The truth, the whole truth, half-truths, shades of the truth and other items admissible as sports news:
ITEM I: Ten-year-old Sean Elliott walked into the gymnasium at Cholla High School in the late 1970s and got the attention of biology teacher/coach Paul Dull, who a generation earlier had been one of the top athletes ever to suit up in Tucson.
A few days before Elliott broke the Pac-10 scoring record in 1989, a magical McKale Center afternoon, Dull delivered the quote of that year, or any year, in Tucson sports.
“Sean would come into the gym – he must’ve been in the fourth grade — and I asked him if he played basketball,” Dull remembered. “He said, ‘Nope, not me. I’m a soccer player.’
“His hips were up to his armpits and I said ‘Oh, goodness, you better start getting into basketball,’ and yes he did.”
A long-time assistant, Dull was hired as Cholla’s boys basketball coach two months after Elliott graduated. Seven years later, Dull made his own impact, coaching the Chargers to the state championship with another star player, Chuck Overton, who broke the state career scoring record.
Dull, 68, died Sunday night in Tucson. He was the top prep swimmer in Arizona in the mid-’60s, winning five state championships for Palo Verde High School. He also became a starter on the Titans’ basketball and football teams. Dull served in Vietnam for the U.S. Army, graduated from the UA, got married (for 47 years) and raised four boys.
He made an impact like few other coaches/athletes in Tucson.
During an emotional speech when Dull was inducted into the Pima County Sports Hall of Fame in 2013, he thanked the coaches who had helped him along the way: Gus Brisco, Bob Davis, Mel Karrle, Bob Ford, David Gin, a veritable Who’s Who of Tucson sports of the day.
The last time I saw Paul he was sitting in the clubhouse at Silverbell Golf Course, chatting with former UA basketball coach Bruce Larson and ex-Wildcat assistant basketball coach Gary Heintz.
I had come across a 1963 newspaper clipping of Dull and the 1963 All-City swim team. I mentioned it.
“Oh, I just got lucky,” he said, modestly. “It took me until I was 12 to dare swim in the deep end.”
He was a good man.
ITEM II: Alabama probably paid about $250,000 to Turnkey Sports and Entertainment, a New Jersey search firm, to identify, evaluate and make contact with Arizona athletic director Greg Byrne.
Tennessee is now paying Turnkey six-figures to help with its ongoing search for an AD, which might conflict with Arizona’s search. It seems like such a waste of resources, all too typical in college sports. Are you telling me someone at Alabama couldn’t have phoned two or three ADs around the country and said “who would you recommend?”
Byrne would’ve been mentioned in the first 30 seconds.
When it needed an AD in 2010, Arizona paid Cedric Dempsey about $25,000 as a one-man search committee. Trusting his instincts, he found Byrne at Mississippi State, and after initially being rebuffed, helped to persuade Byrne to take the job in Tucson.
On Monday, Arizona president Ann Weaver Hart announced she has hired Dempsey and former Arizona senior associate AD Rocky LaRose to identify and evaluate Byrne’s replacement.
Dempsey, who was Arizona’s image-changing AD from 1982-1993, under whom LaRose learned the business, has kept busy as a consultant to more than 50 college athletic departments since he retired as the executive director of the NCAA in 2002. He has few peers in the industry.
How’s this for success: He hired Mike Candrea, Frank Busch, Lute Olson, Joan Bonvicini, Dave Murray and Dick Tomey at Arizona.
If John Grisham were to write a book about Dempsey’s hiring instincts, it would be titled “The Rainmaker.”
ITEM III: No one says much about the beginning of any basketball game, but the first 6 minutes and 17 seconds of Arizona’s absorbing victory at UCLA was almost unprecedented for style, substance and basketball purity.
It was a pace that might’ve buckled Usain Bolt.
There were no true clock stoppages for 6:17. No timeouts. No foul shots. No substitutions. The Wildcats and Bruins sprinted up and down the court, each attempting 13 shots. It was a pace that would’ve produced about 180 shots in the game. A normal Arizona game this year generates about 115 shots.
UCLA led 16-13 when the first media timeout was called at 13:43. Even UCLA’s sensational point guard, Lonzo Ball, who seems indefatigable, needed a break. Ball had already attempted five shots, making a pair of 3-pointers and a layup. That early pace might’ve cracked most teams, especially at Pauley Pavilion.
But the point wasn’t that Ball had been superb, nor that UCLA led. It was that Arizona had weathered the Bruins’ run with a run of its own and would not back down.
Sean Miller gets some jabs for playing a slower tempo, but on Saturday he showed he isn’t inflexible. The Wildcats had 73 possessions, their most of the season (they average 66). UCLA is sixth nationally with 75 possessions per game.
This time, in probably the toughest game-day setting at Pauley Pavilion for a decade, Miller beat the Bruins at their own game.
ITEM LAST: When The Associated Press poll was released Monday, Arizona, UCLA and Oregon were in the Top 10. That last happened to a Pac-12 trio on Feb. 9, 1999.
This isn’t time to get carried away.
After No. 6 Stanford, No. 9 UCLA and No. 10 Arizona were ranked near the top in that 1999 poll, the three teams combined to finish the season 18-10.
UCLA lost to No. 12-seed Detroit Mercy in a first-round NCAA game.
Stanford lost to No. 10-seed Gonzaga in the second round.
Arizona lost to No. 13-seed Oklahoma in the first round.
So far, the college basketball season has been window dressing. The real stuff starts now.