Green: Better to be lucky than good

Aug 22, 2009, 3:33 AM | Updated: Jan 14, 2011, 4:24 pm

What is the phrase? That luck favors the prepared? Well, in the case of University of Arizona Athletic Director Jim Livengood, those words need not apply.

Oh, sure, Livengood and the U of A is incredibly lucky, but the good fortune has nothing to do with being prepared.

Back when the Cats were looking for their next men’s basketball coach, plenty of names were thrown out as being possible candidates – some big. The names John Calipari, Rick Pitino and Tim Floyd were either rumored to have great interest in the job (Calipari, Pitino) or were rumored to have actually accepted the job (Floyd).

At the time, when I would tell people that Calipari was the guy, the general response I received was one of disbelief. Why would he leave a great Memphis team for what seemed to be a downtrodden Arizona squad with not much to build with?

When one would mention Pitino, the reaction was similar – no way he’d leave Louisville, not at his age, to start over again in Tucson.

Granted, the reaction to the Floyd “hiring” led many Wildcats fans (yours truly included) into the five stages of grief:

Denial – There is no way that the University of Arizona, home of 25 straight NCAA Tournament appearances, four Final Fours and one national championship would hire a guy like Tim Floyd.

Anger – Forget that, Livengood is a bum, how could we go from talking about guys like Calipari and Pitino to take over for Lute to Tim freaking Floyd?

Bargaining – Eh, I guess it’s OK, he has had some success everywhere he’s gone and his USC team did win the Pac 10 Tournament last year.

Depression – Oh no, it won’t work; he cheated at USC and just seems like a used car salesman. That this guy will lead us into the future speaks volumes about how bleak it will be.

Acceptance – OK, it’s cool. He’s a good coach and – with Arizona’s tradition behind him – will find more success than he ever has.

But alas, the Wildcats were thrown a lifeline. Floyd decided at the last moment to turn down the job and, after the embarrassment that followed the program for a little while, Livengood was able to not only rebound, but pull off a miracle: he hired Sean Miller from Xavier.

Yeah, nobody knows exactly how good the Cats will be with Miller, but given what’s happened to three of the top candidates for the job since he was hired, you can already put one more into the victory column for Livengood and the University of Arizona.

It started with Floyd, who resigned after being accused of providing improper benefits to former star O.J. Mayo. He did say he just no longer had the enthusiasm necessary to continue coaching, but with all the rumors and accusations being thrown around his program at USC, it is not unreasonable to think that maybe he saw the writing on the wall and got out while he could.

Then, the guy who was Livengood’s top target until Kentucky needed a coach, came under fire for having a key player on his 2007-08 championship game team be ineligible to play. As it turns out, Derrick Rose – the team’s best player and subsequent number one pick in the 2008 NBA Draft – was not eligible to play and now Memphis’ 38 wins that season as well as its appearance in the national championship game have been erased from the NCAA’s record books.

Finally, Pitino – though not anything associated with basketball – is involved with an extortion investigation focusing on a woman (not his wife) that he had sex with, allegedly paid to have her pregnancy aborted, only to have the woman try to get more money from the coach. Though he says he is committed to Louisville and the school says they are standing behind their coach, a known adulterer is not exactly ideal to run a program where parents decide to send their children.

Which leads us back to Miller.

Since arriving as the head coach he has done nothing but impress boosters and alumni as well as sign what deemed the 12th best recruiting class for 2009, a great feat considering that by the time he was named Arizona’s coach on April 6, many of the top recruits had already signed with other schools.

Granted, I guess there is still time for Miller to have problems. He’s new in town, seems to have a ton of energy, and came into a situation that held low expectations. He’s in that grace period right now where he can do no wrong, but if the team begins to struggle things will not be as peachy for the 40-year-old basketball coach.

But, if there is one person who comes out smelling like roses – regardless of how the team does – it is Jim Livengood, who has learned that sometimes the best decisions are the ones that you are not allowed to make.

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