Arizona Basketball

D-League team coached by former Arizona Wildcats Brase, Blair advances to finals


Lute Olson’s grandson and one of Arizona’s most skilled big men are making huge waves in the D-League playoffs as coaches of the Rio Grande Valley Vipers.

Matt Brase, Olson’s grandson who played at Arizona and Catalina Foothills High School, is the head coach of the Vipers, who used a late 10-0 run last night to pull away from the Oklahoma City Blue to secure a trip to the D-League Finals.

Former Wildcat center Joseph Blair, who also served as a graduate assistant under Sean Miller at Arizona, is on Brase’s staff.

The Rio Grande Valley Vipers celebrate their D-League Western Conference title with former Arizona Wildcats Matt Brase (third from right with tie) and Joseph Blair (second from right) taking part as the head coach and assistant coach, respectively (Vipers photo)

The Vipers, the Houston Rockets’ affiliate, beat Oklahoma City 114-102 win in Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals at the Cox Convention Center in Oklahoma City.

Blair hails from Houston but has become a longtime Tucson resident following his Arizona career. He is involved in many community projects as leader of the Blair Charity Group.

The Vipers will play Eastern Conference champion Raptors 905 for the title. Raptors 905 defeated the Maine Red Claws 103-88 last night to complete a two-game sweep in the conference Finals.

Raptors 905 finished the regular season with the D-League’s best record at 39-11 and will have home-court advantage in the finals. The Vipers will host Game 1 of the series on Sunday at a site yet to be determined (Disney on Ice is taking place at their usual home of State Farm Arena in Hidalgo, Texas).

The Vipers will play the second and, if necessary, third games of the series on the road. Raptors 905 has won 12 consecutive games, including all four playoff contests.

Houston Rockets assignee Kyle Wiltjer, formerly of Kentucky and Gonzaga, led the Vipers last night with 28 points and 12 rebounds. Darius Morris had 26 points, nine assists and six rebounds.

Rockets assignee Isaiah Taylor had 19 points, and Chris Johnson posted a double-double with 12 points and 12 rebounds. Rockets assignee Chinanu Onuaku pulled in game-high 14 rebounds, helping the Vipers to a 58-43 advantage on the glass.

The following is a list of 32 former Arizona Wildcats who are head coaches in high school, college of the pros, including Brase:

FORMER ARIZONA ATHLETES AS CURRENT HEAD COACHES

High school boy’s basketball (3)

Player Years/UA Team Start
Mike Bibby 1996-98 Phoenix Shadow Mountain 2014
Kelvin Eafon 1995-98 Pueblo 2014
Jason Stewart 1997-99 Encinitas (CA) San Dieguito 2014

Men’s college basketball (4)

Player Years/UA Team Start
Jason Gardner 1999-03 IUPUI 2014
Craig McMillan 1984-88 Santa Rosa (CA) JC 2000
Josh Pastner 1996-00 Georgia Tech 2016
Damon Stoudamire 1992-95 Pacific 2016

Men’s professional basketball (4)

Player Years/UA Team Start
Matt Brase 2003-05 Rio Grande (D-League) 2015
Reggie Geary 1992-96 Nagoya (Japan) 2015
Steve Kerr 1983-88 Golden State (NBA) 2014
Luke Walton 1999-03 L.A. Lakers (NBA) 2016

College baseball (2)

Player Years/UA Team Start
Tod Brown 1990-94 North Dakota State 2007
Bill Kinneberg 1979-80 Utah 2005

Professional baseball (2)

Player Years/UA Team Start
Shelley Duncan 1999-01 Class A Hillsboro (OR) 2015
Terry Francona 1977-80 Cleveland (MLB) 2013

Women’s college basketball (2)

Player Years/UA Team Start
Brenda Frese 1989-93 Maryland 2002
Adia Barnes 1995-99 Arizona 2016

High school football (8)

Player Years/UA Team Start
Marcus Bell 1996-99 Eager Round Valley 2011
Robert Bonillas 1995-98 Desert View 2012
Andy Litten 1999-2000 Marana 2011
Mark Keel 1979-82 Silverdale (WA) Central Kitsap 2000
Scott McKee 1999-02 Sahuaro 2009
Clarence McRae 2003-04 Mountain View 2012
Antonio Pierce 1999-00 Long Beach Poly 2014
Brandon Sanders 1995-98 Pueblo 2014

College softball (3)

Player Years/UA Team Start
Debby Day 1989-91 Cal-Lutheran 2002
Kristie Fox 2004-07 Texas-Arlington 2013
Leticia Pineda-Boutté 1995-98 Washington-St. Louis 2006

High school softball (4)

Player Years/UA Team Start
Amy Baray-Rocha 1999 Salpointe 2015
Jackie Coburn 2002-05 Scottsdale Horizon 2013
Danielle Rodriguez 2006-08 Tucson 2010
Jody Pruitt 1990-93 Peoria Sunrise Mountain 2011

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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.

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