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View Full Version : So why can't Utah basketball be as successful as Arizona basketball?



LA Ute
05-20-2013, 02:43 PM
I thought this would be an interesting topic. The U. of U. and the U. of A. seem very similar (except that the Wildcats are recruiting to Tucson, for Pete's sake!). Is there any reason our basketball program cannot be as successful as Arizona's?

Discuss.

RunninU
05-20-2013, 02:58 PM
I don't see any reason why we can't be Arizona. Up until 2005 they had pretty comparable history. Both with a NCAA title, both with 4 final four appearances.
Both programs peaked at the same time (except we kicked the crap out of them). They were just able to beat Kentucky to win it, we couldn't those years.

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SeattleUte
05-20-2013, 04:27 PM
So why can't Oklahoma be as successful in basketball as Kansas? Fans sometimes like to fixate on minutiae like practice facilities. But really, it's all about the coaching. Arizona had NO TRADITION until Lute Olsen was hired. When he came to Arizona, it was possibly the worst program in the nation. For a program such as UCLA he would not have been a slam dunk or home run hire. He would have been an interesting hire like Alford at UCLA. Mostly people wondered why he'd condescend to coaching at a non-entity like Arizona. But he'd been eating Bobby Knight's shit for years and years in the Big Ten; he was infamous for costing his team an NCAA tournament game because he called a time out with none left. But for whatever reason, Arizona and Lute Olsen are a match made in heaven.

Utah has some advantages and disadvantages vis-a-vis Arizona. Right now Utah has a better tradition by far than Arizona did 30 years ago. Overall, tradition-wise, we're not that far behind Arizona. Tradition is the accumulation of great coaching, and as we see, when down the teams with the great traditions tend to bounce back. And it's easier to build on a great tradition.

But Utah has some challenges that Arizona doesn't have. Utah is a lot less populous than Arizona, and Arizona is a lot closer to Southern California. Thus, the local recruiting grounds are a lot more fruitful in Arizona. Also, since Jack Gardner and Bill Foster, Utah has struggled recruiting top tier Africal American players. Partly this could be because basketball is an urban, blue state game, particularly among African American players, and Utah is perceived as small and red state. I think Utah also still suffers negative collateral perceptions because of historic LDS and BYU attitutes and beliefs toward AAs. (As I've noted, in the past, when Utah recruited great AA players, they were excluded from many universities including the entire SEC. Query whether Billy McGill would be available to us today.)

Pac 12 membership will really help overcome the challenges.

LA Ute
05-20-2013, 04:32 PM
But Utah has some challenges that Arizona doesn't have. Utah is a lot less populous than Arizona, and Arizona is a lot closer to Southern California. Thus, the local recruiting grounds are a lot more fruitful in Arizona. Also, since Jack Gardner and Bill Foster, Utah has struggled recruiting top tier Africal American players. Partly this could be because basketball is an urban, blue state game, particularly among African American players, and Utah is perceived as small and red state. I think Utah also still suffers negative collateral perceptions because of historic LDS and BYU attitutes and beliefs toward AAs. (As I've noted, in the past, when Utah recruited great AA players, they were excluded from many universities including the entire SEC. Query whether Billy McGill would be available to us today.)

Pac 12 membership will really help overcome the challenges.

I agree about PAC-12 membership. But have you ever been to Tucson? It does not exactly scream out "urban blue state." My point is that if they can get good AA players there, we can get them in Salt Lake. I hear that once the players get to Salt Lake the stereotypes are exploded and the city tends to become a plus. It won't beat L.A. or the Bay Area for many kids, but Salt Lake ought to hold its own against Tucson, Corvallis, Pullman and yes, Phoenix.

SeattleUte
05-20-2013, 04:36 PM
LA, I took the liberty of fixing your quoted langauge to conform with my edited post.

SoCalPat
05-20-2013, 04:48 PM
I don't see any reason why we can't be Arizona. Up until 2005 they had pretty comparable history. Both with a NCAA title, both with 4 final four appearances.
Both programs peaked at the same time (except we kicked the crap out of them). They were just able to beat Kentucky to win it, we couldn't those years.

And I don't see any reason why the football program can't be USC.

In the modern era (shot clock/3-point shot/ESPN), we matched Arizona's success for about one decade in the 1990s. They absolutely killed us in the 1980s, 2000s and are on their way to owning this decade as well, as far a comparison between the two programs is concerned.

