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Film-making brothers Brad Malone and Sean P. Malone are no different than the guy at the end of the bar who wears an Arizona cap and talks hours about Wildcat basketball.
They do not require interview requests to go through a PR agency because they don’t have one. They don’t work for ESPN and demand carte blanche treatment around McKale Center.
They are as homey as the Ooh Aah Man.
“People don’t know me from anybody,” Brad told me the other day. “My brother and I could be viewed by Steve Kerr as the one million other people who say, ‘I love you, Kerr.’ We went a step further and asked, ‘Can we come to your house?'”
The Malone brothers gained access to Kerr’s San Diego-area home last year to interview the legendary Arizona guard. Lute Olson welcomed them into his Tucson home to discuss Wildcat basketball. Sean Elliott did not hesitate about sitting down with them in a Phoenix hotel room for an interview a few months ago.
Nothing is an obstacle for Brad, who works the night shift at Whole Foods, and Sean, a budding independent cinematographer who takes part in low-budget projects in the Los Angeles area.
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The all-access with Arizona’s basketball dignitaries is the equivalent of an obscure Wildcat basketball program making it to the big-time of college basketball as a Final Four participant in 1988.
Arizona fans from that generation will relive the experience and younger supporters will learn about the magic of the 1987-88 team in an upcoming documentary titled “88”, produced by the Malone brothers.
The Malones were in grade school when Arizona finished 35-3 that season and captivated Tucson like no other team before or after it because of the novelty of such success and the characters involved.
Brad and Sean grew up in Tucson, attended Sahuaro High School and earned bachelor’s degrees at Arizona (Brad in journalism and Sean in communications). They have worshiped the triumvirate of Wildcat basketball — Olson, Kerr and Elliott — like most people do with the Father, Son and Holy Ghost.
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“I’ve always loved that 1988 team; they were like rock stars to us,” Brad said. “I wanted to dig deeper and do some research on the team. I have the historical side and my brother, who went on to get his master’s at Miami in film making, lends his artistic side. Movies and basketball are our two favorite things. We thought about it and said, ‘Let’s combine them.'”.
They developed the idea for the documentary “88” seven years ago after Sean completed his graduate work and started his cinematography projects. The idea was fueled, of all things, by a piece filmed by a friend about the ostrich farm between Phoenix and Tucson off of I-10.
“It was a great movie documentary about the ostriches,” Brad said. “I became so inspired by it that I said, ‘Hey, I can make a movie’. The next question was, ‘What do I want to make a movie about?’ The 1988 Final Four team immediately came to mind.”
The ball started to roll for the project in 2009, after Olson officially retired. Brad and Sean noticed the Hall of Fame coach on the floor at McKale Center as they were walking through the arena on a concourse above.
They got into a discussion of whether they should approach Olson for an interview for “88” the same way a young fan hesitates to ask a star for an autograph.
When he hosted the Bear Down Bias podcast (of which he plans to resume), Brad had the ability to attract some of the who’s who of Arizona basketball and football despite his relatively low profile among Tucson sports journalists.
He interned at Channel 4 after earning his journalism degree in 2003. Aside from his podcasts, the only time Tucsonans heard his work was in 2005 when he was a field reporter for a Tucson radio station that produced a “Friday Night Lights” high school football update show.
In the Bear Down Bias podcast, Brad interviewed Dick Tomey, Jim Rosborough, Chuck Levy, Matt Othick, Heath Bray and Brandon Sanders. Tomey made the revelation in the interview with Brad that he was approached for the coaching vacancies at Miami (Fla.) and Washington in 1995 and 1998, respectively.
For updates on the production of the documentary “88” like its Facebook page
“My brother has been to film events where he’s talked to filmmakers and the advice he received from filmmakers is that if you want a story, you just have to talk to people,” Brad said. “You have to find them and approach them.
“In Lute’s case in 2009, we followed him out of the arena and told him we were big fans and that we wanted to film a documentary on the 1988 team. Keep in mind we had no film-making experience. He told us to contact the basketball office to set up something. After a couple of tries, we sent him a card. We bugged him a while. Finally, he got a hold of us and told us to come to his house and we’ll do the interview there.”
Brad chuckled while recounting the story and said, “Um sure, we can go to your house.”
