Tag Archives: Steve Fisher

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Interview with an Aztec: Previewing SDSU

The sixth ranked Wildcats head to the arena formerly known as Cox tonight. They’ll give just one point in taking the court against a team, SDSU, who has beaten them in two of their previous three encounters. Does Fish have Sean’s number? I’m not sure but I’m trying to get to the bottom of all things SDSU – a school with which I shared a city whilst a collegian. I’ve attended a game @SDSU and it was hilariously fun. I don’t usually preview games but when I do, I want it from the horse’s mouth and so I’ve grabbed co-worker, friend, and SDSU alum, Steve McDevitt, about his alma mater. After all, today is his birthday.

Now it’s worth noting that Steve recently became Poppa McD (otherwise known as “dad”) to the handsome and jet setting, Logan. He tells you about their adventures, misadventures, and beer on his blog, Pampers N Pints. And now he he answers my inquiries about SDSU hoops:

On a scale of one-to-there’s-a-statue-of-him-outside-of-Pauley-Pavilion, how much does Steve Fisher look like John Wooden?

If Wooden, Fisher, and Lou Holtz were all starring in a the same soft core porn, no way you could tell any of them apart. Hey, c’mon, everyone has fetish, right? I did, however, meet Fish a couple of times (porn unrelated). He used to come in to the cell phone shop I worked at and he’s a super nice guy. He turned the program around and probably had much better offers but stuck with the Aztecs. But hey, if you’re getting porn offers and living in San Diego, would you leave?

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Toss up.

Were you ever a part of The Show and are you proud of The Show?

The only show unfortunately on in my house these days involves catty, orange debutantes donning seven pounds of makeup and more extensions than the Geico claims department. I’m going to have to phone a friend here, Regis, and bring Aztec aficionado and starting power forward of my wedding party, Tony Busalacchi.

This is the part where we introduce you to Tony with an anecdote from him on his fandom:

Best story I have is I went to the Spurs vs Kings game when Jimmer and Kawhi faced off for the first time in the NBA,  Malcolm Thomas and Kawhi were on the Spurs.  I yelled at Malcolm across the court and yelled Aztec4life and pointed at my SDSU shirt.  Malcolm pointed my way and gave me a nod.   There really is a special bond between the players, students, & Aztec die hards that have witnessed a team that only won 3 games in Fisher’s first year to consistently being one of the top teams out West.
So basically I’ll be interviewing Steve and an Aztec fan from here out. “T” represents Tony. “S” represents Steve. Genius.
So to you, Tony, your thoughts on The Show?
T: I used to sit with The Show back in 2000-2001 when it was just a few members, but I was never a part of The Show.  I remember heckling Bobby Knight when he was the coach of Texas Tech and got him to look my way with a mean stare.  I  personally love the creativity of The Show. They are the original creators of the big heads. They truly intimidate visiting teams and do a great job getting under their skin.  The show also does a great job getting the rest of the fans into the game and developing a great home court advantage for the Aztecs.

Moving on to actual round ball, Jamaal Franklin sure was good, so good in-fact I read he was the only D-1 player to lead his team in points, rebounds, assists, and steals. How are the Aztecs going to replace that production, along with that of Chase Tapley and DeShawn Stephens? This is otherwise known as the what is SDSU good at question.

S: Tony…

T: Last year Maal was Mr everything for the Aztecs.  Tap was just  plain clutch. Early on will be a challenge as the team develops an identity.  As the year goes on, I feel we will be much more balanced and in fact have a better year even though we lost some key players.

I read somewhere that Josh Davis is basically Kawhi Leonard. Is Josh Davis an NBA runner-up?

S: I think I went to middle school with a guy named Josh Davis. Really great four-square player.

T:  Josh Davis does play like Kawhi & actually looks like him also.  He is a tenacious rebounder, freakishly athletic, & has a nose for the ball.  Josh will create his own legacy before the year is over

How awesome was The Beachcomber’s Thursday night, $1 You-call-its in college?

S: I don’t remember so… yeah… it was pretty awesome.

Is Arizona-SDSU a rivalry?

S: Back in 2004 or so, Arizona visited SDSU and we discovered that we could buy $3 student tickets and sell them to Arizona fans for $125 a pop. Rivalry? Not so much as we were gladly taking 800% better than our Jamba Juice salary. Although a battle between an Aztec warrior and a Wildcat might be a good match in the wild, so yes, I’d say it is a rivalry after all.

