Schu Strings: Pac-10 coaching changes

The Pac-10 made some very impressive off-season acquisitions, but while the conference will improve as a result, the addition of Ben Howland at UCLA and Dick Bennett at Washington State will not hinder Arizona's national prominence.

Because of the tradition established during the John Wooden era, it's a no-brainer to anticipate UCLA's eventual return to basketball prominence. As a result, coaching changes there have been an area of concern for Arizona fans in the past. While it's hard to fathom given his off-the-court track record, the Jim Harrick teams played at a level neck-and-neck with Arizona. If one scans the records it's almost eerie how close the similarities were. The same number of Pac-10 titles, almost identical records head-to-head. UCLA even claimed the national crown in 1995.

But amidst scandal, an all-too-familiar road for Harrick, the televangelist of college basketball, UCLA made an abrupt change, pulling the plug in favor of untested assistant Steve Lavin.

In Lavin's seven years at the helm, things changed between Arizona and UCLA. It's not like UCLA was bad. After all, outside of this season, Lavin never had less than a 20-win campaign. But since Arizona's 1997 title, which occurred during Lavin's first year in charge, the UA has moved its game to a different plain. UCLA, meanwhile, must work its way back.

Howland is a man who can accomplish that, and in the past this could cause a few more beads of sweat than your average June afternoon in the Sonoran Desert. But now, as long as Lute Olson remains in Tucson, the Howland addition will simply enhance UCLA's place. Its affects on Arizona will be negligible.

During Olson's 20 years, Arizona has gone from a program of disarray, to an overachieving regional power, to a nationally prominent program to elite status. National prominence and elite status are different classes. The UA occupied national prominence prior to its run in 97, which coincided with Harrick's stay at UCLA. During that time, Arizona still relied a great deal on West Coast talent, and often needed an influx of Southern California standouts to be successful. Either that or it could land the region's second-tier players and Olson had enough faith in his ability as a coach to mold those prospects into serious talents.

The West Coast is still an important vein for Wildcat basketball. This is home to the likes of Gilbert Arenas, Rick Anderson, Luke Walton and Hassan Adams. The UA certainly has not abandoned Southern California, but it no longer needs to rely on the Left Coast to be successful.

And therein lies the difference between national prominence and elite. As an elite program, Arizona can recruit with success anywhere. It can recruit in say, Houston, and land McDonald's All-American Ndudi Ebi. It can recruit in say, Indianapolis, and lure Jason Gardner from the clutches of the home-state folk. It can recruit in say, Springfield, Ill., and snag Andre Iguodala. Or Philadelphia for Gardner's replacement Mustafa Shakur. Or Houston again for Jawann McClellan. Or Michigan for Kirk Walters.

All this means that if Arizona doesn't land a top prospect in Southern California, it's not the potential death-knell for the program. The UA is on a level few programs achieve. Howland will bring UCLA back to prominence in short order, but he may still be looking up at Arizona for some years to come.

On another note, I had lunch with one of the message board regulars a week or so ago, after Arizona's loss to Kansas. And aside from the ridiculous diatribe on a specific referee, and his never-ending discontent for everything Stoudamire, he made an interesting point in regards to Bennett at Washington State. What a great get for Wazzu, and in the process a bit of a benefit for the UA. Bennett is the master of that slow down style, an approach necessary at a place like Washington State where landing top-notch talent consistently is problematic. That slow down philosophy has given Arizona fits for years, but now the UA will see it twice, as opposed to having to search for non-conference competition that runs similar stuff. That can only help the UA come tournament time.

Bennett will bring dull basketball to the Pac-10, but he'll make Washington State competitive, and that hasn't happened since Kelvin Sampson moved to Oklahoma.

.Moving on.

.Documentary filmmaker Michael Moore has been in the news quite a bit since his outburst at the Academy Awards. While I don't even come close to seeing eye to eye with Moore politically, I really enjoy his breadth of work, and Bowling for Columbine was a deserving award winner. What bothers me is that Moore has decided to engage in an anti-George W. Bush crusade, which on the surface is fine, but probably not necessary by virtue of misrepresenting his own work in the process.

He recently penned an editorial for the LA Times and his website that outlined the good things that have happened to him since his outburst. But he continues to engage in this inaccurate propaganda, thus engaging in the very thing for which he criticizes the Bush Administration.

Here is a Moore excerpt from the Academy Awards: "I would like to thank the Academy for this award. I have invited the other Documentary nominees on stage with me. They are here in solidarity because we like non-fiction. We like non-fiction because we live in fictitious times. We live in a time where fictitious election results give us a fictitious president."

I'm going to play Dicky V. here. STOP!

First off, learn to lose, ok. What fictitious election results? This never fails to crack me up. The very same people who mocked members of the right (and probably rightfully so) for their suggestions that Bill Clinton had something to do with the death of Vince Foster, or that Clinton manufactured the strike on Kosovo in an effort to remove the Monica Lewinski scandal from the front pages, are the first to continue beating this dead election horse to death, and in grand conspiracy terminology.

Let me help you here Michael. Bush won Florida. You obviously don't like it, but that's how it is. Even if you swung every Buchanan/Chad vote in question to Al Gore, Bush still wins Florida, and thus, wins the election. Hey, I'm not a big fan of the Electoral College, but based on the rules the way they've been set up for something like 150 years, Bush won. Get over it. If you show the ability to lose with some dignity, instead of digging up material with no bearing, the rest of your arguments have a greater chance of carrying more weight. And Michael, goodness, you have some great arguments.

More Moore: "When "Bowling for Columbine" was announced as the Oscar winner for Best Documentary at the Academy Awards, the audience rose to its feet. It was a great moment, one that I will always cherish. They were standing and cheering for a film that says we Americans are a uniquely violent people, using our massive stash of guns to kill each other and to use them against many countries around the world. They were applauding a film that shows George W. Bush using fictitious fears to frighten the public into giving him whatever he wants."

More Dickie V. STOP!

I saw Bowling for Columbine. Its diatribe on American fear mongering is a far more potent statement than whatever message he was attempting to get across in regards to gun control, which is how the film was originally marketed. But at what point did George W. Bush corner the market on creating a society of fear? Maybe my history sucks here, but I think the whole "If it Bleeds it Leads" news mentality has been part of the American mindset for at least three decades, probably longer. To the best of my knowledge, G-Dub hasn't been President quite that long. Heck, didn't Columbine, referenced in the title of the movie, occur during the Clinton Administration? Many of the news clips referenced as seeds of fear were recorded long before Bush stepped foot in the White House. Isn't it the Democrats who have attempted to build an entire save the children safety platform on fear? Seems to me there's plenty of blame to go around, but right now it just doesn't make sense for Michael Moore to blame everyone. It's better to somehow focus this argument on one man and one administration, which contradicts his film, a piece of work that does a much better job unveiling a long-standing pattern.

In many ways, because of Bowling for Columbine, I get a lot less concerned about the little things. I'm not going to buy a gas mask to protect myself from SARS or rush to the nearest hospital for my Smallpox vaccination any time soon. But I'm also not going to change my focus midstream and blame all my ills on George W. Bush.

[Editor's Note: Schu may not be afraid of Smallpox or SARS, but he is afraid that Dick Bennett's style of play will make him fall asleep and miss the post game show he host on Fox Sports 1290]

Wildcat Authority Top Stories