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Author Topic: KO Going Back to Arizona  (Read 2621 times)


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KO Going Back to Arizona
« on: April 24, 2007, 04:27:56 PM »
Lute Olson gave yet another example why he'll be the coach at Arizona for the foreseeable future when he restructured his staff to create a position that will eventually go to former Marquette, Tennessee, Toronto Raptors head coach and one-time Arizona assistant Kevin O'Neill.

The move affected the current position of longtime assistant coach Jim Rosborough, who spent 18 years with Olson at Arizona and nine at Iowa, with a brief stint as head coach Northern Illinois wedged in there as well.

Olson offered Rosborough the position of administrative associate to the head men's basketball coach. Rosborough's salary wouldn't change and he would still run the camps, handle academics, media, public relations, as well as be the liaison from the former players to the current athletic department. But Rosborough declined.

He also took the high road in discussing the move with

Those close to the Arizona program say Rosborough was upset about the change in the staff. He and Olson had been together for longer than a lot of couples. But in the end, Olson was determined to get this team tougher and felt that the only way was to bring in O'Neill. Olson had created a job for Rosborough, but his pride wouldn't let him stay on in a capacity that didn't have him on the floor. So, Rosborough said he might retire or try to get on with someone else. But he's reluctant to move from Tucson after spending so much time raising his family in Southern Arizona.

In a letter to all of his former players, Olson detailed what Rosborough's job would have been and for the need to upgrade the staff in a key area -- defense. In the letter, Olson cited the statistics that when the Wildcats were in the national title game in 2001, Arizona was ranked 15th. The Wildcats were ranked 178 in 2007.

The expectation is that O'Neill would deliver on being the defensive coach that has been lacking on the staff. The move doesn't affect the roles of Josh Pastner and Miles Simon.

The job had to be posted so O'Neill's hiring won't be announced until later in the week.

Olson said since Rosborough has declined the offer, his job won't be replaced.

"My job is to do the right thing for the program," Olson said. "I felt it was time with two young guys and myself to find someone with a defensive background."

Olson is 72. Rosborough is 62. Pastner and Simon were on the last national title team in 1997. O'Neill, 50, was with the Wildcats from 1986-89 and on the staff in 1988, Arizona's first Final Four under Olson.

O'Neill's first project will be to make rising sophomore Chase Budinger a better defender. He returned for his sophomore season to become a more complete player.

The main issue with the Wildcats this season was their lack of toughness in critical games, notably down the stretch in the Pac-10 season and in the NCAA Tournament first-round loss to Purdue.

"Kevin did a great job with our defense the last time he was here," Olson said. "Chase will benefit and he will the first one to tell you that he needed to work on his defense. He has worked on his core muscles since the end of the season. He's gotten stronger.

"He's the guy that could have the most profound change among anyone [working with O'Neill]," Olson said.

« Last Edit: April 24, 2007, 04:40:04 PM by MUDish »


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Re: KO Going Back to Arizona
« Reply #1 on: April 24, 2007, 04:33:00 PM »
Been in the works for months....K.O. spoke at a U of A banquet this year and was EDGY with a capital "E" sharped toungued as ever....He is very popular at U of A.  His son grew up in Tuscon, now a baseball pitcher at Santa Clara. 


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Re: KO Going Back to Arizona
« Reply #2 on: April 25, 2007, 08:09:34 AM »
Lute once said that KO was the best assistant he ever had. I am not surprised KO is back there - - but I am surprised his hiring came at Jim Rosborough's expense


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Re: KO Going Back to Arizona
« Reply #3 on: April 25, 2007, 08:30:01 AM »
Lute Olson gave yet another example why he'll be the coach at Arizona for the foreseeable future

This move says just the opposite to me...I think he just hired his replacement. Not necessarily next year or anything, but sure smells like a succession plan to me.


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Re: KO Going Back to Arizona
« Reply #4 on: April 25, 2007, 08:32:35 AM »
KO will not be the replacement at UofA.
But I like to throw handfuls...


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Re: KO Going Back to Arizona
« Reply #5 on: April 25, 2007, 08:45:06 AM »
I think he just hired his replacement. Not necessarily next year or anything, but sure smells like a succession plan to me.

this move smacks of late-career desperation from Lute......KO was the best sidekick he ever had -- Lute is in the twilight and wants to win big once again.  He's just going back to the well once more.


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Re: KO Going Back to Arizona
« Reply #6 on: April 25, 2007, 03:30:22 PM »
Why would he go back to being a college assistant if he didn't think he had inside track to the job?


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Re: KO Going Back to Arizona
« Reply #7 on: June 24, 2007, 03:27:08 AM »
I know this news is REALLY old, but I was reading Jimmy Mac's BLOG and checked back for threads that contained his thoughts and couldn't find any.

I thought it was a good read (not too thrilling, but definitely first-hand experiences are shared about KO) so I have cut and pasted it here for your reading enjoyment on a fine Sunday morning/afternoon/evening:

Source: Mac's Blog

For the past several months, I've been trying to keep tabs on the rumors circulating around my former college coach, Kevin O'Neill.  He called me earlier in the year, when we were organizing the 90th reunion for the Marquette basketball program and we had a great conversation.  It sounded like he was on a treadmill when we talked, which wouldn't surprise me, since I've never known him to be someone who sits still for very long.

