooden\u2019s emerging power at UCLA, the Sun Devils were the No. 2 basketball program in the West.

But first Arizona had to break that 0-15 streak.

All 3,900 tickets at Bear Down Gym were sold a few days before the game. But when Clausen announced the TV deal, about 1,000 fans stayed home to watch the live telecast. There went much of the home-court advantage.

\u201cColleges must control TV or face murder at the gate,\u201d wrote Star columnist Abe Chanin.

It was the Bad Blood Bowl. Referees called 53 fouls \u2014 an average of 37 fouls were called in the UA\u2019s 1964-65 games \u2014 and after the Wildcats stormed to a 56-39 lead, Arizona\u2019s Buddy Doolen and ASU\u2019s Dennis Hamilton got into a fistfight.

Both benches emptied. Fans rushed onto the floor. Finally, after eight years, the Wildcats beat ASU 97-87. Plans to build McKale Center gathered momentum.

\u201cThey\u2019ve got to do something about the crowd down here,\u201d ASU coach Ned Wulk said. \u201cThey\u2019re too close to the floor and there\u2019s no security. You never know if one of your players is going to get hurt.\u201d

This was 51 years before the Pac-12 instituted financial punishment for teams whose fans stormed the court.

Whatever, Arizona had finally beaten Wulk and business picked up. The Wildcats went 7-3 against the Sun Devils the next five seasons and construction began on McKale Center.

That \u201965 game was surely the most significant game, or close, in the 104-year history of UA-ASU basketball. Sadly, the clubs have never played with a conference championship at stake, and no more than 10 or 15 of the 250 games between the rivals can rightly be termed \u201cclassic.\u201d

This isn\u2019t Duke-Carolina.

Outside of Pima County, Thursday\u2019s UA-ASU game at McKale Center won\u2019t attract the nation\u2019s eyes.

That\u2019s the sad history of this series; only three of the 250 UA-ASU games matched Top 25 teams (two in 1975 and one in 1995). That\u2019s disarming because Arizona has played 14 games against UCLA, and 10 against Stanford, when both were in the Top 25.

After all these years, 44 seasons at McKale Center, the first UA-ASU game played there in 1973 might be the most enduring.

ASU won 110-105. It was mayhem.

Arizona rushed to a 50-34 halftime lead. Freshman point guard Eric Money scored 37 points. ASU center Ron Kennedy, who only averaged 9.1 points, scored 33.

But the Sun Devils rallied and Arizona was unable to hang on, partly because the scoreboard malfunctioned and added a 41st minute to the game.

Referees didn\u2019t notice when the clock erroneously went from 9:00 in the second half back to 9:59. The official time was not corrected.

Worse, the refs called an unthinkable 65 fouls, which remains a McKale Center record. Six players fouled out. The Sun Devils were whistled for a record 35 fouls; ironically Duke was also called for 35 fouls when it lost at McKale in 1991; Blue Devils guard Bobby Hurley, now the ASU coach, fouled out of that game.

\u201cIt was the case of getting in an ax fight and not having enough axes,\u201d said UA coach Fred Snowden.

This rivalry awaits its next strange twist. For 104 years, even after Lute Olson went 43-6 against the Sun Devils and Wulk 39-14 against the Wildcats, you never know when the ice may break.

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