Wildcats don’t show up at USAC


Today’s Alumni Classic between Arizona and ASU was more disappointing than the Suns’ 2008-09 season. After all, at least the Suns showed up.

We knew yesterday that the big guns (Gilbert Arenas, Jerryd Bayless) were out, but Hassan Adams, Eugene Edgerson, Kenny Lofton and Ben Davis were all no shows as well.

Arizona’s only former scholarship men’s basketball player was Joseph Blair, a key force on the 1994 Final Four team.

Meanwhile, the Devils had many of their top guys of the past decade aside from their 2009 draftees and their two NBA players (Eddie House and Ike Diogu), with guys like Curtis Millage, Bobby Lazor, Donnell Knight and even Serge Angounou leading the way to a 78-60 win.

Arizona’s second-best player was Lute Olson’s grandson Matt Brase, a former UA walk-on whom I once played against in Intramurals. Sure, Brase’s team crushed mine, but somebody I once played against in Intramurals shouldn’t be the second best player on an Arizona alumni team.

Honestly, I’m pretty disappointed in my fellow Wildcat alums. I can understand Gilbert backing out and even Bayless (I never expected them to play, Gilbert at least, and such an event is really below Bayless when he’s the only NBAer), but what did guys like Hassan Adams and Ben Davis have to do today that was more important than a rivalry game for charity?

I can understand the NBA guys with big contracts wouldn’t want to take part, but why shouldn’t the others have chipped in for charity and enjoyed another 15 minutes of fame?

Anyway, watching that joke of a basketball game made me think how great it would be if every four years or so the top 16 or so college programs would stage an NCAA Tournament-style event with teams consisting of alums.

I would definitely watch that, wouldn’t you?

You know these guys would go hard, too, maybe too hard to get the blessings of their NBA owners.

Arenas once said he would give up one NBA season (and the ensuing multi-million dollar paycheck) just to get his payback against Duke. The Blue Devils beat Gilbert’s Wildcats in the 2001 Championship Game when he had a bum shoulder, and Coach K also cut him from the national team. Gilbert hates Duke, and you would see playoff intensity in such a game.

You would see chemistry between players who grew up playing basketball together before making it in the NBA, and you would see grizzled vets leading 20-year-olds who played at the same school 15 years apart.

You could bring back celebrity coaches, such as Lute Olson for Arizona, and you could possibly get big-time TV ratings.

In an age of insurance policies and teams ever so politely asking their stars not to play for their countries, you know they’d never let them play for their schools, but it would be really great to see NBA superstars playing for the love of their universities like they did back in college.

Unlike today, when a bunch of former Wildcats chose not to support a good cause.

Oh well, at least my $15 ticket went to charity.

Back to a one-paper town?

More sad news today in the newspaper department as reports say The East Valley Tribune will be declaring bankruptcy this week.

I’ve been used to four major papers in Arizona for most of my life, the Republic and the Trib in Phoenix and the Daily Star and Citizen in Tucson. The Tucson Citizen has now been dead for a few months and it looks like the Tribune may be on its way to its demise in the coming months.

This is particularly heartbreaking for me because I’ve been reading Trib sports for as long as I could read. That is, until they decided they couldn’t deliver out to my North Scottsdale home and then stopped publishing on certain days.

The Tribune gave me my first journalistic experience when I hooked up with their subsidiary Scottsdale Views and basically covered my high school for them with no experience. Views sports editor Matt Simpson became my mentor, and I got to write the occasional high school football story for the paper.

I always thought I would end up working there when I graduated college, but then when I covered the D-backs in 2007 I would hear the Trib writers whisper about layoffs and the like, and I just tried to tune them out.

I remember when their fine Cardinals writer, Darren Urban, took off to AZCardinals.com for better pay and a more secure position, and they just replaced him in house and spread the workload among everyone else.

I remember the night in San Diego when I got to cover a D-backs road game because I was visiting my grandparents over there, yet Trib baseball writer Jack Magruder was nowhere to be seen because they didn’t send him on that short trip.

I certainly remember the day I first covered a Suns home game for this blog and asked the reporter sitting next to me on press row where Suns beat writer Jerry Brown was, and he replied, “Oh you didn’t hear? Jerry was laid off a month ago.”

The Trib has laid off a Pulitzer Prize winner in the news department and gifted writers all through the sports department to the point where they’re just not working at anything close to full capacity. When you’re not even covering Phoenix Suns home games anymore, you know the writing is on the wall.

If it doesn’t happen this week, you know it’s happening soon, and whenever Phoenix inevitably becomes a one-paper town (if it isn’t already in theory), we all lose.

We’ll be missing the viewpoints of columnists like Scott Bordow, who has been covering Arizona sports as long as I’ve been able to read and probably a lot longer, and we’ll be missing the balance that a second paper provides.

I honestly feel that if I graduated five years ago, or maybe even two years ago, my first job would have been at a paper like the Tribune. That’s just how it used to be.

But all along I didn’t want to jump on a sinking ship after it had hit an iceberg, and I truly feel the future of sports journalism involves entities like the TrueHoop Network.

If this all is true, today is a sad day in Phoenix, just like there were previously sad days in Denver, Seattle, Tucson and a number of other cities around America.

Journalism is changing as we speak, and I could not be more excited for the new era ahead of us.

But as we await the new world, it’s never easy to say goodbye to a fine paper like the Trib, the paper that gave me my start in journalism and that has been my breakfast companion from the days of Barkley to the days of Nash.