Arizona Basketball

Friday Fix: Will Todd Graham become one of the more loathed ASU coaches by Arizona fans?





Todd Graham is the sixth ASU coach to follow the most despised of all for Arizona followers — Frank Kush

Rich Rodriguez told the media Monday that because ASU and Arizona are arch-rivals, tonight’s game can be personal in some regards “but I am not playing”

Introducing Arizona fans’ newest ASU coach to possibly loathe — Todd Graham. Time will tell where he will rank among the most despised by Wildcat fans. That’s if he sticks around long enough (you know his history by now). The top three in the WAC and Pac-10/12 era is Frank Kush at No. 1 by a mile followed by Larry Marmie and Darryl Rogers. Why not Bruce Snyder, Dirk Koetter or Dennis Erickson in the top three? The late Snyder did not cause friction. He and Dick Tomey tried to bring decorum to the rivalry. Koetter was 4-2 against Arizona but that was during the Wildcats’ Dark Ages — the transition from John Mackovic to Mike Stoops from 2001 to 2006. Erickson was not around long enough for loathing to materialize and he was 2-3 against Arizona. …

Explaining the top three: Arizona held a 23-8 series advantage over ASU when Kush became the Sun Devils’ head coach in 1958. During Kush’s 21 years at ASU (1958-79), the Sun Devils turned the table on the Wildcats with a 16-5 record. Kush inexplicably executed three two-point conversions in ASU’s 55-19 victory at Sun Devil Stadium in 1973. Arizona made amends with a 10-0 win in 1974, the last time either team has shut out the other in the series. Marmie ordered a fake punt with less than four minutes remaining and ASU leading 37-6 in 1991. The Wildcats later scored a touchdown and added a two-point conversion but ASU won 37-14 to end Arizona’s nine-year unbeaten streak. Rogers faced Larry Smith in 1980 in a first-year battle of head coaches in the rivalry — similar to Graham and Rich Rodriguez this season and Koetter and Mackovic in 2011 — and the Sun Devils kicked the Wildcats when they were down. Arizona Daily Star sports columnist Greg Hansen wrote in a 2005 column: “In 1980, Darryl Rogers rolled up an unnecessary 44-7 victory on Larry Smith’s first Arizona football team. Smith thereafter put special emphasis on a game that needed no special emphasis.” … The only Arizona connection Graham has — other than his coaching affiliation with Rodriguez when he was part of Rodriguez’s staff at West Virginia — is that former UA staffer Chris Del Conte hired Graham at Rice in 2006. Del Conte was Rice’s athletic director after serving as the UA’s senior associate athletics director for external operations and sports programs from 2000-2006. Graham was Del Conte’s first hire at Rice. After one season, Graham bolted to Tulsa despite Del Conte re-working his contract to extend to 2012. Del Conte, now the AD at TCU, did this after Graham led Rice to its first bowl in 45 years. …

Tony Dews, Arizona wide receivers coach

Tony Gibson, assistant head coach, safeties, defensive special teams

Calvin Magee, associate head coach, co-offensive coordinator, running backs

When Graham left Pitt after one season, one member of the media in Houston, where Rice is located, labeled the coach: “Todd Graham, Mr. Premature Evacuation”. The Houston Chronicle’s Jerome Solomon wrote, “This scoundrel has some gall. He was so upset that three of his assistant coaches left for jobs at Arizona a couple weeks ago, that he called them mercenaries. Then he has the nerve to turnaround and run out on the job himself yesterday, leaving Pittsburgh after only one season to go to Arizona State.” Tony Dews, Tony Gibson and Calvin Magee are the “mercenaries” Graham spoke of when the assistants left his staff at Pitt on Dec. 3 to join Rodriguez in Arizona. Less than two weeks later, Graham was bound for Tempe after only one season in Pitt. … Graham coaching his fourth program in seven years might be tiresome news to some, but his nomad ways play a role in this Arizona-ASU series when the teams play tonight because of his “mercenary” comment. The first definition for mercenary in the dictionary: “Motivated solely by a desire for monetary or material gain.” Graham has every right to better his life like all of us — as he sees fit with these moves of his — but for him to call Dews, Gibson and Magee mercenaries with his background of jumping from job to job must strike a nerve with the assistants and Rodriguez. The Arizona-ASU rivalry makes the game “personal” in some regards, Rodriguez explained at his Monday press conference. Rodriguez has yet to experience the rivalry up close and personal in a game, so how could he term anything with it personal yet? I think we know why. …

Rodriguez and Graham do not have admirable pasts in rivalry games. Graham was on the losing end of the “The Backyard Brawl” rivalry last year between his Pitt team and West Virginia. The Mountaineers beat the Panthers 21-20 behind 10 sacks, including an incredible nine in the last 25 plays. Graham and West Virginia’s Dana Holgorsen downplayed their differences in the week leading up to that game, much like everybody heard all week from Rodriguez and Graham about tonight’s game. Halgorsen and Graham faced each other three times previously when Holgorsen, as offensive coordinator at Houston and Oklahoma State, beat Graham’s Tulsa teams. Houston routed No. 25 Tulsa 70-30 in 2008. After No. 13 Houston won at Tulsa 46-45 in the following season, Holgorsen accused Tulsa’s defensive players of faking injuries to try to slow Houston’s offense. Graham disagreed with Halgorsen’s assessment. “I think people have probably made more of that than there is,” Graham was quoted as saying by CBSSports.com about the strained relationship. The key word is probably. … BleacherReport.com published a blog in 2008 titled: “Rich Rodriguez Doesn’t Have the Attitude to Beat Ohio State”. Rodriguez was 0-3 against Ohio State and Jim Tressel in his three years with the Wolverines (2006-09). The blog criticizes Rodriguez for having a passive attitude toward Ohio State. Rodriguez has not shown that kind of behavior toward ASU from the start. In his introductory press conference, Rodriguez said “It will be emphasized every day how important that rivalry game is with ASU.” He obviously learned his lesson mentioning that “team up north” as Rodriguez refers to ASU. …

If Arizona beats ASU, it stands a good chance at a better payday and more exposure with a spot in the Las Vegas Bowl

What in the name of “The StreaK” is going on around here? Can it be true that ASU is 5-3 in its last eight games in Tucson? Yes and not only is it true but the Sun Devils have won by an average of 16.8 points in those five victories, starting with their 56-14 victory in 1996. ASU also beat Arizona in Tucson by scores of 30-17, 34-20 and 28-14 in that stretch. ASU’s success follows Arizona’s 6-1 stretch at Arizona Stadium against the Sun Devils starting when “The Streak” — the Wildcats’ nine-game unbeaten streak against ASU — began in 1982. … Arizona and ASU are both bowl eligible but a lot is on the line tonight beside bragging rights. A win or loss can been the difference of about a half-million dollars and increased exposure during the bowl season. If the Wildcats beat ASU and finish 8-4, their record would be impressive enough to draw an invitation from the Las Vegas Bowl, which has a payout of $1.1 million for each team. The Wildcats would also play a conference champion from the Mountain West — either Boise State, San Diego State or Fresno State — which brings more magnitude to the ESPN televised game. If the UA loses to ASU, a trip to the New Mexico Bowl as the Pac-12’s No. 7 team might be eminent. The payout for that game is $456,250 and the Wildcats would be matched against the Mountain West’s No. 4 or No. 5 team. It would be the first bowl game of the season on Dec. 15. … If the UA lands in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl in San Francisco on Dec. 29, it would be paid $837,500 to play Navy. The Wildcats have never played Navy, so that would make it interesting. Arizona has also never played Army. The Wildcats have not faced Air Force since 1974, when they competed against each other in the WAC. …

Derrick Williams has a business venture coming soon to Tucson

Derrick Williams has a store coming close to you. Williams, the former Arizona player who was the 2010-11 Pac-12 Player of the Year, announced on his Facebook page Thursday: “I have a Store opening in Tucson on January 1st! Way to kick off the year right!? More details to come.” My best guess it is a sports apparel store, but only a guess. That speaks volumes for his gratitude to Tucson that Williams chose the city to open a store instead of in southern California (where he is from) or Minneapolis (where he plays with the Timberwolves). Those are bigger population areas. Make no mistake, this is a good recruiting tool for Arizona coach Sean Miller, who can tell prospective players that Williams made something of himself despite entering his UA career without all the fanfare of most recruits. Now look at him: Highly successful and starting a business, keeping Tucson and the university close to his interests. What recruit would not want to follow a similar path? … Loren Woods, Arizona’s center when it played in the 2001 NCAA tournament championship against Duke, has not played in the NBA since 2006 but he remains a fixture in pro basketball in the Middle East. Woods has alternated between playing professionally in Iran and Lebanon the last four years. After playing in Iran last season, he is back in Lebanon playing for the same team (Al Riyadi Beirut) he was part of in 2010-11. The Wall Street Journal ran a feature on Americans playing basketball in Beirut in 2010, and the piece included Woods (in the accompanying video). According to the report, Woods, 34, was the highest paid player in Lebanon in 2010, earning an estimated $300,000. It was interesting to see military police separating sections of Sunni Muslims who support Al Riyadi and Maronite Christians who support the rival team. … Woods, who tied an NCAA record with 14 blocked shots against Oregon in 2000, reportedly was charged with a DUI in Tampa, Fla., in April. Woods was charged with misdemeanor DUI and a felony count of bribery of a public servant. No other reports have surfaced involving this case.

Site publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner

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