We hadn't spoken since I was in the NBA, but we caught up quickly and discussed lots of different things both on and off the court.  Our phone call was preceeded by a letter, in which I told him that I hoped he would consider a return to the college game for his next stop on the coaching highway.  I explained that since I had gotten involved in the college game again and started watching a lot of games, I've noticed there are quite a few teams that don't play with any degree of toughness.  I told him I thought he could do pretty well and really help some kids, if he found the right situation.  He told me in our conversation that he had a few different options under consideration and some of them seemed to involve the college game.

It's starting to look like he might have found the right situation at the University of Arizona, where he first put himself on the basketball map.  If he does end up there, I certainly wish him and the program all the best.  I've always felt a certain kinship to Arizona, because of Kevin's history there.  Former Arizona players in the NBA always treated me very well, especially as a younger player in a league full of men.  Guys like Sean Rooks, Sean Elliot, Jud Buchler and Bison Dele (Brian Williams) always seemed to go out of their way to say hello and see how I was handling the transition, while swapping a few KO stories in the process.

Coach O'Neill also helped me form a life-long friendship with another one of his former players, Evan Eschmeyer.  I first met Esch during the lockout season, when I went down to visit KO at Northwestern.  Evan and I hit it off immediately and have been good friends ever since.  In fact, John Nash drafted Evan when I was in New Jersey and I insisted Evan live in my home during his rookie season.  Evan has since moved out on his own and married a wonderful woman who just gave birth to twins.  Evan isn't able to help much with the late-night feedings right now, as he is in the midst of Northwestern's MBA/JD program, but we still keep in touch.

My entire relationship with Coach O'Neill hasn't been rosey, but I don't think a player really reaches his full potential if he isn't pushed by his coach...sometimes to the very brink.  There were more than a few days where I wanted to transfer from Marquette and I'm sure every other player he coached felt the same way...some even did.  The door to our locker room had the following saying painted on it- "Those Who Remain Will Be Champions."  I thought that was just one of those hokey motivational slogans coaches like to toss around, but I'll be darned if we didn't end up winning the conference championship in my senior season.  When we walked onto the court in Knoxville to face Duke in the Sweet 16, after just upsetting Kentucky, the significance of what we had accomplished in four short years was not lost on anyone.

Coach O'Neill's leadership brought a once-proud program back to a level of national prominence and he left it full of talented players who were also good people.  He then went to Tennessee, where he loaded up a program with enough talent to rattle off four consecutive 20-win seasons after his departure.  I got to know Steve Hamer when Kevin was there and we shared our stories of survival, which I think is helpful when you're in the midst of the storm or just emerging and wondering if your experience is unique.

Make no mistake, playing for Kevin O'Neill can feel just like you're in the middle of a tornado, but when that passes, you are left with a feeling that you have survived the most challenging period of your life.  Everything that you face from that day forward will be easier because of that experience and you are thankful that you have it.  People on the outside, looking in will focus on his frequent use of profanity or his brutally honest commentary.  As one of his players, I really didn't notice the profanity after a while and I always appreciated his willingness to shoot straight with people.

Evan and I have had extensive discussions, trying to determine who had it rougher as a player under Kevin.  I could point to the fact that he was still finding his way as a head coach during my early years, which were also some of our worst from an on-court performance standpoint.  However, Evan could point to the frustration of playing in a program that had no history of success and academic standards and demands that either eliminated or intimidated many of the top high school players.  Regardless of who had it tougher, we both agreed we have it much better now and we owe at least some of our success to our time spent with KO.

From what I have been able to gather, Coach Olson is looking to improve his team's defense, which allowed opponents to shoot 45.8% from the floor last season and 35.9% from 3-pt range.  Defense was always Kevin's calling card at Marquette, where we led the nation in field-goal percentage defense in my final two years.  Granted, I blocked a bunch of shots and that helped, but our sucess in that area was dependant on everyone buying into Kevin's defensive concepts.  In his final season at Marquette, our team had the lowest field-goal percentage defense since the NCAA started tracking that category in 1977- 35.8%.

If Coach O'Neill does go to Arizona, I'm sure many fans will start to speculate about his future there and whether he will succeed Coach Olson.  I've always thought Arizona would be the one college job he might actually make a career out of, but I wouldn't spend too much time speculating about that at this point.  The Kevin O'Neill college fans could see will be older, wiser and as an assistant coach, most likely quieter.  If that happens, don't mistake his altered profile for a kinder, gentler O'Neill.  He still only knows one way to coach- his way.
SS Marquette


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Re: KO Going Back to Arizona
« Reply #8 on: June 24, 2007, 07:59:32 AM »
Well Lute certainly does need help------among other things he doesn't know how to coach defense. He was forced into a generic zone last year after the flaws in his man to man defense were being exploited big time!

He had as talented a starting 5 last year as any team in America (possible exceptions Florida & OSU)-----and his team totally underachieved .