Nothing But The Notes

Nothing But the Notes: Arizona’s next Hall of Famer?


Former Arizona baseball player Trevor Hoffman finally got enough votes for the Baseball Hall of Fame this week after two years coming up short. Who’s next from Arizona? I posed that question on Twitter with a poll and 199 people responded. The results: Steve Kerr with 37 percent of the votes, narrowly topping Terry Francona (36 percent) with Rob Gronkowski (27 percent) finishing third. … Kerr, who won five NBA championships as a player, has coached the Golden State Warriors to two world titles and is in position to win another this season with the Warriors having the best record of 39-10 in the NBA. Francona made miracles happen in Boston, managing the title-starved Red Sox to two World Series championships, and he came close to another in 2016 with the Cleveland Indians before the Chicago Cubs rallied to win the last two games in Cleveland to capture the title. Gronkowski, only 28, is already a two-time Super Bowl champion and five-time Pro Bowl selection. He holds numerous NFL records for a tight end, including most touchdown receptions in a season (17 in 2011), most career postseason touchdown receptions (seven) and most 1,000-yard receiving seasons (four, which is tied with Tony Gonzalez and Jason Witten). …

Kerr would become a hall of famer as a coach and Francona as a manager, although Kerr has all those titles as a player and he has the highest career 3-point percentage (45.4) for any player with at least 250 3-pointers made in NBA history. He also held the NBA record for highest 3-point percentage in a season at 52.4, until the record was broken by Kyle Korver in 2010 with 53.6. … The requirements for a coach to make it into the Basketball Hall of Fame: He or she must be retired for four full seasons, or if still an active coach, have coached as either a full-time assistant or head coach on the high school and/or college and/or professional level for a minimum of 25 years. That person will then be considered for enshrinement in the sixth year of retirement or 26th year of active coaching. That’s the official wording. Kerr is only in his fourth season of coaching, and depending on the health of his back, might coach far beyond this season. If he does not reach 25 years of coaching, he would have to wait six years from his retirement date to be enshrined. That might be a while. … To be elected by the Veterans Committee into the Baseball Hall of Fame, a manager must be retired five years or be six months past his 65th birthday (a rule passed for Casey Stengel in 1966). Francona, who has health concerns of his own involving his heart, turns 59 on April 22. He may be the first out of Kerr and Gronkowski to next join a hall of fame in 2025. … Gronkowksi must be retired for at least five years before he can be considered. An eight-year NFL veteran with the New England Patriots, Gronk is likely to be a first-ballot hall of famer with his accomplishments at the tight end position. Some perspective: Gonzalez played 17 seasons in the NFL and Witten just completed his 15th season. If Gronk can last as long as them, his induction into the Football Hall of Fame will not be for another 12 to 15 years. … Therefore, the most likely out of the three to go into a hall of fame next is Francona. Does two World Series titles get Francona in? I think so, especially with the way he helped revive two organizations down on their luck: Boston and Cleveland. With a career record of 1,483-1,269, he will likely eclipse the 1,500-win mark this season. He is the only manager to win two World Series titles by sweeping both opponents. …

(Left to right) Arizona greats Steve Kerr, Terry Francona and Rob Gronkowski.

USA Today ran an article about Nick Foles of Philadelphia facing Gronk, his former Arizona teammate, in the Super Bowl next Sunday. The reporter George Schroeder reached out to former Arizona coach Mike Stoops for the story. Stoops described Foles at Arizona as a “very courageous man.” “People don’t realize how tough he was,” Stoops told Schroeder. “We didn’t have the best of teams at all times, but he would stand in there and deliver the football. A very courageous man. He’d hang in there and deliver the football accurately. Nick, shoot, he just kept doing his thing.” … Former Arizona offensive lineman Kyle Quinn, an offensive graduate assistant the last three years with the Wildcats, was also interviewed. He lauded Foles’ work ethic when they were teammates. “We were the last two to leave the building every night, every play we could find,” Quinn says. “We always wanted to be on the same page. I’m pretty positive he hasn’t changed the way he is.” … Ironic isn’t it that Stoops was criticized for his lack of producing NFL draft picks while at Arizona, yet three players recruited to Tucson during his time with the Wildcats are in the Super Bowl. Marquis Flowers of New England is the other. To wit: Arizona has a starting quarterback in the Super Bowl before USC despite the Trojans having all those first-round draft picks at that position in the Super Bowl era (Mark Sanchez, Matt Leinart, Carson Palmer, Todd Marinovich and Pete Beathard). …

