Arizona Basketball

Arizona Wildcats and Michigan Wolverines share extensive past

[ezcol_1half id=”” class=”” style=””]

The Arizona Wildcats’ connection with Michigan dates all the way back to 1972, when Dave Strack resigned from his business manager position with the Wolverines to become athletic director at Arizona.

Former Arizona athletic director Dave Strack, instrumental in hiring Fred Snowden, Jim Young and Larry Smith, coached Michigan to the 1965 NCAA hoops title game

Former Arizona athletic director Dave Strack, instrumental in hiring Fred Snowden, Jim Young and Larry Smith, coached Michigan to the 1965 NCAA hoops title game

Strack, a Michigan head basketball coach from 1960-68, led the Wolverines to the 1965 NCAA title game. He attended Michigan from 1943-46 and earned team MVP honors with the Wolverines twice. Shortly after moving to Tucson in early 1972, he swayed Wolverines assistant coach Fred Snowden to leave his Michigan roots and follow him to Tucson.

For a decade, Snowden coached in the Detroit school system. His teams had an 189-7 record, never losing more than two games in a season. He took a pay cut to become an assistant coach at Michigan in 1968.

Snowden replaced Bruce Larson as Arizona’s head coach in 1972-73, becoming the first African-American head coach of a major university in the process. Snowden was an assistant under Strack and Johnny Orr at Michigan.

After becoming Arizona’s coach, Snowden proceeded to recruit some of Michigan’s finest talent who might have played for the Wolverines if he remained an assistant there.

The list includes Eric Money and Coniel Norman from Detroit’s Kettering High School. In his second season with the Wildcats, Snowden convinced one of the greatest Arizona players in the history of the program — center Bob Elliott — to leave his Ann Arbor home for Tucson.

Snowden, nicknamed “The Fox”, was a showman, a talker, but he backed up his words early in his Arizona coaching career.


[ezcol_1half_end id=”” class=”” style=””]

ArizonaLogo opp.Michiganlogo

Arizona (9-0, 0-0 Pac-12)
vs. Michigan (6-3, 0-0 Big Ten)

Tip: 10:07 a.m., Tucson time
Television: CBS (Jim Nantz/Greg Anthony)
Radio: Arizona IMG Sports Network (Brian Jeffries/Ryan Hansen)
Satellite Radio: Sirius 92; XM 190
Rankings: Arizona – No. 1 Associated Press/No. 1 USA Today Coaches Poll; Michigan – No. 25 USA Today Coaches Poll.

“I was an assistant at Michigan, and you telling me the Big Ten is as tough as the WAC?” Snowden asked the Sports Illustrated in a 1974 article. “We had four teams that would kick Indiana’s butt at the end of last season. Put that down. Put down The Fox was one of them.”

The Wildcats came one game away from the 1976 Final Four under Snowden, an indication that Arizona basketball could thrive on a national scale.


[ezcol_1half id=”” class=”” style=””]

Strack also hired Jim Young, a four-year defensive coordinator under Bo Schembechler at Michigan, to become Arizona’s head football coach in 1973. Schembechler phoned Strack to lobby Young for the job, vacated when Bob Weber resigned. Candidates included Dan Reeves (player-coach with the Broncos at the time) and San Diego State’s Don Coryell (who went on to a credible NFL career).

Young coached Arizona to a 31-13 record in four years, preparing the program for a jump from the WAC to the Pac-10 in 1978.

Jim Young was a defensive coordinator for Bo Schembechler at Michigan before coaching at Arizona starting in 1973

Jim Young was a defensive coordinator for Bo Schembechler at Michigan before coaching at Arizona starting in 1973

Tony Mason, a Michigan assistant from 1964-68, took over in 1977 after Young left to Purdue. When Mason was forced to resign after only three seasons amid an NCAA investigation of alleged recruiting violations, Larry Smith, a Michigan assistant who followed Young to Tucson in 1972, took over the Arizona program in 1980.

Smith coached the Wildcats to national success in his seven years before leaving to USC. He started “The Streak”, a nine-year unbeaten run against ASU, and coached the Wildcats to consecutive bowls after the program served a two-year NCAA ban following the infractions of the previous staff.

Tony Mason

Tony Mason

The coaching bond with Michigan ended there until Rich Rodriguez was hired by Arizona athletic director Greg Byrne in 2011. The significant difference is Rodriguez was not lured away from Michigan. He was fired after only three years in Ann Arbor (from 2008-10).

