Hansen's Sunday Notebook: Last man from Dempsey era retires

April 13, 2014 12:00 am  • 

Greg Hansen gives the news on retirements, decisions, honors and other sports news.

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  • John Perrin is the last man (or woman) standing from Cedric Dempsey’s original athletic department staff at Arizona, 1983, a group of administrators and coaches who capably completed the transition from WAC to Pac-10 and then some.

    Perrin has been the Money Man at Arizona, caressing a yearly budget that began at $6 million and has now reached $67 million and climbing.

    Under Dempsey’s direction, and along with Bob BockrathMary Roby and Rocky LaRose, Arizona became a major player in college athletics as much because of its administrative abilities as its on-field coaching and athletic skills.

    Perrin is retiring in June, a rock, a bottom-line guy who ran the UA business operation the way John Wayne ran a cattle drive. There was no doubt who was the boss.

    Quietly, over the last six months, UA athletic director Greg Byrne began a national search to replace Perrin and ultimately hand-picked Ross Cobb of Texas-San Antonio.

    UTSA isn’t a major player in college sports, but Cobb distinguished himself by his selection as the 2012 College Athletics Business Manager of the Year. It’s an award that is almost always won by those at big schools with big budgets; in recent years Georgia Tech, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Colorado administrators have won it.

    Cobb operated a $25 million budget at UTSA as the Roadrunners moved from a small-commuter school to FBS football.

    Byrne can’t afford for Cobb to be overwhelmed by a promotion from Conference USA to the Pac-12. The financial risks involved with more than $150 million of investments in Arizona Stadium and McKale Center demand Perrin-esque leadership and direction.

    Dempsey was fortunate in that he inherited Bockrath, Roby, Perrin and LaRose, all of whom were Hall of Fame-type athletic administrators. Now, after losing both LaRose and Perrin in the same fiscal year, Byrne embarks on a new era of UA sports with a new staff of lieutenants.

  • Two things happened last week that might have influenced UA freshman Rondae Hollis-Jefferson to enter the NBA draft: One — for the first time, ESPN projected Hollis-Jefferson to be a first-round selection. Two, ex-Wildcat sub Grant Jerrett was absorbed by the Oklahoma City Thunder and made an inactive part of OKC’s year-end roster with a prorated salary of $28,800.

    Hollis-Jefferson is surely aware that he’s a better prospect than Jerrett, who averaged 5.4 points as a UA freshman and is mostly a single-skill player, with his superb distance-shooting touch.

    Yet Hollis-Jefferson seems to be enjoying his college days. He spent last weekend on a paintball excursion,and later tweeted how much he enjoyed performing in his acting class.

    The chances of UA teammates Aaron Gordon and Nick Johnson returning for the 2014-15 season are virtually zero, and maybe less than that.

    But it’s Hollis-Jefferson’s call that will make the difference between Arizona opening No. 1 in most of the 2014-15 polls, or without him, somewhere south of No. 10.

    In four NCAA tournament games, Hollis-Jefferson was sensational. He shot .667 from the field and .868 from the foul line, averaging 14 points and 4.5 rebounds, while blocking eight shots.

    If he returns as a sophomore, he is apt to be the Pac-12’s Defensive Player of the Year, a first-team All-Conference player and an NBA lottery pick. If he’s as good next year as he was in March, he could be a first-team All-American.

    The clock is ticking very loudly at McKale Center.

  • Mark Chandler’s Sahuaro High School baseball team will find out how good it is this week. The Cougars, 16-1, have the best record in Arizona Division II baseball. They will play four Southern California teams in the San Diego Lions Classic. Sahuaro lefty Alex Verdugo is hitting a ridiculous .664. He’s got an 0.47 ERA with 52 strikeouts in 30 innings. And he’s also stolen 12 bases in 14 attempts. But Verdugo, a likely MLB first-round draft pick in June, might not be having the best season in Tucson. Desert Christian junior Zach Malis is hitting .612 and leads the state with 44 runs and 40 RBI. He’s also 16-for-16 in stolen bases and has a 6-1 pitching record. Desert Christian is 19-2.

  • ASU basketball coach Herb Sendek last week filled an assistant coaching spot with Indian Hills (Iowa) Community College coach Barrett Peery. Sound familiar? Peery came to Tucson last spring to recruit Pima College guard Lester Medford off the Aztecs’ roster; Medford, an Amphi grad, was academically ineligible at PCC. Last week, Medford was named a first-team NJCAA All-American as Indian Hills went 32-3 and reached the NJCAA championship game, averaging 15.3 points. Medford will play at Baylor next year while Peery will take Medford’s teammate, Roosevelt Scott to ASU. 

  • CDO senior Sammy Nettling last week was chosen to the Sports360AZ All-Academic basketball team. And why not? The Northwestern-bound softball standout has a 4.62 GPA at Canyon del Oro. Her father, Bill Nettling, was a starting Arizona tight end in 1979 and 1980 and former UA graduate assistant coach. 

