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An important comparison in the successful coaching careers of Fred Snowden, Lute Olson and Sean Miller at Arizona — they each recruited one of their best classes in their first season in Tucson.
Snowden’s Class of 1972, Olson’s Class of 1983 and Miller’s Class of 2009 each featured at least two players who were later selected in the NBA draft.
Snowden had four players, Olson three and Miller two. Two of these nine players who pumped life into the Arizona program immediately upon their arrival in Tucson wore No. 14. Eric Money and Eddie Smith had two contrasting styles playing different positions, but they share a tremendous value of putting Arizona’s program where it is today.
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Money came on board with fellow Detroit prospect Coniel Norman in 1972 after Snowden, a former Michigan assistant, was hired following a six-year stretch in which the Wildcats had only one winning season. The “Kiddie Korps”, which also included Al Fleming, Ron Davis, John Irving and Jim Rappis, was an immediate success posting a 35-17 record in the first two seasons.
Money and Norman left after their sophomore seasons for the NBA and took their high-scoring legacy with them. Money, who played six years in the NBA, had two games as a freshman at Arizona in which he scored 37 points.
The late Snowden, nicknamed “The Fox”, was the first black head coach at a major school, “the fly in the buttermilk of Tucson” as he told Sports Illustrated in a 1974 article.
Money and Snowden had the same outgoing charisma and he played Snowden’s up-tempo style to perfection.
An excerpt from the SI article:
Two years after Money and Norman left, the UA came one game away from the Final Four, losing in the West Regional final to UCLA in Pauley Pavilion in 1976. If Money and Norman stayed until they were seniors that year, Arizona would have advanced to its first Final Four before Olson arrived. No doubt about it.
Olson coached Arizona to its first Final Four in 1987-88 thanks to the foundation laid by Smith and teammates Pete Williams and Steve Kerr in Olson’s first recruiting class.
In their first season of 1983-84, the Wildcats won six of their last eight games, to finish with an 11-17 record. Arizona won nine of its first 12 games in the next season before traveling to ASU again to start the Pac-10 season. That’s when Smith contributed to one of the most legendary comebacks in UA history.
“This was the start of something that would set a tradition,” Smith writes in his e-book The Cornerstone of Arizona Basketball. “The clock clicked down to less than a minute. They were up 9 points. And remember, at that time in the game, there was no 3-point line.”
Smith converted on two traditional three-point plays instead as part of Arizona’s winning rally after ASU led 60-53 with 37 seconds remaining.
He scored and was fouled with 26 seconds remaining. His free throw cut the lead to 60-56. The late Bobby Thompson, an ASU guard who is the son of the former UA all-star tailback with the same name, missed the front end of a one-and-one free-throw situation and Williams grabbed the rebound. Arizona’s Morgan Taylor made a 20-foot jump shot with nine seconds left to cut the lead to 60-58.
Williams deflected the inbound pass and Smith emerged with the ball after a scramble. His scoop shot banked in while he was fouled by Thompson with two seconds remaining. The game was tied. A free throw would give the Wildcats the improbable lead.
“I went out to the free throw line,” Smith writes. “Got my rhythm and shot the ball with a relaxed follow-through motion. It went in. … Man, that was a comeback!
“We shocked the players, their coach, their fans and the majority of the betting world.”
Smith is an educator and motivational speaker who resides in Stockbridge, Ga. Money is an educator and assistant coach at Valley Park Prep in Los Angeles.
I spoke with Money at a 2010 Arizona basketball game at McKale Center.
Countdown to Tip-off Blogs:
— No. 15 embodies grit, determination and intelligence for Arizona Wildcats
— Ranking Arizona Wildcats’ top Sweet 16 victories
— Arizona Wildcats guard T.J. McConnell on Bob Cousy Award Watch List
— ASU’s Jahii Carson Arizona Wildcats’ top opposing player this season
— Mike Bibby, Tedy Bruschi spend day with Arizona Wildcats
— Arizona Wildcats guard Jordin Mayes sets sight on successful senior season with 20-20 vision
— Unsung players wore No. 21 proudly for Arizona Wildcats
— Jason Gardner’s No. 22 is retired but Coniel Norman and Ray Owes also wore number admirably for Arizona Wildcats
— Arizona Wildcats No. 23 players historic in different ways
— No. 24 in Arizona Wildcats history one for the statistical record books
— Steeeeeeeeve Kerrrrrrrr!!!!
— A look at the greatest takeaways from Arizona Wildcats’ Red-Blue Scrimmage
— A look at past, future today with Arizona Wildcats’ Red-Blue Scrimmage
— Arizona Wildcats’ Aaron Gordon vying to become third freshman to win Pac-12 player of year
— Ernie McCray did more than score for Arizona Wildcats
— Arizona Wildcats’ No. 31 not retired with Jason Terry’s name but should be
— No. 32 most storied jersey number in Arizona Wildcats history
— No. 33 in Arizona Wildcats history symbolic of hard work ethic, ideal role players
— Simon says: No. 34 special with two of Arizona Wildcats’ greatest wearing jersey number
— If Arizona Wildcats center Kaleb Tarczewski has field-goal percentage like Jud Buechler, UA will be fine
— Arizona Wildcats legend Sean Elliott scored career-high 36 points opposing Sean Miller
— Nick Johnson looks to improve perimeter shooting, limit turnovers
— Jordin Mayes hoping to return to shooting form earlier in Arizona Wildcats career
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— Nick Johnson looks to improve FG percentage while Arizona Wildcats limit opponents
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— Two of Arizona Wildcats’ best centers — Sean Rooks and Channing Frye — donned No. 45
— Arizona Wildcats great Ernie McCray reminisces about his record-setting 46-point performance
— Arizona Wildcats star recruit should not be compared to Blake Griffin
— Arizona Wildcats coach Sean Miller on fast track to Pac-12 success
— Things you may not know about Arizona Wildcats point guard T.J. McConnell
— Arizona Wildcats will benefit from presence of Joseph Blair in practice
— Arizona Wildcats preparing for what could be memorable 2013-14 season