The latest sports news and notes from throughout Southern Arizona.
Marana's decision to name gym after Norma Patton a wise one
By the time Marana High School hired principal David Mandel in 2015 and dean of students/athletic director Sarah Whaley in 2016, it had been 42 years since Norm Patton coached a basketball game at the school.
Patton died in the fall of 2016, but Mandel and Whaley soon learned that Patton’s legacy had not diminished. His state championship basketball teams of 1969, 1970 and 1972 lived on, and bit by bit, Mandel and Whaley talked about naming the school’s gymnasium after the distinguished coach from Hatch, New Mexico.
Thursday night, Mandel and Whaley proposed that the Marana gymnasium be named after Patton. The school’s governing board agreed.
“We will be having an official dedication ceremony,” said Whaley. “We’re shooting for November.”
It’s unfortunate that Patton won’t be around to attend the ceremony, but it’s a credit to Mandel and Whaley that they did the right thing.
This is becoming a good trend.
Last year, Pueblo High School principal Frank “Sammy” Rosthenhausler was proactive, creating momentum for honoring his school’s sports history. Rosthenhausler gained approval to name one of the school’s gymnasiums for two-time 1970s state basketball championship coach Roland LaVetter, and putting the name of long-time Warriors football coach Curly Santa Cruz on Pueblo’s football field in September.
Pueblo did not wait until after LaVetter and Santz Cruz died, which is often the one negative of naming a sports facility after a distinguished coach or administrator.
Arizona was tardy in naming its football practice fields after Dick Tomey last month; the UA’s all-time winningest coach died in April. What took the school so long? Tomey’s last season at Arizona was 2000.
Precedent: The UA was similarly slow in naming its new basketball arena after Pop McKale. He died in June of 1967. The school did not move on a proposal to name McKale Center after its iconic coach and athletic director until a year later. Arizona Hall of Fame baseball coach Frank Sancet died in 1985, 13 years after he coached his last game. Arizona named its old baseball field after Sancet in 1986.
More: Arizona didn’t create a memorial for John “Button” Salmon of the school’s epic “Bear Down” tradition until 60 years after his death.
Fortunately, not all institutions have been slow to act. The administration at Amphitheater High School named its football field after Vern Friedli a decade before he retired. Sahuaro High School named its gymnasium after basketball coach Dick McConnell while he was still young enough to appreciate the honor.
What’s next? Arizona softball coach Mike Candrea, perhaps the greatest coach in NCAA softball history, turns 64 this month and is entering his 34rd year at the school. It would be nice if he could coach at “Candrea Field” before he hangs it up.
Tucson teams fighting long decline in football, while suburban, private schools flourish
Awaiting the Aug. 22 opening of the high school football season, nine TUSD teams are battling against a decade of decline.
From 2010-18, the TUSD schools have gone a combined 341-498. Here’s the sobering roll-call:
Palo Verde: 23-67;
Santa Rita: 13-74.
Over the years, most of the TUSD schools have been downsized by declining enrollment. Santa Rita, for example, plays in Class 2A alongside with Bisbee, Tombstone and Willcox. A decade earlier, Santa Rita played in two state championship games. Even Sabino’s numbers require an asterisk: Long a football powerhouse, Sabino now plays in Class 3A alongside Safford, Tanque Verde and Pusch Ridge Christian.
What’s going on?
Suburban and private schools rule. Open-enrollment draws a stream of better players. Transfers are in abundance.
Here’s the 2010-18 win-loss numbers of Tucson’s suburban and private football schools:
Salpointe Catholic: 93-20;
Ironwood Ridge: 79-30;
Pusch Ridge Christian; 72-29;
Canyon del Oro, 63-38.
It was only 20 years ago that Amphi and Sunnyside were Tucson’s most powerful football programs. But from 2010-18, Amphi has gone 37-58 and Sunnyside, which has experienced troubling coaching turnover, is a bare 48-47.
What happens next? It’s not inconceivable that a TUSD school or two eliminates high school football, or, with approval of the state commission, combines several programs.
Overall, Tucson prep football has not been able to maintain its production at the top. In the 1960s and ’70s, Tucson teams won 13 state championships. This century, the number has shrunk to seven. Unfortunately, only a few Tucson schools have the resources to strike back.
