Editor's note: This story first appeared Sunday as an exclusive for our print readers.
On the first day of 2011, the Mount Rushmore of active Tucson coaching would've been, in my opinion, UA softball coach Mike Candrea, Amphi football coach Vern Friedli, UA swimming coach Frank Busch and Sunnyside football coach Richard Sanchez.
By the first day of February, only Candrea remained firmly in his position.
Busch will leave Arizona to become director of USA Swimming's National Teams. Sanchez has resigned his coaching position to become director of athletics for the Sunnyside School District, and Friedli's future is uncertain after he suffered a stroke three weeks ago.
Busch, whose base salary at Arizona is $124,000, was given an offer he couldn't wisely refuse by USA Swimming. He will be paid $400,000 annually to oversee America's national and Olympic swimming programs.
Sanchez, who coached typically undermanned Sunnyside to a pair of state titles and four appearances in the state championship game, also coached the Blue Devils to five state wrestling titles.
The good news is that Friedli, who returned home from a rehab center Thursday, has not resigned. His wife, Sharon, said, "Vern is planning on continuing to coach with his boys; he has assured them he will be back in the weight room as soon as it is allowed."
Busch's departure took place over a five-week period, during which he was careful not to compromise the ongoing season and damage future recruiting. "The key thing was, I am doing all I can to make sure (opposing coaches) can't use this against us in recruiting," said Busch.
If UA director of athletics Greg Byrne chooses to stay within Busch's coaching family, it wouldn't be a shock to see him elevate Whitney Hite to replace Busch.
Hite was the head coach at Washington and an assistant at powerhouses Cal, Georgia and Texas. He earlier declined an offer to be the head coach at Georgia Tech.
Augie Busch, Frank's son, at 34, has emerged as one of the nation's leading recruiters and assistant coaches in his eight seasons at Arizona. Rick DeMont, who is possibly the top sprinting coach in college swimming, is in his 23rd season at Arizona. Whether he pursues the top job, or prefers to remain an assistant, DeMont's presence has been No. 1A to Frank Busch's No. 1 as Arizona rose to a formidable swimming power.
"With a facility and a tradition like we have in swimming, we'll attract a lot of top names," said Byrne.
The 'Deem Team
Coach: Carey is 'best back I've ever seen in Tucson'
When Pat Nugent was the head football coach at CDO, he got his first glimpse of Ka'Deem Carey at an eighth-grade track meet.
"He looked different than the other kids at that level," Nugent said with a chuckle. "You don't often come across a young man with that type of body and athleticism."
Now that Carey has signed to play at Arizona, Nugent, the head coach at Pima College, says "he'll be a 1,000-yard rusher, no doubt. He fits their scheme perfectly. He hits the holes so quickly. He is unbelievable at avoiding hits. He's the best back I've ever seen in Tucson."
Until now, Carey really hasn't had to work at being the best. That must change for him to do more than, say, Nicolas Grigsby, did for the Wildcats. If Carey develops a work ethic to rival that of dogged UA senior-to-be tailback Keola Antolin, Carey could be dynamic. What are Carey's chances of being a star in BCS football? About 60 percent.
Since 1978, my list of the 10 leading football recruits from Tucson is Michael Bates, Riki (Gray) Ellison, Mike Ciasca, Kris O'Dowd, Freddie Sims, Mario Bates, Rodney Peete, Mike Saffer, Vance Johnson and Kevin Schmidtke.
Six from that group were flat-out college stars. Only Schmidtke, Ciasca (injuries), Michael Bates (left football to train for an Olympic track career) and Sims (academics) didn't have elite college football careers.
First on Carey's agenda: find a way to be as tough as Antolin and chip away at some of his playing time.
