Arizona Basketball

Gimino, Rivera educate Arizona Wildcats basketball fans young and old with new book

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Lute Olson, with authors Steve Rivera (left) and Anthony Gimino, helped with the details of the recently published book "100 things ...

Lute Olson, with authors Steve Rivera (left) and Anthony Gimino, helped with the details of the recently published book “100 things Arizona fans should know & do before they die”. Olson wrote the “Foreword” of the book.

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I preface this review by writing that Anthony Gimino and Steve Rivera are friends of mine professionally and personally dating to the late 1980s. I also had a very small part in helping them gather information for their book “100 things Arizona fans should know & do before they die” that was recently published by Triumph books.

Being a professional journalist for almost 30 years I know that writing a review of a book such as this means I must put blinders on and remain objective.

The title of the book is an attention-grabber. My take on that: These 100 elements of Arizona’s storied program should be known and appreciated by anybody who takes a seat at McKale Center or sits in front of a television set and supports the Wildcats.

If you are 20 years old and have no idea who Joe Skaisgir is, well, you should.

If you have not acquired an appreciation for what Al Fleming meant for the development of Arizona’s program, can you call yourself a Wildcat hoops purist?

Gimino and Rivera offer a brief history lesson that includes many stories those who have followed the program will recognize. Many of the players are well known, especially in the Lute Olson and Sean Miller eras. Gimino and Rivera took on the difficult task of publishing something we don’t already know.

Detailed research and interviews accomplished the objective of presenting to the uneducated readers what they should learn about Arizona basketball. The book is not designed to be a tell-all book bringing to light personal stories for shock value. It is information at your fingertips about all the elements that are essential to Arizona hoops.

Rivera and Gimino managed to deliver those elements in book form in a short period of time.

“When Triumph agreed to do the book in early January it was a mad scramble to put it together; so many people to talk to and so much research to do,” Rivera said. “Luckily, Anthony agreed to join in and we had incredible help with research.

“We provided much more than what was needed and it turned into a book that was more in content than the Kentucky book and Kansas book. We think the Wildcat fans will enjoy it, finding out more about their beloved Cats than they already knew.”

Olson writes in the “Foreword” that he “spent time with (Gimino and Rivera) on multiple occasions for this book, providing further detail on some of the classic players and stories of the past 30-plus years.”

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AnthonySteve.Book

Perfect gift for any Arizona or college hoops fan this holiday season: A complete rundown of the Arizona basketball program as we might not know it put together by longtime Tucson sportswriters Steve Rivera and Anthony Gimino. Please e-mail Rivera, Gimino or ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com for ordering details.


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In his sessions with Gimino and Rivera, Olson himself learned more about the program he built.

“The most fun part of putting together the book,” Gimino said, “was hearing so many great stories — some that were even new to Lute Olson — and, in a sense, rediscovering Arizona basketball’s rich history through interviews and research that I hope will have fans strolling down memory lane, saying, ‘Wow, I didn’t know that.’

“Shoot, the hard part was running out of room for more good stuff — but, don’t worry, Arizona fans, this book still ended up bigger than the Kentucky version. So, there’s that.”

The contribution of Olson was vital to the efforts of Gimino and Rivera. Olson’s imprint on the book is evident in many of the “100 things” Arizona fans should know.

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An example includes Olson sharing his insight about when he came in contact with Sean Elliott, Damon Stoudamire and Steve Kerr — three Arizona hoops immortals — while they were developing at the high school level before they attended Arizona.

The effort of Gimino and Rivera is all-encompassing, delving into the forgettable moments as well as the memorable ones to provide a total value of Arizona’s hoops history.

You will turn the page detailing the collapse against Illinois in the 2005 Elite Eight to the uplifting story of Jason Gardner becoming Arizona’s Iron Man.

The topics, such as the Illinois collapse, add life to the book. Others include the players Arizona loves to hate, the rift between Olson and the Arizona Daily Star and the storied rivalries with ASU, Duke and UNLV (that involves the personal clash between Olson and Jerry Tarkanian). The Arizona-UCLA rivalry is not addressed. That is one topic that should have been included, but as Gimino stated, some material was left at the cutting board.

A nice, necessary touch: The fringe elements of the program have their place in Arizona basketball lore and they are included in this book. These are stories of the Ooh Aah Man, the Gumbys, booster George Kalil and the late Bobbi Olson.

Gimino and Rivera are newspapermen who have adjusted to the new form of Internet reporting and social media. This book resembles their past of educating readers in the printed word about Arizona basketball. In that sense, it’s a throwback to a generation to when many of these stories developed. I found it worthwhile to sift through the book’s 294 pages, page by page, instead of clicking on a hyperlink. Why not make the effort, for example, to get a better understanding of what productive point guards Eric Money and Russell Brown meant to the program before Olson developed Point Guard U.? After reading this you will be an Arizona basketball aficionado.

Elliott’s mother Odiemae Elliott, who passed away this year, does not have her own section but she is mentioned in one of the most meaningful anecdotes. It involves her supportive message to Olson before her son attended Arizona.

She communicated with the coach after he disciplined Arizona senior starters Pete Williams and Morgan Taylor in 1984 for violating a team policy by not meeting curfew on a trip to Seattle. While others in Tucson criticized Olson for not playing Williams and Taylor at UCLA with Arizona in the Pac-10 race, Odiemae Elliott became more impressed with her son’s future coach.

“She said, ‘You’re exactly the type of coach I want Sean to play for,'” Olson is quoted as saying by Gimino and Rivera.

Having followed Arizona basketball since the early 1970s, when the Kiddie Korps became a sensation at the new McKale Center, I see value in this book from an informational perspective.

Gimino and Rivera are newspapermen who have adjusted to the new form of Internet reporting and social media. This book resembles their past of educating readers in the printed word about Arizona basketball. In that sense, it’s a throwback to a generation to when many of these stories developed.

I found it worthwhile to sift through the book’s 294 pages, page by page, instead of clicking on a hyperlink. Why not make the effort, for example, to get a better understanding of what productive point guards Eric Money and Russell Brown meant to the program before Olson developed Point Guard U.? After reading this you will be an Arizona basketball aficionado.

Arizona’s dynamic present with Miller and athletic director Greg Byrne relies on the past with those coaches and administrators who built the program like Olson, Jim Livengood, Cedric Dempsey, Dave Strack, Fred Snowden, Fred Enke Sr. and J.F “Pop” McKale. Gimino and Rivera provide that bridge with this book.

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

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