T:  I think AZ vs SDSU is going to become one of the best rivalries on the West Coast.  These are going to be THE two premier teams out West for years to come.  Shepard will be a breakout player for us this year.

/END TRANSCRIPT

Well that’s going to do it. Thank you Steve and thanks for jumping in Tony. Vegas says it’s going to be a ball game. I think we’ve got two teams that match wildly similarly: defensively oriented with a knack for rebounds. The x-factor could boil down to guard play where Arizona has an advantage with McConnell and Johnson above senior and WSU transfer, Xavier Thames. But here’s one additional thought: As both teams tout their strengths in the front court, this game could boil down to a power of wills. Strength vs. strength. Such match-ups often turn into epic games (see: 68-67, Arizona in Maui last year, also see below). As Tony mentioned, 6’8″ Winston Shepard is poised for a big year. The Aztecs are going to out-size many opponents and that will bode well for them in the MWC. This is the Pac-12 and Arizona has an NBA-esque front court that will gladly bang with the Aztecs (KALEB WANT CONTACT).

Worth noting: there’s a rostered SDSU player who’s last name is U’u and I think The Show is trolling at its best/worst/core.

HI, ANGELO!

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Happy New Years From Mexico

Through a torrent text exchange between my brother and I, it was confirmed that our family departure time, pending any paternal hiccups, we would arrive in Mexico in time to catch the Diamond Head Classic championship game. This was good news. Certainly good news on the heels of a delayed turned cancelled turned next-day-departure travel saga.

We arrived at our desolate and cozy fishing village – a destination we’ve frequented for twenty-one consecutive New Years – with ample time to unpack, jog on the sunset bathed beach, and secure a couple cold ones. Then the hunt for Arizona-Red December began.

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Bahia de Kino, Sonora, Mexico.

It started at La Palapa, the same bar/restaurant we took in such contests as the Arizona @ UW Roy V. Adams battle, the 1997 Holiday Bowl, and other opening Pac weekend games. With me driving, baby brother ran in with his slighty-better-than-functional Spanish only to discover they’d cancelled their Dish subscription. And had no black box.

Onto the next, blowing right past La Margarita where we watched the 2010 Holiday Bowl and which had since went under, to check game availability at La Casa Blanca. We’d yet to take in a ‘Cats game at this venue, ever, and the blackened windows and blacked out patio bar led us to believe – despite my brother’s investigative lap – we wouldn’t soon be catching ESPN2 at this establishment.

Our third stop was Jorge’s, the last bar on the single lane strip of highway along the beach with a glorious pelican mural on its southern-most wall. Brother again ran in only to find they had limited television access despite a glamorous flat screen adorning the inside of that very muraled wall. We had now, at this point, exhausted our known and possible viewing establishments.

To use the colloquial term: Tuvimos un problema.

Which is right about the moment my cousin, Michael, spoke up. This young lad is in college, one’s prime years of thriftiness, and had recently returned from time abroad. A semester in which the young man became savvy with regards to – we’ll call it accessing – any broadcast his heart desired. And so, with the matter of factness displayed by an expert attorney delivering a closing argument, Michael informed us of his skill. Whilst skeptical, we were desperate, and took the youngin’ up on his offer. After all, we’d surveyed our choices and the only remaining option was a spotty-at-best AM radio feed.

Michael’s idea was a success. We hovered around a 15-inch Mac screen, a floating group of eight; a dedicated group of three. The shoddy feed added to the drama of an already tense top-20 matchup. Of course the game’s biggest moments commanded the biggest crowd (we’d grown to eight by then) and at that point we were relegated to a business card-sized viewing, having long given up on full-screen mode’s ability to deliver any continuity of picture. That’s to say, we’d reached our limit on shots that would freeze mid-flight for 2-to-8 seconds only to reemerge as a five-point swing the other way!

And so, on the edge of my bar stool and with only the slightest bit of conscientiousness for my dad’s second row seat, I watched that business card as Mark Lyons drew a foul and knocked down both free throws.

(less conscientiousness, and louder)

Tapley received the hand off and dribbled to the top of the key.

(I grabbed my brother’s arm)

The screen came and Nick Johnson was seemingly eliminated (FORESHADOWING!) from the equation.

(I swore. Loudly. Repeatedly.)

Brandon Ashley slid off of his defender to cut Tapley off as if he were a Spanish bullfighter. Ole!

(I began to sulk)

And so there it was: A lane more open than a taco shop for Chase Tapley to knock off the third ranked team in the country and maintain SDSU’s strangel-hold on west coast collegiate hoops. With his dribble up he began to elevate for the game winner.

