Ignominious End For Longtime Olson Assistant

By - April 24, 2007


If Jim Rosborough's removal from Arizona's on-court coaching staff made even a blip on the national radar, chances are you missed it. A quick Google News search indicates that the story didn't get a whole lot of play outside the Grand Canyon State.

A refresher: Last Thursday, Lute Olson's longtime right-hand man declined an administrative reassignment that would have taken the 62-year-old associate head coach away from the sidelines for the first time in three-and-a-half decades of coaching.

"I am a coach and that's what I do," said Rosborough, who has served as Olson's lieutenant throughout his 18-year tenure in Tucson in addition to the previous nine seasons in Iowa. "I've been doing it for 35 years. It's what I love to do."

But those intimate with Arizona program know the widespread nature of Rosborough's impact on the Wildcats. Whether toiling on the recruiting trail, handling the media, working on scheduling or running the basketball office or the academic program or the Lute Olson Wildcat Basketball Camp, his imprint on the Arizona program was all-encompassing. Roz, as the associate head coach was affectionately known, also earned a reputation as a "straight shooter" whose personal interest in the well-being of his student-athletes lended integrity to the program.

But despite an active streak of 23 consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances, Olson's charges have posted back-to-back disappointing seasons and a pair of early exits from the Big Dance. Season sweeps at the hands of Southern California and Washington State along with nationally televised embarassments against North Carolina and UCLA have been among the lowlights. Someone had to pay the price for Arizona's recruiting gaffes and underperformance when the games have mattered most and, according to Arizona Daily Star scribe Greg Hansen, that someone was Rosborough.

Hansen's scathing opinion of the Roz razing blasts Arizona's Hall of Fame coach for cutting loose a loyal associate who helped lead Olson teams to Final Fours with both the Wildcats and the Hawkeyes:

There won't be much, if any, public reaction from former UA players and staff members. The three men I reached Friday all said essentially the same thing: I really like Roz but beyond that I won't speak on the record.
Such is the sway of Olson. Such is the $16 million-a-year industry, a monster, Olson has built from the ground up. Many of us have worshipped and fed the monster.
But now, for the first time, the monster is insatiably hungry and it has begun to eat its own.

Roz has pulled a six-figure salary for a decade and there will always be a job out there for a lifetime assistant with Final Four experience. But the underplayed story of his casting away from the Arizona family is a telling symptom of today's win-at-all-costs climate in major college basketball.

Posted by at 11:43 AM on April 24, 2007
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