  • Lanea Tuiasosopo, daughter of former Arizona defensive line coach Mike Tuiasosopo, was also part of the state’s All-Academic basketball team. Lanae, who moved back from Boulder, Colo., to Ironwood Ridge High School after her father left the CU Buffaloes coaching staff, has a 4.3 GPA. She led the Nighthawks with a 9.4 scoring average. Her father is now the linebackers coach at UCLA. …

  • UA football coach Rich Rodriguez will be the featured speaker Thursday at the UA Arthritis Center’s Bear Down Luncheon to benefit the UAAC and its research efforts. The timing is such that the UA last week held a memorial service at Arizona Stadium for former athletic department fund-raiser Ray Martinez, who recently died, at 54, from the affects of rheumatoid arthritis, among other things. RichRod’s wife, Rita Rodriguez, is a member of the Arthritis Center advisory board. Athletic director Greg Byrne also will speak at the luncheon, to be held at Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse, 6360 N. Campbell Ave. Ticket information: 636-3618. 

  • After four seasons at Stanford, former Sabino High all-Southern Arizona receiver Keanu Nelson will play his final year of eligibility at BYU. Nelson is expected to complete degree requirements in Science and Technology in June and then join BYU at its summer workouts. 

  • Resourceful Arizona softball coach Mike Candrea essentially worked a straight-up trade when star shortstop Shelby Pendley transferred to Oklahoma after the 2012 season. Through games of Friday, Pendley is hitting .441 with 12 homers and 45 RBI at OU. But her Arizona replacement, UCLA transfer Kellie Fox, is hitting .431 with 12 homers and 52 RBI through Friday. The only difference is that Pendley has become Oklahoma’s bullpen closer. 

  • Dayton’s run to the basketball Elite Eight last month was in some respects traceable to former Tucson High state championship (1978, 1980) tennis coach Ted Kissell, who later became an assistant athletic director at Arizona. Kissell was Dayton’s athletic director from 1992-2008, during which time he established priority seating revenue at Dayton’s basketball games, upgraded the facilities inherited by Flyers coach Archie Miller and kept Dayton as one of America’s top mid-major programs. Kissell, now retired and living in Palm Springs, Calif., was selected to the Dayton Sports Hall of Fame last year.

  • Incoming UA basketball player Stanley Johnson was named the MaxPreps Player of the Year last week. That’s elite company. Previous winners include Duke’s Jabari Parker, UCLA’s Kevin Love and 2008 UA signee Brandon Jennings, who was never academically eligible to play for the Wildcats. … Johnson’s name wound up in the daily racing notes at Santa Anita Race Track last week, which was unexpected. It reported that Johnson “grew up suffering from asthma until his mother, Karen Taylor, who played basketball at Jackson State, found a remedy: Santa Anita Park.” She told her son he needed to learn how to breathe and took him to Santa Anita to see how the thoroughbreds breathe “even when they’re tired.” The Los Angeles Times expanded on that theme, writing that Stanley was “overweight and had asthma — yet his mother made him run ‘suicides,’ the demanding stop and start sprint drill.” The newspaper reported that Stanley wanted to stop, but his mother said, “You can’t stop if you want to be good.” 

  • Former Pima College All-American distance runners Abdi Abdirahman and Craig Curley are entered in next week’s Boston Marathon. Both have been given elite status, meaning they will start at the front of a pack of runners estimated to be as large as 36,000. It will be the first Boston Marathon for Abdirahman, a four-time Olympian. First place is $25,000. A year ago, Arizona’s 2011 and 2012 All-American Stephen Sambu earned $10,000 for finishing third in the half-marathon. 

  • Tucsonan Jordan Brown, a key part to Arizona’s 2003 College World Series baseball team, spent part of the 2013 season with the Miami Marlins. He was released in October and signed with the Texas Rangers. Brown is now in Class AA with the Rangers’ Frisco, Texas, club and is struggling, hitting .154 through two weeks of the Texas League season. 

  • Arizona’s 2012 and 2013 All-Pac-12 forward Solomon Hill got a rare extended playing opportunity Wednesday when the Indiana Pacers chose to rest four starters and deploy their subs. Hill, the Pacers’ top 2014 draft choice, played a career-high 23 minutes and scored two points. He has played in just 27 of Indiana’s 80 games this season. 

  • In Greg Byrne’s weekly email dispatch to Arizona Wildcats fans last week, he noted that the ongoing McKale Center renovation is not likely to be complete until mid-November.

    He told me that enough of the arena’s lower-bowl interior work will be completed by September so that the UA volleyball team can play there. What remains uncertain is when McKale can again house 14,545 basketball fans.

    So what about the Red-Blue Game, typically played in mid-October, which has become one of Tucson’s must-see sporting events and one of Sean Miller’s go-to recruiting weekends?

    It would be a perfect opportunity for Byrne to stage the Red-Blue Game outside, at Arizona Stadium, draw 25,000 fans (or more) and create national headlines.

    The UA football team doesn’t play at Arizona Stadium from Oct. 11 to Nov. 8. The average high temperature in Tucson on Oct. 25 (a Saturday) is 82 degrees. And it rarely rains in October.

    Can you imagine the mania if the preseason No. 1-ranked Wildcats were to play a night basketball game at Arizona Stadium that weekend?

    Just sayin’.

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