The truth, the whole truth, half-truths, shades of the truth and other items admissible as sports news:
ITEM I: Arizona has been without a women’s basketball coach for 26 days. That’s a long search by college basketball standards. The UA hired Sean Miller 12 days after losing to Louisville in the 2009 Sweet 16.
It suggests that Greg Byrne is targeting a coach (or two) involved in the women’s Final Four. It suggests that one of his targets is the top player in Arizona history Adia Barnes, who is in her fifth season on the Washington staff.
Barnes is 39. She played 12 years of professional basketball, everywhere from Italy and Ukraine to the WNBA’s Seattle Storm. She is married to Salvo Coppa, a former assistant coach at Montana State, now a high school coach in Seattle.
Barnes was asked to coach at her alma mater 11 years ago but told then-coach Joan Bonvicini she had unfinished business in Seattle, where she started the Adia Barnes Foundation and was a WNBA television analyst.
But can she be a head coach? Is she tough enough to rebuild a chronic losing program?
At Arizona, Barnes was undersized, a 5-foot-11-inch forward who guarded and was guarded by taller opponents. She played “big.” She scored 2,237 points, which has been surpassed at McKale Center by only Sean Elliott.
Coaching women’s basketball at Arizona is a risky business. There is no comfort factor, as there is on the staff of Washington’s Final Four team. If Byrne offers Barnes the job, especially at an entry-level salary, it wouldn’t be a shock if she turned it down.
ITEM II: Arizona’s opponent in the 2016 football season opener, BYU, completed it spring football camp Saturday, staging a pseudo-“spring game” that drew more than 18,000 . By comparison, Arizona drew about 1,000 for a pseudo-“showcase practice” a few weeks ago.
The Cougars celebrated their football heritage by holding a banquet the night before the spring game at the Provo Convention Center. The coaches sang and danced; graduating seniors were honored.
When the teams meet Sept. 3 at University of Phoenix Stadium, it’s likely that the Cougars will have more fans in the Glendale Stadium than Arizona. The Cougars’ smallest home crowd last season, 56,015, against small-time Wagner, drew more fans than any 2015 UA home game.
The UA invited its fans not to care about spring practice. The Cougars, who are in No Man’s Land, in limbo, with no conference affiliation, didn’t let their fans forget how important college football is to them.
ITEM III: In the final Top 100 of the rivals.com basketball recruiting rankings of 2012, Oklahoma’s super shooter Buddy Hield was ranked No. 86 nationally. That seems absurd as OU heads to the Final Four with Hield as the nation’s top college player.
In that Top 100, Hield was behind No. 9 Kaleb Tarczewski, No. 15 Grant Jerrett, No. 23 Brandon Ashley and No. 46 Gabe York.
Hield was even ranked behind ex-ASU forward Savon Goodman, who ranked 72nd. Former UCLA give-me-the-ball lefty Shabazz Muhammad was ranked No. 1 that year. Muhammad, who plays for the Minnesota Timberwolves, has not started an NBA game this season. He averages 9.9 points per game.
How tough is it to evaluate 18-year-old basketball players? In the ESPN 100 rankings last spring, former Arizona guard Justin Simon was ranked No. 24 in the country. He was two spots ahead of Oregon super freshman Tyler Dorsey. Simon, who has left Arizona, scored 56 points in 180 minutes.
Dorsey scored 484 points in 1,083 minutes. Talk about an inexact science, although that is giving “science” a bad rap.
ITEM IV: Arizona baseball coach Jay Johnson, who was coaching third base when Bobby Dalbec’s two-out double scored the winning run in Saturday’s epic, five-runs-in-the-ninth victory over UCLA, sprinted to home plate, arms upraised. He was One Happy Man.
Most coaches don’t do that, especially against a Pac-12 rival. They play the stoic card. But you can’t blame Johnson for getting momentarily carried away. UCLA has become the Pac-12’s top baseball program, and it was clearly Johnson’s most meaningful victory in his first UA season.
Perhaps the top story of a UA baseball celebration came 60 years ago next month, when Arizona senior right-hander Carl Thomas pitched back-to-back no-hitters against ASU and UCLA. It was the first time in college baseball anyone had done so, and it was more notable given that Thomas’ victims were ASU and UCLA.
After Thomas threw his final pitch against UCLA, a 10-0 victory in which he also hit two home runs, UA coach Frank Sancet joined the celebration at home plate. A story in this newspaper said several hundred from a crowd of 1,789 fans at Hi Corbett Field joined Sancet and Thomas in the pile of happy baseball bodies.
The newspaper described the customarily taciturn Sancet as “hilarious.”
Several days later, Sancet phoned Bruins coach Art Reichle, the man who recruited and coached Jackie Robinson at UCLA, and apologized for his post-game behavior.
The Bruins didn’t play in Tucson again until 1959. Revenge? Arizona opened the 1959 season against UCLA and won 17-3 and 18-6.
ITEM LAST: Monday’s funeral service for long-time UA associate athletic director Gayle Hopkins, the school’s 1964 NCAA long jump champion, reflected his impact in Arizona’s athletic department from 1983 to 2010.
Six-time MLB All-Star outfielder Kenny Lofton flew from Los Angeles to Tucson to speak at the service. Former UA football coach Dick Tomey, who lives in Hawaii, was one of the speakers. So was ex-NFL linebacker Byron Evans, the Pac-12’s 1986 defensive Player of the Year.
Hopkins grew up in Davenport, Iowa, a neighbor to Charles “Chuck” Roberts, a former football player at New Mexico. It was Roberts who wrote a letter to former UA athletic director Dick Clausen, encouraging him to offer Hopkins a scholarship.
A few years earlier, Roberts had played for the Lobos, then coached by Clausen.
Roberts went on to become the Dean of Students at New Mexico. Hopkins went on to establish his own powerful legacy at Arizona.
Not bad for two young African-American athletes who grew up in poverty in 1950s Iowa.