Sean Elliott is the best basketball player in Arizona Wildcats basketball history. The most popular unquestionably is his teammate from the program’s first Final Four team in 1987-88 — Steve Kerr.
The six-time NBA champion — five as a player and one as a coach — came to the forefront in the national public eye on Thursday as an interview subject with college hoops analyst Seth Davis for a Campus Insiders segment and a headliner in a lengthy New York Times feature.
The New York Times article on Kerr is titled, “Tragedy Made Steve Kerr See the World Beyond the Court — The Golden State Warriors coach draws from the assassination of his father to make sense of a complicated world.”
Much of the information in the article is well-known by people who have followed Arizona’s program, but to be showcased in a New York Times feature shows the kind of magnitude Kerr has today in the sports world.
The interview with Davis also touched on aspects of his Arizona career that are known to fans in Tucson. Davis also interjected some of Kerr’s experiences as the coach of the Golden State Warriors and his time as a teammate of Michael Jordan with the Chicago Bulls.
One of the interesting Arizona angles was Kerr recounting his recruitment by Lute Olson after his senior season at Pacific Palisades (Calif.) High School. With no scholarship offers by the summer after he graduated, Kerr said he “was thinking I would walk on somewhere.”
He applied to Cal Santa Barbara and Colorado with the intent to walk on after Gonzaga did not offer him a scholarship following his only official visit.
“I played the summer league in Long Beach after my senior year and kind of at the last second both (Cal State) Fullerton and Arizona offered me scholarships,” Kerr told Davis. “I literally accepted my scholarship at Arizona without ever having seen the campus. I wanted to say yes before they could change their mind.”
Davis also brought up the derisive chants of “P.L.O., P.L.O.” in Tempe by a few ASU students concerning the assassination of Kerr’s father Malcolm, the president of American University in Beirut who was killed by terrorists. Kerr’s dad was murdered when Kerr was a freshman at Arizona. A handful of ASU students made the horrific chants that also included, “Your father’s history,” and “Why don’t you join the Marines and go back to Beirut?” four years later in the 1987-88 season when Kerr was a senior.
“It was upsetting,” Kerr said. “It shocked me. It brought me to tears before the game. I remember my teammates coming over and consoling me. I could just not believe anybody could be that cruel.
“I do remember poignantly a little boy with an ASU shirt on walk up behind me. I was on the bench a half an hour before the game right after this happened. I’m crying. I couldn’t believe what had happened. This little boy walked up, probably 8-10 years old and he apologized for the fans who were yelling. He said something like, ‘I’m sorry. Nobody should say those things.’ … A little boy, out of the mouths of babes. It was a pretty cool moment.”
Here is the video of the interview with Davis:
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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon.