When Steve Botkin coached the Sahuaro High School girls basketball team to a victory over Desert Christian on Dec. 28, there was no fanfare, ceremony or recognition of what was a historic moment.
"I didn't know," he said last week. "I knew I was close, but I just didn't stop and do any research or try to look it up."
It was Botkin's 338th victory at Sahuaro, which made him the winningest girls basketball coach in Tucson history. After the Cougars won again on Friday, improving to 23-3 on the season, Botkin's victory total moved to 349.
It puts him above Hall of Fame coaches Mike Dyer, of Marana, 337, and, coincidentally, Botkin's mentor, ex-Sahuaro coach Jim Scott, who won 333 games in 14 Cougars seasons.
Dyer and Scott are considered the ranking legends of Tucson girls basketball coaching. Dyer won four state titles at Marana in the 1980s. Scott won two state championships, 1993 and 1998, at Sahuaro.
"The former AD at Sahuaro, Bob Vielledent, the man who recommended me for my first (varsity) coaching job, at Rincon, brought me a bottle of champagne back from a visit to Napa, Calif., and told me to enjoy it when I passed Jim Scott," said Botkin. "But I had no idea I also passed Mike Dyer. Those guys are as good as it gets."
Botkin, in his 17th season as a varsity head coach, joins another ex-Cougars coach, Hall of Famer Dick McConnell, who is the winningest boys basketball coach in Arizona history, with 774. The two have been close friends for 25 years.
"It's really funny, I taught in the same classrooms at both Rincon and Sahuaro that coach McConnell taught in before me," Botkin said. "And I also just bought a house from him."
Botkin's next goal is to win his own state championship. The Cougars have reached the final eight of the state playoffs five times, but have not advanced to the semifinals.
Perhaps now, with one of the top freshmen in Tucson girls basketball history, Sydney Harden - she averages 13.7 points and 10.3 rebounds - Botkin's club will break through.
Phoenix Mtn. Pointe star Brown has Tucson ties
Five days before letter-of-intent signing day, UA football coach Rich Rodriguez worked ahead, playing host to about 50 of the top Class of 2014 high school juniors in Arizona and the West.
The UA's ambitious "Junior Day" event included the Arizona Gatorade Player of the Year, Phoenix Mountain Pointe receiver-defensive back Jalen Brown, who has already received scholarship offers from Oregon, Oklahoma, ASU and Nebraska, among others.
Brown is strongly connected to Tucson. His father, Adrian Brown, a basketball standout at Sahuaro, was the state's Class AAA Player of the Year in 1988 before playing college basketball at ASU and Eastern Kentucky. What's more, Brown's stepfather, Chuck Levy, was the star tailback on Arizona's 10-2 Fiesta Bowl championship team of 1993. Levy accompanied Brown to Saturday's event on the UA campus. Also visiting Arizona were Sabino tackle Andrew Mike and the state's most coveted tandem: Scottsdale Desert Mountain quarterback Kyle Allen and receiver Mark Andrews.
Mayfield's return could put Titans back on top
After coaching state championship teams at CDO and then retiring, softball's Kelly Fowler and baseball's Phil Wright later returned to the school, both winning another state title. Can Palo Verde football coach Todd Mayfield do the same? After retiring three seasons ago, Mayfield has returned to take over a club that went 8-22 in his absence. How good was he beyond winning the 2005 state championship? Mayfield was 46-15 in his last five seasons with the Titans. … Another familiar face has returned to the prep scene: Jerry Gastellum, longtime AD at Cholla and Catalina, is now the athletic director at Tucson High. He replaces Will Kreamer, who returned to Italy to coach in the Italian pro football league for a second time. … Sometime this season, UA softball coach Mike Candrea will outfit his team in copper batting helmets. They are already in stock. This is inching closer to my prediction that someday soon an Arizona team will wear not just copper helmets - as the Wildcats football team did last fall - but the school's original silver and sage green colors of more than 100 years ago. Perhaps it could replace the white-out at McKale Center next basketball season. Wouldn't that send the needle soaring? … How far has ex-UA point guard Josiah Turner fallen? He is averaging 5.3 points for the Summerside Storm of the National Basketball League of Canada, playing backup point guard in Prince Edward Island.
More Short Stuff
Salpointe's Quihuis, top Tucson golfer, picks UA
Two-time state champion golfer Krystal Quihuis of Salpointe Catholic chose Arizona over ASU last week even though she has a year remaining at Salpointe. Quihuis is surely the top girls golf prospect from Tucson since Sahuaro's Cindy Rarick 35 years ago. Rarick won five LPGA championships. "Krystal is the real thing," said Mike Hultquist, a former varsity golfer at Arizona and Oklahoma who has worked with her at Salpointe. "She's tough. No one outworks her. She turned down a full scholarship at ASU to stay home and be a Wildcat, and full scholarships in college golf are hard to come by." … The UA men's golf program has fallen so dramatically that Arizona was fifth in a less-than-impressive field, and no Wildcat finished in the top 10 at last week's only home tournament, the traditional Arizona Intercollegiate. Past winners in the event include UA All-Americans Chris Nallen, Ted Purdy, Ricky Barnes and Robert Gamez. First-year UA men's golf coach Jim Anderson might need three or four years to get the Wildcats back into their accustomed spot of national prominence. … UA grad Bob Baffert, who did well with Midnight Lute, a horse owned by Tucson auto dealers Paul Weitman and Karl Watson, might have a suitable successor. Friday at the Oaklawn racetrack in Arkansas, Big Lute won his first-ever race, winning by 4 1/2 lengths. … UA baseball coach Andy Lopez continues to score big on the recruiting scene. Last week he received a commitment from standout Mandeville, La., catcher Handsome Monica, a 6-foot-2-inch, 210-pound prospect who hit .398 as a St. Paul's High School junior.
Tucson girls soccer team a big hit with colleges
Early Wednesday morning, Mountain View High School AD Todd Garelick and his wife, Amy, will stage a letter-of-intent ceremony unprecedented in Tucson sports. Seventeen of their players from the Tucson Soccer Academy Girls '95 Red team will sign college scholarships. Todd and Amy coach the TSA team. Four of their players from Mountain View - Justene Kesterson, Karina Gabino, Laura Pimienta and sister Priscilla Pimienta will sign with Arizona. … Among the 17 is Madison Parker of Catalina Foothills, who will play soccer at New Mexico. Her father, ex-UA and NFL lineman Glenn Parker, now a Pac-12 Networks football analyst, was on five Super Bowl teams with the Buffalo Bills and New York Giants. … Now that he has returned as offensive coordinator at BYU, ex-UA offensive line coach Robert Anae won't be running the traditional BYU pro-style offense. He told a Salt Lake City reporter that he'll adopt Rich Rodriguez-type schemes. "There's no time for a huddle in football," he said. "We're just gonna go." … Tucson High grad Christine Clark of Harvard is making a serious bid to be the Ivy League women's basketball Player of the Year. After twice scoring 22 points against Dartmouth recently, Clark is averaging 16.6 points, second in the league. She leads the Ivy in free throw percentage (.846). … Tiger Woods is skipping this week's AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am and is not expected to play the following week at the Northern Trust Open. That means his next competition will be the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship. It is likely he'll make public his plans to play at the Golf Club of Dove Mountain later this week. The Pebble Beach tournament is no longer a "must" among PGA Tour players. Only 11 of the world's top 64 ranked players committed to play at Pebble Beach, and just one from the Top 10 - No. 7 Brandt Snedeker.
My Two Cents
UA's Carey walking on dangerously thin ice
In the 50 days since Ka'Deem Carey pushed his sophomore year and school-record rushing total to 1,929 yards, he has unwittingly altered the local image of UA football. It's not much different from the way troubled ASU linebacker Vontaze Burfict twisted the perception of the Sun Devils program.
It's not a flattering comparison, but it is sadly one that fits.
Carey is now under a microscope of such intensity that every move he makes in Tucson, on campus and off, in uniform and out, will be scrutinized. He won't be able to hide. Zero tolerance? Carey is walking on ice so thin it could crack if he looks at someone the wrong way.
Until now, many of Carey's handlers and coaches have enabled him to run off the grid far too often, with few consequences. He was suspended multiple times during his days at Canyon del Oro High School.
When Carey reportedly asked a policeman, "Do you know who I am?" he got it backward. It's not that Tucsonans don't know who he is, it's that they have become painfully aware of who he is.
Restoring his image might be more difficult than gaining 1,000 yards next season.