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Why are Arizona Fans Upset at The Fizz About Lute Olson Story and Kaluma?

All eyes in the college basketball recruiting world are on Arthur Kaluma right now. He’s the highest-rated prospect in the Class of ’21 left after decommitting from UNLV a few weeks ago. His finalists, as you know, are Syracuse, Arizona, Washington, and Creighton. The Wildcats are viewed as the favorite because of their proximity to his Glendale, Arizona home. This week I had longtime college basketball insider Jeff Goodman on my CBS Sports Radio show.

I have known Jeff for a long time, greatly respect his work, and was interested in his thoughts about Kaluma’s recruitment. Goodman has a particular insight to Wildcats hoops since he’s an alum of the school. Our conversation was more about the new look of the Wildcats program in general. The weight of the Adidas scandal and ensuing investigations has dragged on the program for years. When Sean Miller was eventually fired after the season plenty of Arizona fans agreed with the decision. Some even celebrated.

Goodman told me a fascinating story about Wildcats legend Lute Olson, who passed away last summer. “He wanted the Sean Miller era over. He wanted to move on from it,” Goodman said. “He just felt like the program had gone through so much. When I sat down with Lute Olson before he passed away. You could tell, and he had trouble talking at that point, but he even, you could see it on his face.”

Using this quote in The Fizz’s coverage of the Kaluma recruitment rubbed some Wildcats fans the wrong way. A few of them felt it was an unfair shot at Miller that shouldn’t have run because it couldn’t be corroborated, and the focus should be on the positive. I disagree with all of those criticisms which is exactly why I used it. The fact is Miller had been widely criticized by fans and media for years now. The story was told to me on a nationally syndicated radio show on hundreds of affiliates. And Goodman’s entire message was that Tommy Lloyd is the right guy to take over and the future is bright. If Peter King tells an anecdote about sitting down with Reggie White on Dan Patrick’s Show, or Tom Verducci talks about his conversation with Tom Seaver on WFAN in New York, we don’t cry that the story needs corroboration. These are esteemed, longtime journalists whose words are valuable. Goodman has covered the sport for ESPN, FOX, CBS and Stadium. He has nearly 300,000 twitter followers for a reason. He breaks stories, has great sources, strong relationships, and his reporting is respected.

It’s a little surprising that the always gentlemanly Olson would have suggested a change of head coach. But Olson loved that program as much as any person ever. Of course the scandal and never-ending speculation about Miller’s job was difficult to endure. Everyone around that program wanted a resolution. If Olson thought it was time for a change, how many inside the program likely felt as well? Jeff didn’t join my show to take a hatchet to anyone. He only illuminated why he felt Lloyd (and the recruitment of Kaluma) was headed in a positive direction. There was no need to avoid using that quote in the story.

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