Tapley would later admit he went up too slow. I concurrently admitted the game stream was miserably slow.

But Nick Johnson, aboard a chartered flight, arrived to send the Aztec layup away and into the secure arms of Kevin Parrom. The buzzer sounded. The computer froze.

(Incoherent screaming)

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We looked about this content.

Such was the beginning to my New Years celebrations; a Wildcat victory and my mother’s birthday at our annual Christmas-to-New Years break in Mexico. Mom smiled with little understanding beyond the fact that Arizona outscoring San Diego State excited her boys. Perhaps that was enough for her, parenthood is a love I have yet to personally comprehend, though I do appreciate it.

And today, the eve of 2013 in which we venture into new beginnings and accelerate old ones, may you be amongst the people that make you your best, that remind you of and facilitate smile-worthy moments,
and who perhaps you irritate beyond rational explanation of cause.

And if you can’t? Well, there’s always midnight.

Happy New Year.

 

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Diamond Head Classic Championship: Best of the West

To call tonight’s Arizona-San Diego State contest a statement game would appear hyperbolic. On paper, and current state aside, this is a Mountain West team playing a Pac-12 team. David versus Goliath or whichever underdog fable you’d like to run with, this game would appear to hold little by way of overarching significance.

But such is not the case. The San Diego Aztecs, as it stands today, are the preeminent team of the West Coast; Sean Miller said so himself. They’ve not lost to a Pac-12 opponent in their previous seven tries – their last loss coming in 2009 – and haven’t lost to a California-based opponent in an obscene 25-straight games. The Aztec resume is a significant one and so when they take to the court in Hawaii to face off against #3 Arizona, I question: Who’s the dog here?

Indeed there’s something bigger than a Diamond Head Classic trophy on the line.

For Arizona, this is a reclamation of the presumed birthright; the pedestal they and their other high-major conference contemporaries have taken for granted. An opportunity to assert themselves as who they think they are. And I, for one, think these Wildcats believe they’re something special.

For San Diego State, tonight’s game is far from their proving grounds. They’re proven (see above). This is a game that Steve Fisher’s group believes they can, should, and will win. He’s built a program over there – from garnering three straight NCAA invites to seven straight NCAA or NIT invites to the vitriolic Show – SDSU believes they are winners; the key ingredient to any successful campaign.

Plus we’re looking at a bit of a rivalry here. This is a Christmas feature of opponents who have faced off twenty-seven times, with SDSU winning each of the last two times. And with the lines between BCS and otherwise having long been blurred, it should come as no surprise that a big-ish school in beautiful San Diego could make a run at best of the West and been successful at it.

By way of tangible stakes, there’s little more than a made-for-TV tournament title and a blip in national attention to be had here. But our closer look suggests Arizona is running with what one might consider the conference’s honor. I see it as the Wildcats standing up to what’s been the Pac-12’s bully and demonstrating that hey, these guys aren’t that tough for the other eleven. To date, no one’s stood up to the Aztecs and it’s time someone has. And no, to beat them would equate to putting Fisher’s team or program in their “mid-major” place. SDSU’s place is right wherever they want to be. They’ve earned the West’s top billing and should be applauded for that success.

But Arizona, the conference’s flagship program while UCLA does whatever they’re doing, has the chance to remind the others it’s ok to be good again. That this is indeed the Pac-12, the Conference of Champions that’s produced 217 NBA draft picks since 1980 (the second most of the big six conferences)and who used to put six teams in the Dance regularly. Who once offered their 1997 fifth place finisher to the Madness only to win it all. Who has some talented pieces that just might need to be reminded that simply because someone says you’re mediocre, doesn’t mean you have to be. Ask SDSU about it.

Sometimes winning and losing is the minute difference between belief and doubt. I’d question whether the Pac believes they can win. I mean, look at some of the losses to date: Kravish misses UNLV box out; Randle fouls Minnesota 40-feet from the basket; Albany, Cal Poly, and CSU-Northridge; Colorado barely showing up to Kansas.

Perhaps I’ve digressed from the Diamond Head championship game, but forgive me for recognizing that the San Diego State Aztecs have taken the Pac-12 – Arizona included – to task for the better part of three years. Actually, sorry I’m not sorry.

The Arizona Wildcats have been on a long road back to where they feel they belong, and sure that’s to say in the top-five competing for things far bigger than preseason tournaments. It feels great and it looks good and it’s real nice. Beating the well-prepared and un-intimidated San Diego State Aztecs will be another step in exercising the demons of recent Arizona season’s past. And perhaps eleven others.