UA legend Miles Simon to stay with Lakers staff; the stories he could tell
Miles Simon did not follow Luke Walton when he was fired by the Los Angeles Lakers and hired by the Sacramento Kings. Simon was instead renewed last week by new Lakers coach Frank Vogel as part of a six-person coaching staff. Simon could probably write a fascinating book about his basketball career since leading Arizona to the 1997 NCAA championship. His NBA career amounted to just two points in five games, but Simon went on to be the MVP of the old CBA for the Dakota Wizards, played professionally in Turkey, Israel and Italy, was part of Lute Olson‘s final staff at Arizona and ultimately a became a studio and game analyst for ESPN. …
Dave Rubio visited two-sport star Lauren Ware in North Dakota before ACL tear
Arizona volleyball coach Dave Rubio flew to Bismarck, North Dakota, last week to conduct an official recruiting visit with 6-foot 5-inch elite volleyball/basketball prospect Lauren Ware, who visited Tucson a few days earlier. It’s a dead recruiting period for women’s basketball, which prevented UA coach Adia Barnes from joining Rubio. Unfortunately, three days later, Ware tore an ACL in her knee and requires surgery. How long will she be out? When Steve Kerr tore his ACL in July 1986 at the World Championships in Spain, he was ultimately cleared for total basketball practices in April 1987. Medical technology has improved greatly in the 32 years since. It’s likely Ware could return to the basketball season in February. She lists Arizona as one of five schools she will consider attending.
Sabino's Shane Folsom leads team to state American Legion title; regionals next
After winning the state baseball championship in May, Sabino High School coach Shane Folsom bid farewell to the Sabercats seniors who played mostly in the summer league at the Kino Sports Complex. Then Folsom coached the returning Sabino ballplayers on Post 36 to the state American Legion championship. He got notable contributions from catcher Brayden Graham and pitchers Jacob Wiltshire and Drew Callaway, who has committed to play at the Air Force Academy. Now Post 36 will fly to Fairfield, California, to open the eight-team West Regional American Legion playoffs on Wednesday. The winner of the West Regional will play for the national title in Shelby, N.C. One good thing about American Legion baseball playoffs: the player’s airfare, lodging and food are paid for by the American Legion organization.
Ex-Wildcat Craig Davis claims British Senior Amateur
While playing golf at Arizona from 1980-83, Craig Davis was part of a lineup of golfers who went on to distinguished careers in the sport: Paul Nolen, now the pro at Sewailo Golf Club; Rick Price, the pro at The View Golf Club; Rich Mueller, the pro at Crooked Tree Golf Course; John Ashworth, who made millions by establishing the Ashworth golf apparel company; and Wade Dunagan, director of golf at Tucson Country Club, among others. On Friday, Davis made his statement. He won the most prestigious golf tournament of his career, the British Senior Amateur in Scotland. A software engineer in San Diego, Davis has maintained ties to his alma mater, serving as a host to the Wildcats when they play in the SDSU/USD Lamkin San Diego Classic. Davis has also won three straight SCGA senior championships. …
Will Parks only starting 'Cat from 2014 team on NFL roster; Scooby Wright a free agent
It’s still a bit hard to believe, but Scooby Wright is not on an NFL roster. It was only five years ago that he was probably the best linebacker in college football, making 163 tackles on Arizona’s 2014 Pac-12 South championship team. The only ex-Wildcat starter from that ’14 team currently on an NFL roster is Denver backup safety and special teams standout Will Parks. …
Longtime UA women's tennis coach Vicky Maes promoted at New Mexico
Vicky Maes was Arizona’s head women’s tennis coach for nearly two decades, parting ways with the Wildcats after the ’17 season. She remains one of the two or three leading women’s tennis players in Arizona history, and was the 1996 Pac-10 Player of the year. Maes wasn’t out of coaching for long; after serving as interim coach for the New Mexico Lobos last season, Maes last week was promoted to full-time head coach. She coached UNM to a 12-9 record last spring.
