Not long ago I was asked to write about a possible head coaching vacancy in Tucson. You’re smart and understand the genesis and timing of this request. I didn’t write it. I thought to perhaps corroborate or source but I also haven’t written all year. It was a question, however, worth pondering. I pondered:
It’s a job, like most, that comes with immense pressure. Whether its innate to competition, the salary, publicity or history, the title has expectations. It’s uniquely not the PSI of Rupp, Assembly Hall or Phog. McKale isn’t quite steeped in singularity like some of its contemporaries. Prior to the current administration, the job there was most recently held by a father-son duo. Of course, that strange reality manifested only when a Division-2 coach declined the role. Eventually that team went to the Sweet Sixteen. A studio host once took this school to the NCAA tournament. It’s a job that dances.
It’s a job with a big cactus. A stylized saguaro purveying a brand that the white-haired coach recognized would permeate the fabric of our culture. That cactus is ineffably woven into Campbell Avenue, eeggees, Bag’s, Frog’s and parking at the Hospital; the tones of Brian Jefferies, 1290, 1490 and whatever their FM affiliates are. Some will tell you it’s woven into improbably losses, painful defeat and the permanence of wanting. A badgering pain. It’s literally woven into the jerseys. A grown man would rumble to mid-court, disrobe, and consequently render McKale’s roof ajar. As another tale goes, John “Button” Salmon spoke to his coach, the arena’s namesake, from his deathbed. Salmon reminded the team to “Bear Down.” Legend. It’s a job that is Arizona.
It’s a job that means a lot to many. 230,947 by one measure. That’s how many people attended the McKale Center this season. That’s fifty-thousand more fans than any other Pac-12 school. It’s more than 3x the attendance at USC. And Stanford. They won’t sit down until the opposition scores. Games are played on 94-feet named after the job’s matriarch. I’m quantifying the caring because its generational now. Grandparents are watching with grandchildren. I’ll introduce you. They go to Tempe, Maui, Manhattan, Vegas, Boise. They won’t sit down there either. It’s a job that makes people feel.
It’s a job defended and appreciated by its holders. President Dr. Robert C. Robbins has alluded to his own dead body in defending this job. He also had the presence to ask and the leadership to be patient. Could he be wrong in all of this? Maybe. But there’s nothing more empowering than knowing someone’s got your back. Tucson – above the comments section – has this job’s back. It’s a job that’s supported.
It’s a job that wins. It’s a job that’s lost.
It’s Sean Miller’s job.
And I wouldn’t have anyone else in the seat. Perhaps unsurprisingly and unnecessarily declared, I’m all in. As if I needed to tell you. In that vein, I’m also for his team and what they’ve become. ‘Arizona vs. Everybody’ or any other mantra they want to offer, I’m glad to make grand allusions to the 1997 NCAA Tournament, the last time Arizona was a four-seed in the South Region.
I’m qualifying all of it because this one feels different. I don’t know what’s about to happen and that’s not TruTV or Buffalo. You know what I’m talking about. It’s a belabored point and not worth the exhaustive hypothesizing. There’s a disconcerting cloud over the entire sport – this job in particular. Three weeks ago we knew this team not to have a coach, shooting guard or power forward.
I just don’t know. You and they don’t know.
And more immediately we know even less. I’m clueless as to how far the 70th rated defense can travel or the projected top pick can carry. It’s impossible to know who might go without a touch for 11 minutes or the volume of lead squanderable in four minutes. Lord knows we’ve seen it tested, this tournament is brilliantly cruel.
But contrast to the other unknowns, right now we find great joy in ignorance. With little more than the promise of a chance, we allow ourselves comfort in the uncertainty of future results. The promise of possibility and what a little magic amidst the madness can yield. Hats and tee shirts? Perhaps.
I do know this: It’s a job preoccupied with the Buffalo Bulls. It’s a job I’m pulling for.