But that's secondary to the original question: Why can't we be Arizona? I don't think we're capable of doing anything outrageous. I don't mean anything that would have the NCAA camped out on our doorstep, but I would appreciate being on their radar. It might mean we're pushing the envelope.

In the meantime, we have an AD that has repeatedly missed on his first choices for coach, an apparel contract that features product (sneakers) that has been basically non-existent in the minds of the people that matter most (recruits) for several years and only now is making the smallest of ripples, we have an outdated arena in badly need of an upgrade and influential donors that are more concerned about winning the "right" way rather than just winning.

Being outrageous means doing in hoops what Ole Miss football (or even Arizona football ... yes, football) has done in recruiting recently. Or hiring a coach that no one would have ever believed would come to Utah. Olsen finished his tenure at Iowa with five consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances in a non-64-team field era and went to Arizona as it was coming off a 4-24 season. Think we could ever land a coach like that today? And that's not even a slight against Larry, who rates pretty low when it comes to the program's current obstacles. But we're a bland program with mediocre results and a name that registers only when comparing media guides.

Maybe the P-12 tournament will provide that boost we need to become relevant again, then good, then very good. But we've seen bursts like this before under Giacoletti and Boylen before. History says (like football with Urban Meyer) that we need something more sustaining to impact the program than a four-game win streak.

UteStar
05-23-2013, 10:01 AM
To be honest, any decent school can become some type of basketball powerhouse. The landscape has changed so much over the past couple of decades. TV is everywhere and smaller schools can still get exposure and bring in some solid talent. It has been mentioned, but I think the biggest thing that has worked against Utah over the past decade is coaching. Gaiac and Boylen were not the answers and that hurt the program. The jury is out on Krystko. But if he can continue to build the Utes back and get them to the NCAAs in the next couple of years, the foundation begins to be set again.

Utah showed how to do it with Majerus, but it would have been really solidified with a fabulous hiring after him. Didn't happen. But the direction of the program is positive - upgrades to practice facility, improves to the Huntsman, membership in the PAC-12...all of these things will help. If Krystko can keep this ship improving, the Utes can really come back. If Krystko falters, uuggh, the process will be set back another few years. I don't think my tender heart can take any more setbacks.

Two Utes
05-23-2013, 10:41 AM
To be honest, any decent school can become some type of basketball powerhouse. The landscape has changed so much over the past couple of decades. TV is everywhere and smaller schools can still get exposure and bring in some solid talent. It has been mentioned, but I think the biggest thing that has worked against Utah over the past decade is coaching. Gaiac and Boylen were not the answers and that hurt the program. The jury is out on Krystko. But if he can continue to build the Utes back and get them to the NCAAs in the next couple of years, the foundation begins to be set again.

Utah showed how to do it with Majerus, but it would have been really solidified with a fabulous hiring after him. Didn't happen. But the direction of the program is positive - upgrades to practice facility, improves to the Huntsman, membership in the PAC-12...all of these things will help. If Krystko can keep this ship improving, the Utes can really come back. If Krystko falters, uuggh, the process will be set back another few years. I don't think my tender heart can take any more setbacks.

These days, branding has become extremely important. Teams like Gonzaga, Valpo, Creighton and Butler have a brand that attracts better talent than their league warrants. Arizona has a brand. We need to create brand so kids pick us over other comparable BCS schools. You do that by having a run of three or four good years. Wichita State has started. If they can keep their coach and make another one or two runs, they are totally in business.

SoCalPat
05-23-2013, 11:31 AM
These days, branding has become extremely important. Teams like Gonzaga, Valpo, Creighton and Butler have a brand that attracts better talent than their league warrants. Arizona has a brand. We need to create brand so kids pick us over other comparable BCS schools. You do that by having a run of three or four good years. Wichita State has started. If they can keep their coach and make another one or two runs, they are totally in business.

Those schools are all-in with hoops because none of them field a team at the FBS level. They've long embraced the fact that they don't have football and they're comfortable with who they are. And while Arizona was creating a hoops monster, they were also the punchline/answer to a pretty longstanding football trivia question as well.

As for WSU, they've been "in business" pretty much the last decade. Three NCAA bids, five NIT bids, an NIT title, a Final Four and a Sweet 16, in addition to two league titles and five second-place finishes.

