Greg Byrne's Wildcat Wednesday
Courtside Conversations ? Feb. 14, 2005
By: Arizona Athletics
Release: February 13, 2005
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It’s Joan’s turn. It’s her time. This season’s Pac-10 women’s Coach of the Year should be Arizona’s Joan Bonvicini and here is why:


Coach Bonvicini has faced more injuries than any other Pac-10 team, and she still has the Cats right in the hunt for the second seed in the upcoming Pac-10 Tournament. Stanford’s Tara VanDerveer will win the award, and you can certainly make a case for her, but Joan should win even if it is in the name of justice. Last year, the award was stolen from her by a group of Pac-10 coaches that are jealous of what she has accomplished. California Coach Karen Horstmeyer (4-14 in the Pac-10) was awarded the honor because of the tragic death of Alisa Lewis in midseason. But 4-14? You have to be kidding!


Last year, the Wildcats tied Stanford for the Pac-10 title and won 14 games in conference play. She took a team that was not picked to be a factor, and led them to their second straight Monday night performance in the Pac-10 Tournament Finals. She beat Stanford. But a group of petty coaches denied her what was due and found a way to deprive her of receiving it. And if you think I am exaggerating, talk to some of the people around the Pac-10 who understand the politics. It stinks. So, now let’s give Coach B a second chance.


Heading into this weekend’s games with the Oregon schools, Arizona is 9-5 in conference play and 17-8 overall. Maybe these numbers would not be so impressive under normal circumstances, but this season has been far from normal. From among Arizona’s original starting lineup, only Natalie Jones has not missed time for one reason or another.


Also, several important role players have missed games because of nagging injuries. Danielle Adefeso was out early with a shoulder injury and she is just coming back to full strength. Jessica Arnold, the speedy freshman guard from Tucson, has missed numerous contests with a bad shoulder and is not 100 percent. Shannon Hobson, Arizona’s starting forward, went down with a knee injury that cost her two weekends. Now, Ch?© Oh, a powerful freshman post player, is out with a concussion. Coach B had the courage to bench superstar Dee-Dee Wheeler at Stanford for disciplinary reasons. It probably cost her team the game, but it was the right thing to do.


And then of course there is Polkey. The gutsy superstar has been playing on one leg most of the season and is still averaging more than 13 points per game. However, her rebounding and defense have suffered and the Cats have not been the same because of it. What other coach has had to withstand this kind of onslaught and still have her team going in the right direction at crunch time? You answer the question.


It’s Joan’s turn. Petty politics and misplaced sympathy cost her the Coach of the Year award that she, and only she, deserved to win last season. Even if Tara wins, I hope Joan gets some votes. After all, it’s her turn.


See you on the radio!

Paul Johnson


* All Wildcat regular-season and postseason games are broadcast live on AM 1330 KJLL.

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