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In a Sports Illustrated article published Friday, a point value was given to colleges who placed talent in the Super Bowl and Arizona and Florida State ranked at the top. The points system — Four points: Potential game-changer. One of the most valuable players on the team. A potential MVP. Three points: Clear-cut starter. Two points: Rotational player who gets significant playing time but plays less than half the snaps. One point: Special teamer or other player who rarely sees the field. Arizona and Florida State each had 10 points with Foles and Gronkowski each earning four points and Flowers two. … Kevin Sumlin’s staff is reportedly coming into shape with only the tight end, defensive back and linebacker coaches not surfacing. Former UCLA defensive backs coach Demetrice Martin remains a strong possibility to fill that position. The projected staff that is reportedly in place (or about to be in place) includes offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Noel Mazzone, running backs coach Clarence McKinney, wide receivers coach Theron Aych, offensive line coach Joe Gilbert, defensive coordinator Marcel Yates, safeties coach John Rushing, defensive line coach Iona Uiagalelei and special teams coach Jeremy Springer. … Gilbert was listed as a possibility of filling the same role with Notre Dame after coaching the last six seasons under Chuck Pagano with the Indianapolis Colts. He also interviewed with the Cincinnati Bengals and had interest from the Arizona Cardinals. He coached on Sumlin’s staff at Houston in 2008. During Sumlin’s six years at Texas A&M, four of his six NFL first-round draft picks were offensive linemen — Luke Joeckel (All-American and 2013 first-round pick), Jake Matthews (All-American and 2014 first-round pick), Cedric Ogbuehi (All-American and 2015 first-round pick) and Germain Ifedi (2016 first-round pick). Sumlin’s offensive line coach at Texas A&M, Jim Turner, had an NFL background with the Miami Dolphins. Turner was retained by new Aggies coach Jimbo Fisher. …

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The newest name to come up among the assistant coaches is Rushing, who was on Oregon State’s staff last year and has an eight-year coaching background in the NFL with the Green Bay Packers and Los Angeles Rams. Another expected hire has a rich history with the NFL — Dennis Polian, who will become the associate athletic director for football. Polian served as Texas A&M’s director of player personnel after he was with the Tennessee Titans as a pro scout, football administrator and special assistant to the head coach. He served in similar roles with the Indianapolis Colts and the Minnesota Vikings. Polian is a son of former NFL executive Bill Polian. Another son, Brian Polian, was the head coach at Nevada. Brian Polian was part of Sumlin’s first staff at Texas A&M in 2012. … ASU coach Herm Edwards talks about implementing a pro model to his operation with him being the CEO. It appears that Sumlin, with his potential hires, is walking the walk in terms of implementing NFL principles. He is making a concerted effort to get as much NFL experience as possible on his staff — mixed in with solid college coaching experience — for recruiting and developmental purposes. …

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Arizona phenom Deandre Ayton has already made history with 13 double-doubles, the most in a season by a freshman at the school. He is nine shy of the school record of 22 set 43 years ago by Al Fleming. Jordan Hill came close with 20 in the 2008-09 season. … Ayton can establish himself as the most talented to play at Arizona if he continues to produce and gains the postseason accolades he is likely to receive. Sean Elliott will continue to be the best player overall in the program. But in terms of sheer talent, Ayton would get the nod, especially with a No. 1 overall pick in the NBA draft. Arizona has never had a player taken that high. Mike Bibby and Derrick Williams were chosen as the No. 2 picks. Sam Vecenie of The Athletic lists Ayton as the top draft choice, ahead of Luka Doncic and Marvin Bagley. “If everything breaks right, (Ayton) has the physical tools to be one of the most physically dominant, yet modernly-skilled, basketball players to enter the NBA in decades,” Vecenie writes. “In term of measurables, Ayton is what a scientist would create as the perfect basketball player physically. He’s more than 7-feet tall with a +5 wingspan and 260 pounds perfectly proportioned.” … Pac-12 Network analyst Kevin O’Neill, Arizona’s former interim coach who was an assistant under Lute Olson, indicated Sean Miller has not got the most out of Ayton’s ability and that he should be averaging 25 points and 16 rebounds a game. Ayton is averaging 19.7 points and 10.9 rebounds a game. In Miller’s system — stressing balance among the top seven players in the rotation — those numbers are very high especially with another high scorer on the team such as Allonzo Trier (19.9 points a game). Ayton is the second player to average double-doubles in points and rebounds so far in the Miller era. Ryan Anderson averaged 15.3 points and 10.1 rebounds in 2015-16. Ayton averages more minutes per game (32.0) than what Anderson averaged (29.2). One other high-level scorer and rebounder in the Miller era — Derrick Williams (19.5 points and 8.3 rebounds a game in 2010-11) — averaged less amount of minutes than Ayton with 30 a game and Williams was the Pac-10 Player of the Year that season. Miller is letting Ayton play as much as he should play and Ayton is flourishing. By no means is Miller holding Ayton back and keeping him from his full potential. If allowing players to score and rebound as much as they can by playing them 38 to 40 minutes a game and designing more plays for them, how does that translate into wins, the most important stat? Arizona is 17-4 and 14-1 since returning from the Bahamas. …


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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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