Updated Dec 26, 2013 - 10:08 am
Arizona Sports' 2013, in photos
On January 1, the Arizona Cardinals announced they had relieved head coach Ken Whisenhunt of his duties. Less than three weeks later, Bruce Arians was tabbed to replace him. Arians was the offensive coordinator for the Indianapolis Colts the previous season, where he guided the team to a 9-3 record as interim head coach in place of Chuck Pagano and won AP Coach of the Year honors. In Arizona, Arians has led the Cardinals to one of the best records in franchise history.
In only his second season with Arizona State, head coach Todd Graham guided the Sun Devils to a 10-2 record, which included a 58-21 thrashing of rival Arizona along with a Pac-12 South title. Though the team fell short in the Pac-12 Championship Game to the Stanford Cardinal, the Devils' top-25 ranking and appearance in the Holiday Bowl is proof the former Pitt coach has the team heading in the right direction.
The Los Angeles Dodgers decided the best way to celebrate their NL West crown -- which they won by rallying to beat the Diamondbacks at Chase Field -- was to take a dip in the stadium's pool. It was how the D-backs themselves celebrated just two years earlier, but this hit a nerve with the team and its fan base. No longer was the pool just a place for suite-holders to enjoy the game (or not, depending on how much one can pay attention to baseball while in a pool), it was a sacred place that was desecrated by the boys in blue.
Hockey still has a home in the desert. The Phoenix Coyotes were officially sold by the NHL to IceArizona in August, putting an end to an ongoing local nightmare. The ownership group is made up of multiple investors and led by George Gosbee and Anthony LeBlanc, who have professed a desire to keep the team in Arizona, though there is an "out clause" that would allow them to move after five seasons if ticket sales are not at a certain level.
Finally, the Cardinals found themselves a quarterback. On April 2, Arizona sent a seventh round pick to the Oakland Raiders for veteran signal caller Carson Palmer, and it was hoped that the former top pick would breathe life into a struggling passing game while simultaneously resuscitating Pro Bowler Larry Fitzgerald's career. Mission accomplished. Palmer is on pace to be among the franchise's all-time leaders for season marks, and Fitzgerald has reached double-digit touchdowns for the first time since 2009.
The state has one championship team, as the Arizona Rattlers won their second-consecutive Arena Bowl, taking down the Philadelphia Soul by a score of 48-39. Led by quarterback Nick Davila, the Rattlers became the first team in history to beat the same opponent for the title two years in back-to-back seasons.
Diamondbacks pitcher Ian Kennedy hit Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig in the face with a pitch and then Dodgers pitcher Zach Greinke hit Diamondbacks catcher Miguel Montero with a pitch. Soon after, Kennedy then threw up and in to Greinke and, well, all hell broke loose. Eight suspensions and a dozen fines later...
The Suns finished a season with just 25 wins, which was the second lowest total in franchise history. It was a season of colossal disappointment, and nowhere is that more epitomized than with Lindsey Hunter and Michael Beasley. The interim head coach and free agent bust struggled during their short stays in the Valley, and neither was brought back following the season.
The Phoenix Mercury chose Brittney Griner with the first overall pick in the WNBA Draft May 16, 2013, and the former Baylor star went on to average 12.6 points, 6.3 rebounds and 3.0 blocks per game as a rookie. Her high-flying style and ability to throw down dunks makes her a fan favorite, and though the Mercury fell short in the playoffs, she is expected to help lead the team for years to come.
Paul Goldschmidt did not win the NL MVP, but he certainly had an MVP-caliber season. The first baseman hit .302 with an NL-leading 36 home runs and 125 RBI. He posted an on base percentage of .401 and an OPS (on base+slugging) of .952. Oh, he also won a Silver Slugger and Gold Glove.
The Phoenix Suns needed big changes, and nowhere is this more represented than in the new head coach and new star player. Jeff Hornacek, who played for the team from 1986-1992 was chosen to lead the franchise's rebuilding effort, and former L.A. Clipper Eric Bledsoe was acquired via a trade. All the two have done -- with help, of course -- is turn the Suns into one of the NBA's biggest surprises as well as most fun teams to watch.
The Arizona Diamondbacks may not have been bad in 2013, but their bullpen certainly was. The D-backs tied for the league lead in blown saves with 29, seven of which were courtesy of Heath Bell, who also served up 12 home runs. He has since been traded.
The Wildcats reached the Sweet 16 in the first half of the year, while the second part has seen them become the top-ranked team in college hoops. Led by arguably the most talented frontcourt in the nation, the 'Cats have big wins over San Diego State, Duke and Michigan, and Sean Miller's team has the look of a Final Four contender. But of course, that's for 2014 to determine...
Adam Green, Web Content Editor - ArizonaSports.com