This Weekend in the Pac-12: The debut

There’s a full slate of games this weekend as 10 of the Pac’s 12 are in action. Of course, Utah is playing so you might argue that only nine are in action but perhaps I’m being too harsh. Here’s linkage to the weekend schedule TV and all. But here it is cut and pasted, too:

Fri., Dec. 2
Washington at Nevada, 8 p.m. ESPNU

Sat., Dec. 3
USC at Minnesota, 1:15 p.m. BTN
Arizona State at Tulsa, 3 p.m. CBS SN
Northern Arizona at Arizona, 4:30 p.m. FSAZ/KWBA
Texas at UCLA, 1:30 p.m. FSN/PT
Utah at Fresno State, 1 p.m.
Eastern Washington at Washington State, 3:30 p.m. RTNW
Oregon vs. BYU, 3 p.m. (20) ESPNU

Sun., Dec. 4
North Carolina State at Stanford, 1 p.m. FSN
No. 24 California at San Diego State, 2 p.m. The Mtn
Montana at Oregon State, 5 p.m. RTNW

Naturally, all times are PST.

Briefly, before I get too far into the weekend preview and after mentioning TV, I’d like touch on the difficulty of watching and preview a post for next week: Larry Scott’s TV deal can’t come soon enough. I’ve already experienced two local football non-televised games (a Cal game and an Arizona game) and I’m now finding it a pain to find much Pac-12 hoops. While ESPN3 was convenient for Tuesdays’ Arizona-NMSU tilt, it shouldn’t take a stroke of Worldwide leader luck to get a West coast game in a West coast market. More to come.

Your weekend preview of Pac-12 games, the debut of this preview series.

Best Game You Can Watch: Texas at UCLA, Saturday 1:30 pm, FSN/PT
As the title suggests, this is the best game readily available for your viewing. We all know the struggles UCLA has had to date but that doesn’t mean they’re not a moderately talented squad. Texas comes to the Sports Arena an intriguing squad, loaded with talent but young talent. J’Covan Brown is filthy and is worth the watch in-and-of-himself. Then there’s the watch-a-train-wreck factor. As previously stated, UCLA appears as likely to implode as Reeves Nelson is to getting a new tattoo so maybe you should rubber neck and watch this car accident like it was in the middle of the 405.

Best Game You Can’t Watch: #24 Cal at San Diego State, Sunday 2 pm, The Mtn
Fristly, what the shit is The Mtn? I’ll answer: it’s the Mountain West Sports Network that won’t be airing the game in the Bay Area. This terrific game, featuring arguably the two best (I see you Gonzaga) teams on the West Coast, will be viewed by only a select audience. Preliminary searches show that the game is not even available on any Comcast Bay Area channel. But let’s get to the hoops and why, if you can, you should watch. San Diego State is 8-0 against the Pac-12 over the last 3 seasons (that includes 4 wins over Utah). Needless to say, Steve Fisher’s group has owned the Conference of Champions and it’s time to put them back in their rightful place: at the beach. Cal is more talented than the Aztecs who are coming off a tough home loss to Creighton. SDSU’s Viejas Arena at Aztec Bowl (I guess that’s better than Cox Arena?) get loud and rowdy so the veteran Bears had best bring their A game. As an added anti-bonus, traveling to San Diego isn’t even a bonus as the weather forecasts in both SF and SD are identical. Look it up.

Game not to watch: The only game not televised this weekend is Utah at Fresno State. And for good reason. These two powers are a combined 4-9, are the 180th (FSU) and 294th (UU) highest scoring teams in the country, and both have played (and fortunately beat) teams who don’t even have linkable team pages on ESPN.com – the same company that employs Rick Reilly and Craig James. Perhaps the networks are doing us all a favor keeping this one blacked out.

Garbage Guide:

  • Remember when Minnesota went to the Final Four? Neither does the NCAA. But feel free to ask Jan Gangelhoff to write about it.
  • Washington State is in fact better at being Eastern Washington than Eastern Washington. Mapped it. However, this could be an “if a tree falls in the forest” argument.
  • Rick Barnes: take your 16 NBA Draft picks and win something someone would care about.
  • Maybe because the Fresno State game isn’t on TV, they’ll be better suited to throw the game.
  • Ok, this may not be trash talk, but Steve Fisher is increasingly looking like John Wooden: