Ed Rush is gone, but the collateral damage is widespread. It has taken a toll on Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott and Arizona athletic director Greg Byrne, and diminished the credibility of college basketball officiating everywhere.
Scott exacerbated the situation, allowing it to bubble into a national story, coming off as intractable and elitist with an I'm-smarter-than-you approach. Maybe the Pac-12 fans in Oregon and Washington don't care, but those in Tucson are likely never to view Scott in the same light again.
Byrne lost some traction in Tucson because he didn't vigorously defend his school and coach publicly, preferring to do his work behind the scenes.
I was surprised at how many email messages I received, lumping Byrne with Rush/Scott as part of the problem. That's wrong, but it also exhibits how this blew up from a brush fire into a raging firestorm.
Scott erred by hiring Rush in the first place, trying to make Pac-12 officiating an offshoot of the NBA and giving too much power to the pompous and self-absorbed Rush.
"One of the first things Rush did was to eliminate the on-site game observers, one at each Pac-12 school," said Al Rossi of Seattle, who had evaluated officials at Washington under three Pac-12 coordinators for the last two decades.
"There was a conflict of interest at work from the beginning because Rush continued to work for the NBA D-League, developing officials," Rossi told me Friday. "He displaced a lot of Pac-12 veteran officials and began a process to develop his own refs from the NBA network.
"That led to disharmony in the league. Rush had a combative attitude from years in the NBA. They don't tolerate anything. We should be in the character-building business in the Pac-12, but Ed Rush wanted to go head-hunting. He had no people skills. There still is room for harmony among coaches, players and officials in college basketball. We lost that."
Pima's first Hall of Fame class includes Abdirahman, Iveson
Forty years after it began an intercollegiate athletic program, Pima College inducted its inaugural Sports Hall of Fame class Friday night at the school's West Campus.
Those honored included four-time Olympic distance runner Abdi Abdirahman, two-time national championship softball coach Stacy Iveson, former Phoenix Suns center Horacio Llamas and baseball coach Rich Alday, who won 496 games in 17 seasons at PCC.
More than 300 people attended; in a stroke of scheduling luck, Arizona did not have a Friday night softball game, permitting Iveson to attend. She was accompanied by UA head coach Mike Candrea and most of the players from the 2004 NJCAA champions, a team that went 4-0 in an epic final-day performance in Clermont, Fla.
"It was a remarkable night, a good time for us to start a Hall of Fame," said PCC athletic director Edgar Soto. "We have a long list of worthy former coaches and athletes. We're not sure we'll do this every year or every other year. But we've got a lot of people to get to."
Briggs bringing in ex-UA stars for clinic
Simultaneous to Saturday's spring football game at Kindall/Sancet Stadium, former UA linebacker Lance Briggs of the Chicago Bears will hold a clinic for players ages 9-17 at Tucson High School. It's not just another clinic. Briggs' list of instructors includes Tedy Bruschi, Ricky Hunley, Byron Evans, Chuck Levy, Juron Criner, Antoine Cason, Trung Canidate and Dennis Northcutt, a who's-who of UA football. Information: lance-briggs.com. … As part of the Arizona Football Alumni weekend, a cookout honoring the 75th birthday of Dick Tomey will be held Friday night at a local ranch. I still remember Tomey, at 53, roping a double to the gap in a city league baseball game against New York Mets' draft pick Jason Jacome of Pima College. Is it possible that was over 20 years ago? … A year after leading Arizona to the College World Series title, pitcher Kurt Heyer and shortstop Alex Mejia are teammates at Class A Peoria. Among their Midwest League rivals this year are former UA teammates: Dayton third baseman Seth Mejias-Brean and Bowling Green center fielder Joey Rickard. Opening the year at Class A Charleston, S.C., is World Series MVP Robert Refsnyder. … Tucson High's Ron Hassey, a consensus All-America catcher on Arizona's 1976 NCAA championship team, is managing the Pacific Coast League's New Orleans Zephyrs this year. He will manage against the Tucson Padres at Kino Stadium on Aug. 8-11. Among Hassey's New Orleans outfielders is ex-UA standout Jordan Brown.
More Short Stuff
Whitford will be missed, but Miller has plenty of options
James Whitford's ascent to his own head basketball coaching job, new man at Ball State, makes him the 10th Arizona assistant to leave Tucson for a Division I head coaching job in the last 27 years. The others: Scott Thompson, Rice; Ken Burmeister, Texas-San Antonio; Ricky Byrdsong, Detroit; Kevin O'Neill, Marquette; Jessie Evans, Louisiana-Lafayette; Phil Johnson, San Jose State; Jay John, Oregon State; Rodney Tention, Loyola Marymount; and Archie Miller, Dayton. The irony is that Josh Pastner left Arizona not to be a head coach, but to become a Memphis assistant. … Sean Miller will be able to hand-pick the field for Whitford's replacement. The most high-profile possibility is to raid Pastner's Memphis staff and bring 1995 consensus Arizona All-American Damon Stoudamire home. The West Coast's most prominent, on-the-rise assistant coach is San Diego State's Tony Bland, but USC's Andy Enfield might be quick to hire Bland before anyone else. … What I admired so much about Whitford is his ability to think on his feet. He is excellent in public settings, as a speaker and as a media interview subject, reminding me of a young Jim Rosborough. He's the kind of coach you'd want your son to know. … Whitford was to be the speaker at Saturday's annual Dick McConnell Banquet, honoring Southern Arizona's high school coaches.
Gordon gives Wildcats depth that might be their best ever
Aaron Gordon's presence on Arizona's basketball team gives the Wildcats a roster so deep and talented that it rivals the 2003 Wildcats, probably the deepest such roster in school history. Lute Olson's '03 club was so deep that freshmen Andre Iguodala and Hassan Adams couldn't start, and the third guard, Will Bynum, could average only 16 minutes a game before he left at midseason, transferring to Georgia Tech. Bynum has been in the NBA for six seasons. … Olson's 2001 Final Four team had a bench that included sophomore Luke Walton, seniors Gene Edgerson, Justin Wessel and Lamont Frazier. The 2013-14 Wildcats will be superior. … More on Gordon: The most flattering comment in a week of flattering comments came from his high school coach, Tim Kennedy, who told reporters: "He's also your hardest-working player. He fills up all the highlights and everything, but that is just half of what he does. He's just an ultimate competitor, and all he cares about is winning. He'll make big-time plays, but when it comes down to it, he's all about winning." … On paper (and video), Gordon figures to rival the five most game-ready freshmen in UA history: Eric Money, Sean Elliott, Jerryd Bayless, Jason Gardner and Gilbert Arenas. … Sabino grad Nathan Tyler won the All-American Gateway Tour's event in Tukwet Canyon, Calif., last week, shooting rounds of 67-68-64-66, winning by five strokes and earning $21,000. He has earned $71,000 on the Gateway Tour this year (two victories, two second places) and is taking part in PGA Tour Canada's qualifying school this week in Beaumont, Calif. … The Star's 2012 Southern Arizona softball player of the year, CDO's Kayla Bonstrom, has started 33 consecutive games at Stanford and is now hitting No. 3 in the Cardinal batting order. Bonstrom, a first baseman, took a .330 average into the weekend series with No. 2 Arizona State.
My Two Cents
Ref who T'd up Miller won't skip UA games
If you think Pac-12 referee Michael Irving won't work another Arizona game, you'll be wrong.
Remember this: At the 2008 Pac-10 tournament, referee Michael Eggers called the year's most controversial foul, on ASU center Jeff Pendergraph. Eggers disallowed a dunk with 16 seconds remaining in a tie game with USC.
The Trojans won, and ASU coach Herb Sendek was livid. He railed at Eggers, believing that call cost the 21-win Sun Devils a chance to sneak into the NCAA tournament. It became a national story when ESPN's Andy Katz wrote about it in depth.
I heard a Sun Devil insider talking about Eggers last month at the Pac-12 tournament, five years later.
Yet this year, Eggers called both Arizona-ASU games.
There's more: When Lute Olson made his first trip to Oregon's Mac Court, in January 1984, Eggers was a 34-year-old referee, making his way in the Pac-10.
At halftime, according to this newspaper, "Olson ran off the bench and screamed at official Michael Eggers. Assistant coach Scott Thompson had Olson in a bear hug and restrained him from getting any closer than five feet from the ref."
Eggers gave Olson a technical.
"The guy was just out to lunch," Olson told the Star that day. "He was already thinking about going down for an RC Cola. He stopped working."
Since then, Eggers has called more than 100 Arizona games, most involving Olson.
Irving isn't likely to referee an Arizona game in Tucson next year.
But he'll be back the same way Mike Eggers has been back. It's just basketball. Move on.