Dave Rubio didn’t exactly plan to spend two decades as Arizona’s head coach.
Literally, he picked a different plan.
Retirement plan, that is.
“It’s funny,” he said. “When they asked me what type of retirement system I wanted to go into …
“If you know you’re going to be here a long time, you go into the Arizona retirement system. But, just being a coach, you never know if you’ll be moving around a lot.”
So, when he was hired in 1992, he picked TIAA Creff, a portable system that would go with him when he, theoretically, moved around.
“Now here I am 22 years later, wishing I would’ve taken the Arizona state retirement system,” he said.
This weekend will open his 22nd at the UA, as the Wildcats play in the Arizona Invitational at McKale Center.
“It is crazy, when you see that number,” Rubio said. “The time really does slip by, and when you’re so focused on what you do every day the years go by quickly, and all of a sudden you’re no longer the youngest guys on the block; you’re one of the oldest guys in the department.”
The last four years haven’t gone as well as, say, Rubio’s “golden years” — a seven-year span from 1999 to 2005 in which the Wildcats made seven NCAA tournaments, appearing in one Final Four, three Elite Eights and a Sweet 16.
In the last four years, the Wildcats advanced to three NCAA tournaments, never advancing past the first round, and missed out altogether last year.
The team was picked to finish eighth in the Pac-12 preseason coaches poll, but Rubio doesn’t exactly see it that way.
Rubio sees more of the former than the latter in this year’s squad.
“We have the talent to do that now,” Rubio said. “Based on personnel we had then and what we have here, the talent level is very similar. This team, I feel like, has a chance to get to the tournament and go deep in the tournament.”
Madi Kingdon, a preseason All-Pac-12 outside hitter, said: “He knows what he’s talking about, he’s been here a long time, and he’s been to the Final Four. So, when he tells our team he thinks we can do something big this year, I believe what he says.”
Here is a three-pronged look at Rubio in his 22nd edition of Arizona volleyball, which will play in its first match against Morgan State on Friday at 1:30 p.m.
Three key players for 2013
1. Madi Kingdon, junior: The outside hitter was probably Arizona’s best player last year, and she should be even better in her junior year.
2. Olivia Magill, sophomore: Magill was thrown into the fire as a freshman, but Rubio believes the athletic, 6-foot-2-inch middle blocker has “elite” potential.
3. Penina Snuka, sophomore / Jane Croson, junior: Arizona’s newest additions count as one. Snuka, a setter, comes as one of Rubio’s most highly touted recruits in years and should make an immediate impact. Croson is a transfer outside hitter from Hawaii who has impressed through fall camp and should make Kingdon’s life easier.
Two key moments in Dave Rubio’s 22 years
1. Final Four: Rubio’s 2001 club had a magical run to the Final Four in San Diego, winning 25 games in the regular season led by three first-team All-Pac-10 players, Dana Burkholder, Jill Talbot and Lisa Rutledge. They beat Eastern Illinois, Illinois, Pacific and USC before falling to Long Beach State.
2. Rejected job offer: In 1993, just one year after Rubio was hired by the UA, his alma mater came calling. Cal State-Northridge, then Division II, offered Rubio their vacant head coaching job. “It was tempting to go back,” he said, “back to my hometown. But I felt like my destiny was here at U of A.”
One key matchup
1. Stanford, Nov. 27: Candace Nicholson, a libero, is the Wildcats’ lone four-year senior, and she’d like to beat the No. 3-ranked Cardinal just once. “That’s one team I have not beaten since I’ve been here, so that’s a goal for me,” she said.