We have a new head coach and she barely has to move! Vicky Maes, who went 12-9 last year as interim, is officially the seventh head women's tennis coach in program history! Previous to UNM, Vicky was Arizona's head coach for 17 years! #GoLobos https://t.co/FVs5a2pCmp pic.twitter.com/FO62eeJJg1— New Mexico Lobos (@UNMLOBOS) August 2, 2019
… Cienega High School grad Nick Gonzales, selected by six media outlets as a first-team All-American last season at New Mexico State, continues to add to his superb 2019 accolades. When the Cap Code League regular season ended Thursday, Gonzales, a second baseman for the Cotuit Kettleers, led the league in hits, runs, doubles and triples and was second in batting average (.351) and RBI. Expect to see his name on the trophy when the Cape Cod League announces its 2019 MVP later this month. … What are the chances that former Arizona point guard Alex Barcello completes his basketball career with two productive seasons at BYU? After redshirting the 2019-20 season, Barcello will play for the Cougars when he is 22 and 23 years old in a conference with diminished talent and only one national power, Gonzaga. He has time to rebuild the confidence he lost sitting on Arizona’s bench, rediscover the touch that often had Sean Miller saying that Barcello was the team’s best shooter in practice, and play without looking over his shoulder, knowing that he was limited to two or three minutes at a time — and that if he made a mistake he would be back on the bench. Barcello visited Butler and Stanford before committing to Arizona in August 2016. After being bumped around at Arizona, let’s hope Barcello has a happy ending to his college career. …
Cienega grad Nick Gonzales earns Cape Cod League MVP
Cienega High School grad Nick Gonzales, selected by six media outlets as a first-team All-American last season at New Mexico State, continues to add to his superb 2019 accolades. When the Cape Cod League regular season ended Thursday, Gonzales, a second baseman for the Cotuit Kettleers, led the league in hits, runs, doubles and triples and was second in batting average (.351) and RBI. And Saturday, he was named the Cape league's MVP. Well-deserved.
Alex Barcello has chance to make major impact at BYU
What are the chances that former Arizona point guard Alex Barcello completes his basketball career with two productive seasons at BYU? After redshirting the 2019-20 season, Barcello will play for the Cougars when he is 22 and 23 years old in a conference with diminished talent and only one national power, Gonzaga. He has time to rebuild the confidence he lost sitting on Arizona’s bench, rediscover the touch that often had Sean Miller saying that Barcello was the team’s best shooter in practice, and play without looking over his shoulder, knowing that he was limited to two or three minutes at a time — and that if he made a mistake he would be back on the bench. Barcello visited Butler and Stanford before committing to Arizona in August 2016. After being bumped around at Arizona, let’s hope Barcello has a happy ending to his college career. …
CDO grad Ian Kinsler nearing 2,000 hits as a major-leaguer
Canyon del Oro High School grad Ian Kinsler, now with the San Diego Padres, entered Saturday’s night game with 1,998 career hits. He seems sure to be the second player from Tucson or the UA to reach 2,000.
Here’s the top 10:
1. Kenny Lofton, UA, 2,428 hits
2. Ian Kinsler, CDO, 1,998
3. J.T. Snow, UA, 1,509
4. J.J. Hardy, Sabino, 1,488
5. Ron Hassey, Tucson High and UA, 914
6. Hank Leiber, UA, 808
7. Tom Pagnozzi, Rincon, 733
8. Jack Howell, Palo Verde, Pima College and UA, 632
9. Mark Carreon, Salpointe Catholic, 557
10. Casey Candaele, UA, 483
My two cents: Kevin Sumlin, Wildcats fighting back after missing out on Salpointe stars
After Kevin Sumlin’s 0-for-3 whiff on Salpointe Catholic prospects Bruno Fina (UCLA), Bijan Robinson (Texas) and Lathan Ransom (Ohio State), he made a move to become relevant in Tucson recruiting circles last week.
Canyon del Oro running back Stevie Rocker, Salpointe quarterback Treyson Bourguet and Sabino lineman Mike Masunas all attended a mid-week workout on the UA campus and were photographed wearing Wildcats gear.
Arizona has already offered Rocker and Bourguet scholarships. That’s a start.
Sumlin doesn’t have the recruiting platform of ASU’s Herm Edwards, who last week was an invited guest speaker at the AIA’s season-opening conference with the state’s high school football coaches. Edwards has up-close access to a dozen or more Power 5-type recruits from Phoenix superpowers at Scottsdale Saguaro, Peoria Centennial, Chandler, Chandler Hamilton, Gilbert Perry, Scottsdale Chaparral, Peoria Liberty and Phoenix Mountain Pointe, among others.
Before leaving the AIA event, Edwards told the assembled coaches they have an “open-ended invitation” to attend Sun Devils’ coaches meetings during the season.
Sumlin, who has totally overhauled his three-person recruiting staff in recent months, has difficult job attempting to match the Pac-12’s metro-area schools in recruiting. Only Washington State and Oregon State start with such a deficit.
But getting Bourguet, Rocker and Masunas on campus in the middle of the Ransom-Robinson-Fina exodus is at least a sign that Arizona is fighting back.