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 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)
|Mike Bibby||1996-98||Phoenix Shadow Mountain||2014|
|Jason Stewart||1997-99||Encinitas (CA) San Dieguito||2014|
Men’s college basketball (4)
|Craig McMillan||1984-88||Santa Rosa (CA) JC||2000|
|Josh Pastner||1996-00||Georgia Tech||2016|
Men’s professional basketball (4)
|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)
|Tod Brown||1990-94||North Dakota State||2007|
Professional baseball (2)
|Shelley Duncan||1999-01||Class A Hillsboro (OR)||2015|
|Terry Francona||1977-80||Cleveland (MLB)||2013|
Women’s college basketball (2)
High school football (8)
|Marcus Bell||1996-99||Eager Round Valley||2011|
|Robert Bonillas||1995-98||Desert View||2012|
|Mark Keel||1979-82||Silverdale (WA) Central Kitsap||2000|
|Clarence McRae||2003-04||Mountain View||2012|
|Antonio Pierce||1999-00||Long Beach Poly||2014|
College softball (3)
|Leticia Pineda-Boutté||1995-98||Washington-St. Louis||2006|
High school softball (4)
|Jackie Coburn||2002-05||Scottsdale Horizon||2013|
|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.