Aside from the coaching ties, the Wildcats have a brief history playing Michigan in football and a bit longer series against the basketball program.

Arizona has played two highly-ranked Michigan football teams relatively tough in Ann Arbor. The Wildcats lost 20-9 to No. 8 Michigan in the 1970 season opener. They lost 21-17 against third-ranked Michigan in 1978 in front of 104,913 fans at The Big House. That is the largest crowd to ever watch an Arizona game.

Fred Snowden

Fred Snowden

In the hoops series, Arizona holds a 6-2 edge, with seven of those games in the Lute Olson era. Olson’s teams were 6-1 against Michigan, with the lone loss an overtime affair (73-71) at Auburn Hills, Mich., on Dec. 21, 1996, the season in which Arizona won the national title. Arizona has never played in Ann Arbor but has played twice against Michigan at Auburn Hills.

Laval Lucas-Perry — remember him? — transferred from Arizona to Michigan in December 2007 after playing briefly for interim coach Kevin O’Neill following Olson’s leave of absence. Lucas-Perry lasted two years with John Beilein before the Michigan coach kicked him off the team. Lucas-Perry finished his career at Oakland (Mich.) University.

That’s the history of Arizona and Michigan through the years. The Wolverines have produced three important coaches in Arizona’s history in football and basketball — Young, Smith and Snowden.

The programs go head-to-head again this morning with top-ranked Arizona facing Michigan in front of a sellout crowd at the Crisler Center.

Khalid Reeves

Khalid Reeves

Here is a listing of Arizona’s top five victories over Michigan (note that both teams were ranked in each game):

1. No. 12 Arizona 119, No. 7 Michigan 95, Dec. 30, 1993, McKale Center, Championship of the Valley Bank Fiesta Bowl Classic
Khalid Reeves scored a career-high 40 points, the most at McKale in the Pac-10/12 era, against Michigan’s Fab Four who played in the NCAA title game the previous two seasons. It was that group’s worse loss at Michigan. They included Jalen Rose, Juwan Howard, Jimmy King and Ray Jackson. Chris Webber had already left for the NBA.

2. No. 17 Arizona 79, No. 9 Michigan 64, Nov. 28, 1987, Great Alaska Shootout, Anchorange
— The Wildcats overcame 33 points from Glen Rice and Terry Mills to post one of the initial significant wins in the Olson era. Steve Kerr nailed three timely three-pointers and finished with 14 points and the Wildcats outrebounded a more physical Michigan team 35-28.


[ezcol_1half_end id=”” class=”” style=””]

PP: Productivity Points (Points, assists, rebounds, steals, blocked shots, FGs made, FTs made added together and then subtracted by missed FGs, missed FTs, personal fouls and turnovers)
MIN: Minutes played overall
PR: Productivity rating per minute played (Productivity points divided by minutes played)

[table “” not found /]

[table “” not found /]

[table “” not found /]

3. No. 6 Arizona 82, No. 4 Michigan 75, Nov. 25, 1989, Hall of Fame Tip-Off Classic, Springfield, Mass.
— This was Michigan’s season-opener after winning the national title almost eight months previously. Sean Rooks, a 6’11” sophomore, led Arizona with 20 points, including six consecutive free throws in the final minutes. Rumeal Robinson led Michigan with 27 points.

4. No. 19 Arizona 86, No. 16 Michigan 79, Nov. 22, 1995, Preseason NIT semifinals, New York City
Joseph Blair, who will be on the Arizona bench today as a graduate assistant, converted a game-clinching three-point play with 26 seconds remaining to break a two-minute scoreless drought for the Wildcats. Maurice Taylor had 18 points and Louis Bullock 22 for Michigan. Arizona went on to beat Georgetown for the Preseason NIT title.

5. No. 9 Arizona 78, No. 17 Michigan 57, Nov. 30, 1994, Auburn Hill, Mich.
Damon Stoudamire, who will be with Blair on the bench today as one of Sean Miller’s lead assistants, had five three-pointers and finished with 24 points against the Wolverines 19 years ago. The last two of the Fab Five — Jackson and King — each scored 11 points for the Wolverines.

[/ezcol_1half_end] publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He also writes articles for Bleacher Report, Lindy’s College Sports and


To Top