Hansen's Sunday Notebook: Miller's good day

April 20, 2014 12:00 am

Greg Hansen offers his take on sports figures that have made the news this week.

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  • I’ve never seen a college basketball coach lose as much as Sean Miller lost last week and still be so happy.

    “Today’s nothing but a good day for our program,” Miller said as Aaron Gordon and Nick Johnson announced they were leaving school.

    “You can complain about (early departures), but that doesn’t work,” said Miller. “We have to embrace it to be successful. We have some really good players coming back next year.”

    A few minutes later, Kaleb TarczewskiRondae Hollis-Jefferson and Brandon Ashley walked into the room.

    Put that group with two guys named Joe and you’re in the Top 25. Put those three players at Oregon State or Washington State and you couldn’t print enough tickets for the 2014-15 season.

    “Arizona’s going to be successful at the highest level with or without me,” said Gordon.

    What we don’t know is how much of a toll the annual roster shuffle and its attendant worries take on a coach like Miller.

    Kentucky coach John Calipari, the king of roster shuffling, candidly and in a serious tone told an ESPN radio interviewer last week, “I’ve aged more the last five years than President Obama.”

    And it’s true. The Calipari I watched at the Final Four this year no longer came off as the swashbuckling young gun unfazed by college basketball’s moving parts.

    He is 55. He could pass for 60. What happens next at Arizona is fully unpredictable. Miller has become one of the Big Five of the Pac-10/12 era. Here’s how those in that group fared in their first five conference seasons:

    Lute Olson, 64-26.

    Sean Miller, 63-27.

    Ben Howland, 63-27.

    Jim Harrick, 62-28.

    Mike Montgomery, 52-38.

    Olson was 52 after his first five Arizona seasons. He got better and coached until he was 72. Howland was 49 at the end of his first five UCLA seasons. He was fired five years later. Harrick was 53 after his first five UCLA years. Five years later, after being fired at UCLA, he was coaching at Rhode Island.

    Montgomery was 44 after five seasons at Stanford. He didn’t hit his prime for another decade, leading the Cardinal to a 73-17 conference record from the 1996-97 season through 2000-01.

    Miller is 45. What’s next?

    Given Miller’s desire to live as much a private life as possible, my guess is that he wouldn’t leave Arizona for a bigger basketball fishbowl, the 24/7 madness at Kentucky, Kansas or Louisville, but that a football-first place like Ohio State would turn his head.

    In the prime of his coaching life, Olson turned down Kentucky offers in 1985 and 1989, in part, because he prized Tucson’s relative seclusion.

    Montgomery coached until he was 67, Harrick to 65 and Howland, at 56, is hoping to reinvent himself.

    Miller is still in the invention process.

  • John Gianninoto was captain of the Catalina Foothills High School football team in 2005 and again at UNLV in 2010. But his agility and strength as an offensive lineman appealed not just to NFL teams (he was in the Carolina Panthers training camp in 2012) but to NASCAR. Since he gave up his football career, Gianninoto has been hired by the Hendricks Motorsports group and is part of Jimmie Johnson’s pit crew, serving in various capacities as a fueler and a jackman. Gianninoto was among a group of 250 NASCAR hopefuls two years ago at an NFL-type combine. He was one of 10 hired. 

  • Sabino High grad Lucas Reed, who went to training camp with the Denver Broncos last year, is, like Gianninoto, trying something different. The former New Mexico Lobos tight end is attending the Australian Rules Football “combine” this weekend in Los Angeles, where the Aussie pro teams are looking for athletes with basketball/football/endurance skills. Reed, brother of Houston Texans defensive end Brooks Reed, is 6 feet 5 inches and 250 pounds.

  • Also changing sports: Tedy Bruschi. The former Arizona All-America lineman will be wearing racing bib No. 27611 in Monday’s Boston Marathon. Bruschi ran the 2012 Boston Marathon in 5 hours 26 minutes. His stated goal is to break five hours this time. 

  • Small world department: Xavier basketball coach Chris Mack, who succeeded Sean Miller, posted a twitter photograph last week in which he posed with Lute Olson at the 1992 Lute Olson Basketball Camp. Olson briefly recruited Mack, who ultimately signed with and played for Evansville and later Xavier.

  • New York media outlets last week continued speculation that Steve Kerr will be the New York Knicks head coach next season. Kerr has never been a coach, but it’s not an unprecedented move in the NBA. Golden State’s Mark Jackson, Clippers coach Doc Rivers and Nets coach Jason Kidd all became NBA head coaches with no coaching background. The common thread: all were point guards of note. 

  • The most unlikely head coach in the NBA is probably Mike Budenholzer of the Atlanta Hawks. Budenholzer was a frequent visitor at UA practices and a good friend of former UA assistant coach Jim Rosborough. Budenholzer grew up in northeastern Arizona, in Holbrook, of all places, and played at Pomona College. 

  • Sabino High and UA grad Nathan Tyler punched up the most impressive finish of his pro golf career last week. Tyler finished third in the Web.com Tour’s Bosque Mexico Championship, earning $29,925. It completed a five-week tour in which Tyler played in Chile, Colombia, Brazil and Panama. He has secured playing privileges through June. 

