Nothing But The Notes

Nothing But the Notes: Pierce’s hire at ASU not exactly a stunner

Arizona fans must have been shocked or dismayed with the news of former linebacker standout Antonio Pierce taking the linebackers coaching job at archrival ASU. Take a few steps back and a deep breath to observe this one. Pierce is coaching for new Sun Devil coach Herm Edwards, a former ESPN NFL analyst colleague. If a coach was hired at ASU in which Pierce did not share a background, the chances of Pierce taking this job are little to none. He’s coaching more for his buddy than anything else. Next, Pierce and Arizona had a falling out when Dick Tomey was forced to resign at the end of Pierce’s senior season in 2000. In fact, Pierce’s last game with the Wildcats was on the night Tomey was basically told to leave or else — Nov. 24, the day Arizona ended its season with a 30-17 loss to ASU at Arizona Stadium. …

Antonio Pierce was a standout linebacker at Arizona. Now, he will try to coach linebackers at ASU to beat Arizona and other Pac-12 teams under Herm Edwards (Arizona photo)

Earlier in that 2000 season, Pierce was suspended by Tomey while under investigation for his alleged participation in an off-campus burglary with former tight end Brandon Manumaleuna. He missed spring drills. He rejoined the team in August for fall drills after charges were never filed. Pierce, a junior college transfer, persevered under Tomey, who is a father figure to him. Pierce took his grudge against Arizona for forcing Tomey out to the extreme when he played in the NFL as an undrafted player from 2001 to 2009. During national broadcasts when players are shown with early-game position introductions saying what school they are from, Pierce announced his high school or junior college, not Arizona. So there was not much love lost for Pierce when he moved on from his career at Arizona, making his hire at ASU less of a surprise than some may realize. … More: Former players going against their rivals is a normal practice. No better example exists with Utah coach Kyle Whittingham going against his alma mater, bitter rival BYU, every year in matchups and recruiting. That rivalry, the “Holy War”, is as intense as it gets yet Whittingham tries to beat the snot out of the Cougars every chance he gets. Arizona’s defensive line coach Vince Amey, part of ASU’s Rose Bowl team in 1996, has been part of Rich Rodriguez’s program since 2015. A piece of his heart might be with the Sun Devils, which is natural, but he must relish the opportunity to beat them to make the offseason more enjoyable. …

How could I miss this? The late Dick Enberg announced a few memorable Arizona games in his career. I listed some Friday, including the 2001 Elite Eight game Arizona won over Illinois in San Antonio with broadcasting partner Bill Walton and the 2005 Elite Eight collapse against the Illini in Chicago with Jay Bilas. Enberg was also the play-by-play announcer for Arizona’s epic double-overtime win over Gonzaga in 2003. My bad. …

Mountain View guard Julian Molina scored 37 points against Phoenix Mountain Ridge on Thursday night. Reese’s performance came after his grandmother, Carol Molina, lost her battle to cancer the night before. We will follow up on this story of how Molina dedicated the game and his performance to the memory of his grandmother. … Rarely in the time I have followed Arizona basketball, since the early to mid 1970’s when Fred Snowden and the Kiddie Korps were putting the Wildcats on the map, have I seen a player who was as dynamic of a scorer as Herman Harris. Herm “The Germ”, as he was called, could score from anywhere. If Snowden allowed him to take 40-foot shoots, Harris would have taken them, and made his fair share. In one of the most uplifting stories of the year — heck, the decade — Harris earned his college degree at Arizona last week more than 40 years after playing his last game for the late Snowden and the Wildcats. Harris went on to the NBA briefly after his playing career, spent almost 15 years in the Army and worked for more than 20 years at the Pima County courthouse in downtown Tucson. He earned his degree to be an example for his granddaughter, who is now a senior in high school, by showing that no matter what, goals can be reached. Harris had one of the best — if not the best — performances ever by an Arizona player when the Wildcats beat UNLV and coach Jerry Tarkanian 114-109 in overtime in a 1976 Sweet 16 game at Pauley Pavilion in Los Angeles. As a junior guard, Harris, who hails from Chester, Pa., scored 17 of Arizona’s last 25 points in regulation. He played all 45 minutes and scored 31 points with nine rebounds and nine assists. Wish there was videotape of that game somewhere. It’s one for the ages. …

Herman Harris displaying his Arizona colors of a different, with a graduate gown instead of a basketball uniform. He earned his degree 40 years after playing his last game with the Wildcats (Harris photo)

Former Catalina Foothills guard Austin Nehls, son of former Arizona guard Joe Nehls, continues to excel from long range with Central Connecticut State like his dad did with the Wildcats. Nehls made three 3-pointers and scored 15 points in an 84-57 win over Maine on Wednesday. Nehls is shooting 41.7 percent from 3-point range. Of his 98 field goal attempts, 72 are from beyond the arc. He has made 30 shots from 3-point range compared to 16 within the arc. … Sahuaro High School’s boys basketball team remains unbeaten at 13-0 after a 68-63 win over Tucson on Thursday. Senior guard Dylan Newell leads the Cougars with 18.1 points, 4.3 assists and 2.9 steals per game. Senior forward Dashawn Engram is averaging 13.2 points and 7.9 rebounds a game. Jacob Jansepar is contributing 11.5 points and 5.5 rebounds per game. … The Cougars will play in the Sabino Holiday Basketball Tournament that starts Wednesday. They will play three games in 25 hours, including two on Wednesday against Desert View at 1 p.m. and Ocean View (Calif.) at 4 p.m.. They play Amphi at 2 p.m. Thursday. …

Interesting that in Thursday’s Central Arkansas-Oregon game at Eugene, Ore., both of Arizona’s interim coaches during the Lute Olson leave-of-absence saga in 2007-08 and 2008-09 — Kevin O’Neill and Russ Pennell — were in attendance. Pennell is the head coach at Central Arkansas, his alma mater, and O’Neill was doing the color commentary for the Pac-12 Networks. … The top scorer among former Arizona players in the pros is none other than Kyle Fogg. If somebody told you that would happen six years after Fogg’s senior season in 2011-12 you would have laughed. Even more unbelievable: Fogg is averaging 33 points in nine games with Guangzhou of the Chinese Continental Basketball Association. The top rebounder is Aaron Gordon, who is averaging 8 boards a game in what appears to be an All-Star season with the Orlando Magic. The leading assist man: T.J. McConnell, who is averaging 4.9 assists per game with the Philadelphia 76ers. … Among the four Olson-coached Arizona players remaining in the NBA, Andre Iguodala is the leading scorer with only 5.8 points a game. The rest are Channing Frye (4.2), Jason Terry (1.5) and Richard Jefferson (1.4) — all three of them little-used reserves. What a run it has been for Olson-produced players in the NBA. It appears that era is getting closer to an end. … Only one player from the Olson era remains active overseas and he’s still a strong force — Loren Woods. Woods, 39, is averaging 22.2 points and 18.3 rebounds a game for a professional team in Bahrain called Al-Hala. In a game Dec. 6, Woods had 33 points and 30 rebounds with four blocked shots. He was named the Bahrain Premier Player of the Week after that game and a 24-point, 17-rebound performance in another game.


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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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