Arizona Basketball

Plenty of Arizona Wildcats ties in Final Four version of NBA playoffs



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The Arizona Wildcats may have not advanced to the NCAA’s Final Four in more than 14 years, but members of their basketball family are very much in play in the Final Four version of the NBA playoffs.

Nine former players and Atlanta coach Mike Budenholzer are individuals with ties to the Arizona Wildcats program who are still alive in the NBA playoffs.

The abundance of Arizona Wildcats ties shows the ongoing significance for what Lute Olson started and Sean Miller is now carrying on in Tucson.

The following is a rundown of each individual remaining in the NBA playoffs with Arizona Wildcats ties:



Head coach Mike Budenholzer: He is a good friend former Arizona assistant coach Jim Rosborough, of whom he hired as a Hawks’ regional scout. Budenholzer served as a coach in Lute Olson’s basketball camp in 1990. Rosborough, now a Pima women’s basketball assistant coach, had an agreement with Budenholzer and the Hawks this season to scout players within driving distance from Tucson.


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Assistant coach Bret Brielmaier: The former Arizona Wildcats walk-on was named an assistant coach for the Cleveland Cavaliers in July 2013. He joined the Cavs after spending the previous four seasons with the San Antonio Spurs, most recently as the team’s video coordinator. The Mankato, Minn., native is a graduate of Arizona (2008). Brielmaier played on the Arizona Wildcats basketball team four years. He received his first glimpse into coaching during the 2008-09 season, as the team’s undergraduate assistant coach. The 27-year-old’s first NBA experience came in 2009-10 as the Spurs player development assistant before being promoted to video coordinator for the 2010-11 season.


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Head coach Steve Kerr: In the NBA Coach of the Year voting, Kerr was runner up to Budenholzer. Kerr led the Warriors to one of the best seasons in NBA history. Golden State ended with an overall record of 67-15, becoming the 10th team to win 67 or more games in a single season. The Warriors also ended with a 39-2 home record, which is the tied for the second best home record in NBA history. They became the first team in NBA history to have two win streaks over 15 at home (18 and 19) and broke a franchise record with 67 wins. In the opening round of the playoffs against the New Orleans Pelicans, Kerr led the Warriors to their first four-game playoff sweep since the 1975 NBA Finals.


Assistant coach Luke Walton: Walton’s first coaching experience was with Memphis with former Arizona player Josh Pastner, who hired Walton as an assistant coach during the 2011 NBA lockout. Following his retirement, Walton was hired as a player development coach by the Los Angeles D-Fenders of the NBA Development League, joining the team in November 2013 for the 2013–14 season. The following year, Walton became an assistant coach for the Warriors.


Assistant coach Bruce Fraser: Known as “Q” because he asked so many questions to Arizona’s coaches as a player, Fraser has a history of coaching under Olson, Quin Snyder and Larry Brown. He is also a former scout with the Suns. When he played at Arizona, he wore a Gumby doll in his sock.


Reserve forward Andre Iguodala: The 11-year NBA veteran was a solid NBA Sixth Man of the Year award candidate averaging 7.8 points and 3.3 rebounds a game. In the postseason, Iguodala has produced well when backing up Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson on the wing. He averages 8.3 points and 3.3 rebounds a game in the postseason.



Starting point guard Jason Terry: The Arizona player with the longest NBA career at 16 years and counting, Terry has elevated his play in the postseason as a starter after playing most of the regular season in his customary role as a bench player. In 11 postseason games, he is averaging 9.6 points and 2.7 assists a game, playing an average of 27.5 minutes a game. He is starting in place of regular starter Patrick Beverley, out since having surgery on his left wrist in March. In 77 regular season games, Terry averaged 7.0 points and 1.9 assists per game.


Reserve point guard Nick Johnson: In his rookie season, Johnson spent time both with Rio Grande of the D-League and Houston. He played in 28 regular season games with the Rockets, averaging 2.6 points. Through the first two rounds of the NBA playoffs, Johnson has mostly played in late stages of the game with the score no longer in doubt. He is averaging 1.7 points in 5 minutes per game. He is the third point guard in Houston’s rotation behind Terry and Pablo Prigioni.


Director of basketball operations Matt Brase: Olson’s grandson, a former walk-on at Arizona, has been in the coaching and administrative side of basketball since his playing days with the Wildcats. Following graduation, Brase spent two seasons as the Wildcats’ administrative assistant and video coordinator. He then served as a graduate assistant for the 2008-09 season with Russ Pennell, Mike Dunlap and Reggie Geary. Brase later joined Pennell at Grand Canyon University as an assistant coach in 2009-2011 before his hire by Rockets as an assistant coach for their D-League team Rio Grande. He is in his second year as Houston’s director of basketball operations.


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

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