HuskyFreeNorthwest
05-25-2013, 10:48 PM
I'm not sure this was as important 30 years ago, but what kind of money is going into a program. Oregon had maybe the worst tradition in the Pac 10 previous to Kent taking over and Uncle Phil pouring in uniforms and excitement and eventually over $100mm towards a new arena. Now Oregon appears to be headed to change their stars and become a consistent upper division team in the conference.

Arizona, once they started winning poured money into hoops. Their bball arena was as nice as anywhere in the country and seemingly every year there is some improvement being done.


Kids are superficial, they care about winning and how nice things will be for them. Most don't care about tradition, that's saved for fans and media to discuss. Utah appears to have a good coach that can steer the talent they are getting towards winning. Will top western talent want to play in the 7-9th best gym if the others are offering? IMO that's the $64,000 question.

LA Ute
05-25-2013, 11:01 PM
I'm not sure this was as important 30 years ago, but what kind of money is going into a program. Oregon had maybe the worst tradition in the Pac 10 previous to Kent taking over and Uncle Phil pouring in uniforms and excitement and eventually over $100mm towards a new arena. Now Oregon appears to be headed to change their stars and become a consistent upper division team in the conference.

Arizona, once they started winning poured money into hoops. Their bball arena was as nice as anywhere in the country and seemingly every year there is some improvement being done.


Kids are superficial, they care about winning and how nice things will be for them. Most don't care about tradition, that's saved for fans and media to discuss. Utah appears to have a good coach that can steer the talent they are getting towards winning. Will top western talent want to play in the 7-9th best gym if the others are offering? IMO that's the $64,000 question.

I think the new basketball training facility will be a big help. The JMHC needs modernizing/upgrading (as you've often pointed out, correctly), and it looks like that is coming too. How soon, we don't know.

pangloss
05-28-2013, 05:26 PM
You've phrased the question presuming that Utah can not be as successful. I do not think that's true.

Arizona has some advantages - continuity of successful seasons, P12 heritage, etc. But I'm optimistic, I think the biggest reason impeding Utah's reemergence on the national basketball scene on a par with AZ has been addressed - the coaching staff change. And as LA notes, the training facility plans will help recruiting.

Oh, and the Utes should have beaten the 'cats last year in Tucson. The Utes are close.

LA Ute
05-28-2013, 06:11 PM
You've phrased the question presuming that Utah can not be as successful. I do not think that's true.

Good point. What I intended (and should have asked) is, "Is there any reason why Utah basketball can't be as successful as Arizona basketball?" The consensus seems to be that the answer is no. I certainly think so.

UTEopia
05-29-2013, 09:04 AM
There certainly is nothing inherent in the Utah that makes it impossible for it to be as successful as Arizona. The U has had varying degrees of success in every decade I have been alive. What it will take in some consistency. What makes great programs great? They are able to continue moving forward when the coach leaves. Our last three hires have all been starting over from a coaching standpoint. There was no carryover from one regime to the next. What is interesting in looking back is that Giac was able to take Majerus players and coach them into the sweet 16. Boylen was able to take players that Giac was not doing well with and take them to a conference championship and a No. 5 seed. Neither were able to build on that initial success. It can certainly be argued that one or both could have done so if given more time, but I don't want to see this devolve to that debate again. So, what will it take to get to the level where we are playing in the NCAA's on an almost annual basis.

1. Coaching stability. We cannot afford to start over with a new coaching staff every 4 or 5 years.
2. Facilities. We have been behind the 8 ball for at least a decade although it appears things are starting to move. The facilities do not need to be completed to have an impact. Simply being able to show recruits a game plan will help.
3. Winning. The late flurry in the conference tournament gave the coaches, players and fans a boost into the off-season. We cannot afford to move backwards next season.
4. Recruiting success. Loveridge was a big signing and he played as well as anyone could have expected his freshman season. Taylor and Tucker were both pleasant surprises to me and Olsen shows some promise. I think they all have room to grow and progress and it will be interesting to see how much they improve from year one to year two. We need to hope that 2 or 3 of the most recent signees come in and make significant impacts. Chapman must certainly be a very good player to get the attention he is getting, but he would be huge from an image standpoint.

We have climbed two steps up the ladder. We need to take the next three steps this coming year. We will not reach the level of Arizona in one year. But I think we are closer to starting that journey today then we have been for a number of years.