Editor’s note: This summer, Star columnist Greg Hansen is counting down the top 10 of just about everything related to Tucson sports.
Today’s list: The 10 worst teams in Arizona Wildcats history.
A few days before Arizona flew to Houston for the 1982 Kettle Classic, an athletic department official asked basketball coach Ben Lindsey about his team’s hotel arrangements.
“We don’t have reservations,” Lindsey said. “But Houston has a lot of hotels. We’ll get one when we get there.”
It’s uncertain what has changed most over the last 35 years: the travel itineraries of Arizona teams, which often fly via charter and stay in 5-star hotels, or the caliber of play.
Arizona lost the first game of Lindsey’s one brief year as its basketball coach, 104-63, to the Cougars’ Phi Slama Jama team led by future NBA stars Clyde Drexler and Hakeem Olajuwon.
Arizona committed a school-record 33 turnovers. Guard Puntus Wilson had 10 himself.
“That’s about as bad as anything I’ve ever gone through in coaching,” said Lindsey, who had coached NAIA Grand Canyon before replacing Fred Snowden at Arizona six months earlier. “I’ve taken beatings, but tonight I was embarrassed.”
That was the theme of the UA’s 1982-83 season. The Wildcats went 4-24 and limped home 1-17 in the Pac-10.
The opening loss at Houston set the tone for what I believe to be the worst season of any sport in school history. It was Cougars coach Guy Lewis’ 500th victory.
“I didn’t think (Lewis) was going after his 500th win,” said Lindsey. “I thought he was going after 500 points.”
Two weeks later, blown out at Tennessee to fall to 1-5, Lindsey was assessed two technical fouls when he objected to a call under the basket. He walked to mid-court and argued with referees, stopping the game.
“We’re so far from being a Division I team it isn’t funny,” he said.
At year’s end, first-year athletic director Cedric Dempsey, who inherited Lindsey, fired the first-year coach. A long court battle ensued, with Lindsey claiming his contract was breached.
Three weeks after firing Lindsey, the UA hired Lute Olson away from Iowa.
Here are the 10 worst teams in UA sports history: