This week's is an area of conversation not just reserved for the postgame show callers on KNST. This topic has quite a life on the Cattracks.net message board as well.
When will Lute Olson retire? And who will be his replacement? Not only is this question nearly impossible to answer with anything resembling certainty, it also seems to crop up as an area of contention among folks who aren't necessarily Wildcat fans. The latter is true moreso on the message board.
When a Wildcat fan breaches the topic, it's often out of fear. As if Olson, at his advanced age, could step down at any moment, and somehow the program will get sucked into an irretrievable vortex.
For the topic-rehashing culprit who's a fan of another institution, it's also a matter of fear. But it tends to include a little Wildcat berating along the way. The outsider will claim the Wildcat fan holds onto this hope that Olson will somehow coach forever, when in reality the Wildcat fan needs to come to his or her senses and understand their time in the spotlight is limited indeed. Let me translate this one for you.
Outsider: "I can't believe you blind Arizona faithful. You think Lute will stay on forever. He doesn't have much time left, and nobody else will want to coach in the desert, blah blah blah."
Schu Translation: "When is the old man going to retire so that his Wildcat teams will quit kicking our butts with regularity?"
When an outsider brings up this line of discussion, you can blame it on fear. But when a fan of Wildcat basketball starts the thread, or the topic on the talk show, I just don't get it. Because here is a topic that really has no answer, except perhaps for a question.
Caller: "When do you think Olson will retire?"
Schu: "Why should he?"
Period. Why should he? Somehow, we seem locked in this notion that 65 is retirement age. After that, send the folks out to pasture and let the new blood take over. That's a life for the person who really doesn't like his or her job. For someone like Olson, who obviously loves to coach at this level, and at this school, what's the point in stepping down? For someone like Olson, whose health appears to be outstanding, what's the point in stepping down?
Answer: There is no point.
Which makes the second issue moot. Who will be in line as Olson's replacement? Well, it's pretty much impossible to answer that since nobody seems to have any useful insight into part one. Sadly, the Olson retirement topic has been a recurring part of Wildcat basketball for at least a decade. And during that time, a number of names have been floated as potential successors. When Kevin O'Neill left to pursue head coaching opportunities, he was tabbed as the heir apparent. That seems unlikely now. They even floated Phil Johnson's name under many of the same conditions. Steve Kerr. Tom Izzo. I'm probably missing hundreds of "candidates."
The only name that is probably safe is long-time assistant Jim Rosborough. It seems unlikely Rosborough will pursue other positions at this stage in his career. I think it's safe to suggest he will be seriously considered should he be interested, once that unknown day finally arrives.
The other name to surface regularly is that of Kelvin Sampson because of his ties with UA Athletic Director Jim Livengood, but like everybody else, who knows what his availability would be. He just took Oklahoma to the Final Four; beat Arizona in the tourney along the way. The guy wins 20 games a year in Norman. That program is in good hands. The timing might not be right.
I think it makes sense for Livengood to keep a sort of informal cursory list in his head, as he would for any sport, but beyond that there's probably little he can, or should do. Anything more would be a waste of time. The dynamics involved just keep changing.
In the meantime, Arizona's head coach is Lute Olson. And every year, when someone asks when Olson will be stepping down, someone else will query whether this is Olson's best coaching job on the Wildcat sidelines. That one's hard to answer too. There have been so many superlative efforts.
What we do know is that Arizona basketball is in good hands. How about we leave it at that.
In Tucson, it was a big weekend for pop culture icons, and being the fan of pop culture icons I am, I watched the pop icons. Friday night, the Famous Chicken made his yearly appearance at Tucson Electric Park (I suppose some years ago this would be a yearly appearance at Hi Corbett, but things change). Of course, this used to be the San Diego Chicken, of San Diego Padres fame, but the two parties had a falling out a long time ago, and now the Famous Chicken tours minor league facilities, pulling in quite a nest egg per appearance. I haven't verified it, so take it for what it's worth, but someone in attendance told me the Chicken's appearance fee is five figures. For me, five figures tends to include decimals. For the Famous Chicken, an aforementioned pop culture icon, certainly that's a different story. Personally, the act seemed kind of tired to me. I chuckled a couple times. Wait, I chuckled at my friend Laura, who was trying to secure her future by hitting on Sidewinders pro prospect Lyle Overbay. (Columnist's note: Laura, who is not my girlfriend, nor ever claimed to be, is upset that Brad and Ben mention their significant others with regularity in their Cat Tracks columns while she gets nada. OK Laura, you've been mentioned. Laura, to the best of my knowledge, has no interest in Lyle Overbay. (Maybe it was Willie Morales.)
Still, an announced attendance of 5,080 fans watched the Famous Chicken do his thing. He signed autographs for free after the game, and the line was quite lengthy.
From the I Don't Get It file (yeah, it's a big, big, big, indeed, really big, big big file), fans were not allowed to bring umbrellas into Tucson Electric Park. "Liability," they said. Guess what? It's monsoon season. And of course, it rained. Well, when I'm struggling with attendance, heaven forbid I let my already shaky fan base potentially protect itself from an impending downpour. Those darn umbrellas could poke someone's eye out.
Saturday marked the arrival of an icon of a different nature. Ron Jeremy in Tucson, and my friend Joanna, who is also not my girlfriend (and wouldn't know Lyle Overbay from Lyle Lovett), insisted we pay a visit. For those of you not in the know, it might be a good idea, if you're really that interested, to ask a, um, shall we say, morally unkempt acquaintance about Ron Jeremy. A legend indeed, but one who has made his name by virtue of, um, a different sort of visual medium.
Jeremy was on hand at, um, a store that would, um, be appropriate for a man of his talents, and the autograph line was fairly lengthy. Being smart and all, we got there early, so we were seventh in line. I'd be willing to bet 200 people were there by the time we left.
With each person forking out an average of 20 bucks for a Polaroid and an autograph, at 200 people that's 4K. Not to mention the appearance fee. I bet this guy cleared in the neighborhood of 10 Grand. Do that every week and you're pulling down a half mil a year, on appearances alone, separate from your real, um, claim to fame.
The Famous Chicken and Ron Jeremy. Proof that anything is indeed possible in America. Take that Osama.
Contact Schu at email@example.com
[John Schuster is a copy editor for Cat Tracks and his column runs every Tuesday. He claims he has never viewed any of Ron Jereky's work.]