Low seeds Cabrera, Glover add depth to Match Play
This is how you know you have an elite golf tournament: those ranked Nos. 63 and 64 in the World Golf Rankings this week are Angel Cabrera and Lucas Glover, both former U.S. Open champions. They will have to play well in the next two weeks to remain in the field for the Feb. 23-27 WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship at The Ritz Carlton Golf Club, Dove Mountain. … Pima College's Nugent said he "put all of our marbles" into signing Ironwood Ridge quarterback Tyler D'Amore, who instead committed to play for SoCal's College of the Canyons. PCC signed 11 Arizona players, including Bisbee's Josue Miranda, a 6-3, 320-pound offensive linemen who was rarely scouted by major colleges in Class 2A football. "We're going after bigger names now," said Nugent, who is in his third season. "JC football is different; we've still got about 10 offers on the table." … Ex-UA tight end Rob Gronkowski made such a name for himself in his NFL rookie season that he made the rounds on ESPN shows at Super Bowl XLV. (Yes, he did wear his baseball cap backward on ESPN2.) On Friday, Gronkowski joined all-pro receiver Larry Fitzgerald of the Cardinals to help dedicate a library in Dallas. Gronk caught 42 passes for 10 touchdowns at New England this season. That's more TDs in an NFL season than any ex-UA player. Vance Johnson caught as many as 76 passes for Denver in 1989, Dennis Northcutt caught 62 for Cleveland in 2003 and Bobby Wade caught 54 for the Vikings in 2007. But none exceeded seven TD receptions in a year.
More Short Stuff
Local investment group helps Padres get on base
To help pay the bills, Tucson Padres GM Mike Feder assembled a diverse 11-person investment group that comes from every conceivable area of Tucson business. Jack Furrier comes from the auto-care business; Jerry Carbonari comes from the copy machine industry; Bill and Corey Cox are in the gas station business; Glenn Garrett was an executive in the McDonald's empire; Amy Hammarstrom, a former UA volleyball player, is the vice president of General Rubber Corp.; Larry Johnson is an executive in health services; Joe Knisley is an official for Radiology Limited; Brent Kyte owns 35 Pizza Hut locations; Bill Oetting operates Sierra Woodworks; and Mike Wilson owns Automated Presort Services, sorting 50,000 pieces of mail per day. … The Diamondbacks, whose public-relations skills have been challenged since the Jerry Colangelo-Joe Garagiola Jr. days, last week denied spring training season media credentials to KVOA Channel 4 sports director Ryan Recker. They told Recker he could apply for game-to-game credentials. Amazing. It's not like there is a New York Yankees-type media horde covering D-backs at any time, anywhere. … This is how difficult it is to get a space on a PGA Tour event: At Monday's Waste Management Open qualifier, former Tucson Open champs Jim Carter, Kirk Triplett and Frank Lickliter joined Tucson touring pros Ronnie Black, Rich Barcelo and Chris Nallen and ex-UA golfers Ted Purdy and Josh Esler in the attempt to get three remaining spots in a field of 144 players. Only Lickliter made it, shooting a 66.
Results in Arkansas meet bode well for UA on track
Arizona track and field coach Fred Harvey could be sitting on a career season in both men's and women's track and field. He referred to last week's performances in the Razorback Invitational as "the greatest team performance in my coaching career." The Wildcats are ranked No. 15 nationally in women's track and No. 19 in men's track. Both are likely to finish in the top 10 at the NCAA finals in June. The women's team, which includes potential national champions Julie Labonte in throws and Brigetta Barrett in the high jump, finished No. 3 nationally in 2001. The men's team, led by distance runner Stephen Sambu and star high jumper Nick Ross, will attempt to match the program's highest-ever NCAA finish, fourth, which it did in 1998 and 2006. Talk about good timing: The Wildcats will play host to the Pac-10 Championships May 13-14 at Drachman Stadium. … Former Sabino High football standout Jeff Popovich, who played college football for the Miami Hurricanes, has been interviewed to be defensive coordinator at Florida International. Popovich coached the secondary at FIU last year as the Panthers beat Toledo in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl. … Tucson High grad Christine Clark, a freshman at Harvard, hit a 20-footer at the buzzer to give the Crimson a 69-68 victory over Columbia last week. Clark, averaging 11.6 points, then scored a team-high 18 on Friday to help beat Princeton 73-67. … And did you know that former Sabino place-kicker Alex Giffords, who went on to letter at Iowa State from 1979 to 1982, is the older brother of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords?
My Two Cents
Coaches, Carey, Criner give Stoops 1st win of '11
Even though Arizona's football recruiting class is typically rated about No. 8 in the league - isn't it always? - Mike Stoops came out of it in the best possible shape.
He got his own Big Four: Ka'Deem Carey, secondary coach Duane Akina, running game coordinator Robert Anae and senior-to-be receiver Juron Criner, who eschewed the NFL draft.
Those four people are vital to Arizona's chances to have a winning season in 2011. In that context, the UA's football off-season is a success six months before training camp begins.