Former Arizona coach Judy LeWinter coached the Wildcats’ women’s basketball program in its infancy from 1980-85 when the program was part of the Western Collegiate Conference.
Mary Roby, Arizona’s women’s athletic director at the time, was trying to develop a program that started in 1972-73 with little fanfare.
LeWinter was only 26 when she was hired after a UCLA career in which she never played high school basketball before walking on with the Bruins. She remarkably became a three-year starter for the Bruins and shared the backcourt for two seasons with Ann Meyers.
She knows excellence from very humble beginnings and she revels in the success Adia Barnes has brought to Arizona’s program, which is now at a national championship level.
“I couldn’t be happier for Adia, her staff, the players and Tucson,” said LeWinter, a retired administrator in the Amphitheater School District. “They are so much fun to watch.. Great example of what hard work, determination and grit can do. Their story is great for women’s basketball and making believers about how good the Pac-12 is. Adia is the coach of the year.”
LeWinter went 37-100 in a difficult situation of getting Arizona’s program on the ground without the necessary support at that time. She became an assistant at UCLA after stepping down at Arizona.
She returned to Tucson to live and work as an assistant principal for many years at Wilson Middle School in Oro Valley.
Former Arizona guard Greta Naranjo “so proud”
Greta Naranjo played at Arizona from 1987-89 under June Olkowski and she was part of teams that went 5-23 and 11-17 in her two years with the program after transferring from Central Arizona College.
She experienced the program’s first win against a ranked opponent, ending a 47-game losing streak against such teams. That occurred on Dec. 11, 1988, when the Wildcats, 0-5 entering the game, upset No. 20 Colorado 75-69 in overtime at McKale Center. Naranjo made a 3-pointer late in regulation that helped force overtime.
“I am so excited for Adia, the players and the program,” said Naranjo, a former Pima College coach who is now an assistant with the girls team at Tucson High. “Since Adia got the job she has worked so hard to put together an amazing staff and players. She has embraced the alumni and the city of Tucson.
“Adia is a players’ coach, you can see this just by the team’s performances. Adia has been so positive and committed to the program. As an alumni, I am so proud of their accomplishments over the years. It was just a matter of time.”
Naranjo may be biased, but she predicts Arizona to beat Stanford.
“This team has great chemistry with each other and that is what it takes to be successful,” she said. “Can’t tell you how proud and excited we all are especially those of us that have been a part of the U of A women’s basketball program.”
McDonald: “Surreal” to be compared to Damon Stoudamire
Aari McDonald and Damon Stoudamire are both lefties, playmaking quick guards who play bigger than their height and supreme leaders on the court. Granted, the comparisons of their games will come.
UConn’s coaching staff indicated that McDonald reminded them of Allen Iverson, another compliment. But Stoudamire is an Arizona legend and McDonald belongs in the same sentence with him and the Wildcat immortals who have played in McKale Center — men or women.
McDonald and Stoudamire exchanged tweets on Thursday commenting on the comparison of their games:
— Damon Stoudamire (@Iambiggie503) April 2, 2021
“It’s surreal when you just see Arizona legends comment on your stuff,” McDonald said Saturday in a Zoom press conference. “I’m like, ‘Wow, this man, I see him every day on the wall at practice. I’m like, ‘Man, this is crazy.’
“It’s a blessing. That comparison has been going on since I’ve been here. Now for me to finally see the (highlight) reels, I’m like, ‘Okay, I see.’ This is definitely a compliment.”
— Damon Stoudamire (@Iambiggie503) March 30, 2021
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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.