That was the break Brad and Sean needed to get their project in motion. They have also interviewed Olson at McKale Center.
Bruce Fraser scheduled an interview at his California home with the Malones after Brad connected with his sister through Facebook.
Brad e-mailed an interview request with the USC sports information office when former Arizona assistant and interim coach Kevin O’Neill was coaching the Trojans. Before the interview could be set up, O’Neill was fired. A member of the school’s sports information office still got back to Brad and told him to call O’Neill any time. O’Neill invited the brothers to his house.
Sean Elliott agreed to an interview in Phoenix after Brad e-mailed his wife in San Antonio. Elliott, a Spurs broadcaster, was in Phoenix that day when the Suns hosted San Antonio.
“Sean was great, laughing and having a good time reminiscing about that team,” Brad said. “So far, everybody we’ve talked to has been accommodating and gracious. It means a lot to me because when you’re young you worship somebody like Michael Jordan.
“These guys are all like Michael Jordan to me.”
The connection with Kerr came about when Brad approached him after Kerr broadcast one of Arizona’s games. Kerr welcomed the Malones to his house for the interview, which was beneficial to their project because of the relaxed setting.
“I want the younger generation who did not watch that team know how important it was to the development of the program. Sean Elliott and Steve Kerr … the Gumbies … the big wins … the dominance … the Hall of Fame coach … Those guys spoiled us. We’ve wanted every season to be just like that one.”
— Brad Malone
The receptive nature of Arizona’s biggest names — Olson, Elliott and Kerr — to the documentary “88” indicates their accommodating personalities and love for that team.
“Once we were able to get those three guys, we knew we got the triangle,” Brad said. “We can only shoot high from there. We still have a lot of people we want to talk to.”
ESPN college basketball analyst Jay Bilas agreed to an interview in February when College GameDay visited McKale Center.
Brad wants to talk to some of the big-name coaches Arizona beat that season — Bill Frieder (Michigan), Jim Boeheim (Syracuse) and Mike Krzyzewski (Duke), to name a few. They may also interview Roy Williams, who was a North Carolina assistant coach when the Wildcats beat the Tar Heels in the Elite Eight.
The Malones will attempt to interview more members of the 1987-88 team and some opposing players from other conference programs that season.
“I want the younger generation who did not watch that team know how important it was to the development of the program,” Brad said. “Sean Elliott and Steve Kerr … the Gumbies (the nickname of Arizona’s bench players) … the big wins … the dominance … the Hall of Fame coach. … Those guys spoiled us. We’ve wanted every season to be just like that one.”
The famous “Wild about the Cats” video produced by the 1987-88 team with guard Harvey Mason, now a prominent music producer, providing the lyrics
The documentary’s purpose, according to the Malones, is to document how that team made Arizona a nationally prominent program only five seasons after the Wildcats were at the depths of college basketball with a 4-24 record in 1982-83.
“I want to get into how Lute Olson came to be at Arizona,” Brad said. “The story goes that (former athletic director) Cedric Dempsey set out to talk with the loser of the 1983 Sweet 16 game between Villanova and Iowa in Kansas City — Rollie Massimino or Olson — about the Arizona job. What if Iowa won that game? That could have changed everything. We want to also interview Dempsey about that.”
The Hawkeyes came up short with the 55-54 loss, unable to reach another Final Four under Olson after advancing that far in 1980.
The Malones aim to have a trailer released about the documentary soon. With the trailer an example of what lies ahead, they plan to get financial assistance through Kickstarter and Indiegogo to help complete their project by the time March Madness starts next year.
“The ultimate goal is to have it be a ‘Thirty for Thirty’ documentary on ESPN,” Brad said. “The only reason why we feel that is a possibility is because Sean Miller has brought the program back to prominence.
“Other than that, we want to get it on a sports outlet. There are so many sports channels and Internet sites out there. People will see it on TV, cable, iTunes, the internet or on DVD. There will be a big Tucson premiere at the Loft. We hope to bring some of that excitement from the 1987-88 season back with fresh stories. That’s what we want.”
With how far the Malone brothers have come, out of obscurity to land interviews in the homes of Olson and Kerr, who can doubt them in their quest?
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