  • Rincon/University grad Michael Thompson withdrew from the ongoing PGA Tour event in Hilton Head, S.C., when his grandfather, J. Hayes Metzger, a retired Army colonel, died in New Hampshire last week. Thompson and Metzger had much in common: both earned Eagle Scout certification, and both were athletes: Thompson played soccer and golf at Rincon/University; Metzger was a baseball letterman at Ohio State. Thompson has earned $431,778 this year, No. 94 on the PGA Tour. 

  • One of the most impressive performances of the UA basketball season was that of student manager Trevor Derrett. He was hired by the NBA Sacramento Kings last week for an inside sales position after completing degree requirements in the UA’s Eller College of Management.

  • Arizona will play host to the Pac-12 men’s golf championships Friday through Sunday at The Gallery Golf Club. If history holds, coach Jim Anderson’s team will do well in the brutally difficult Pac-12. As host of the conference championships in 1984, 1994 and 2004, Arizona finished, in order, third, second and first. It produced individual champions Paul NolenJason Gore and Henry Liaw. Nolen is now the director of golf at The Gallery. Arizona, ranked No. 83 nationally, will face No. 5 Cal, No. 6 Stanford, No. 13 Washington and No. 15 UCLA, among others. ASU, which is ranked No. 27, isn’t likely to include on its roster Nogales’ Alberto Sanchez, a sophomore who hasn’t regularly been in the Sun Devils’ top five this year. Utah’s roster includes CDO grad Gentry Hicks, although he isn’t expected to be part of the Utes’ lineup. 

  • Catalina Foothills senior tennis standout Jackson Lee is bidding to become the third member of his family to win the state singles championship. His father, Mike Lee, won the 1980 state singles title at Sabino. Jackson’s younger brother, also named Mike, won the 2013 state singles title at Foothills. Jackson won the state doubles title in 2011 at Sabino and is now at Foothills with his brother. Last week, Jackson accepted a scholarship to play college tennis at NAU, where the Lumberjacks are in the process of building a multi-million dollar tennis facility, with six indoor and six outdoor courts. 

  • Empire High School senior Kelsey Smith, the Star’s 2013 Southern Arizona softball Player of the Year, is even better this year. Through Friday, Smith was hitting .506 with 60 RBIs and a state-leading 13 home runs. She is 12-1 as a pitcher. Empire reached the state semifinals last season and at 20-3 appears to be on a similar trajectory.

  • Tucson High School will induct a dynamic class into its T Club sports Hall of Fame on Thursday at 5:30 p.m. The Class of 2014 includes 1965 state championship runner Bob Saxon, who later coached Sahuaro’s track and field team to a 125-15 dual-meet record; 1978 basketball standout David Vann, who set St. Mary’s (Calif.) career scoring record; and 1966 state championship football lineman David Carlson. The Badgers will also honor the reigning state championship boys soccer team and coach Ismael Arce and freshman Delaney Schnell, the current state champion diver. 

  • The Star’s 2013-14 wrestling Coach of the Year, Amphitheater’s Sam Portillo, declined an opportunity last week to be part of Zeke Jones’ new coaching staff at Arizona State. Portillo said he couldn’t leave “my boys.” Portillo will continue to work for USA Wrestling; he has been selected to the coaching staff at the Pan American Championship, scheduled in Mexico this summer. 

  • Small world department II: Last week I had the good fortune to meet retired medical software technologist William B. Mason at the Randolph Golf Complex. Mason, who grew up in Washington, D.C., before moving to Tucson 40 years ago, played college basketball for the American University Eagles. In the winter of 1964-65, he played against my alma mater, Utah State, and was matched against Wayne Estes, who would lead the NCAA in scoring (33.7 points per game) before his tragic death six weeks later. “If you look it up, I think you’ll find Estes scored 40 point against me that day,” said Mason. “We scored 100 points and lost.” Mason’s memory is exact. Utah State beat his club 125-100 that night. Estes was electrocuted at the scene of an on-campus automobile accident on Feb. 8, 1965, an hour after scoring 48 points against Denver, giving him 2,001 for his career. ... I visited USU’s new Wayne Estes Basketball Center two weeks ago, a $9.5 million plant that matches or exceeds any Pac-12 basketball facility. It is fabulous; a fitting tribute to my boyhood idol. The memory of that long-ago night in the winter of 1965 still moves me to tears. Estes was the Sean Elliott of Utah State basketball.

  • In its bid to return as a Top 25 college basketball power, Utah last week announced it had scheduled 2014-15 games against Kansas and Wichita State. That’s Larry Krystkowiak’s way of telling Utes fans his club expects to play on the biggest stage.

    Yet ASU coach Herb Sendek last week unrolled the following 2014-15 home schedule: Chicago State, Bethune-Cookman, Loyola Marymount, Colgate, UNLV, Pepperdine, Lehigh, Detroit and Harvard.

    Seriously?

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