"Arizona, Memphis connections awkward for Livengood"
TULSA, Okla. - If the NCAA selection committee wanted to draw fans by throwing every Arizona-related person in college basketball into the Tulsa, Okla., games of the NCAA Tournament, they succeeded in doing so.
If they wanted all of those involved to feel awkward about it, well, they succeeded in that area as well, especially for former Arizona athletic director Jim Livengood.
One year into his athletic director gig at UNLV, Livengood sat on the sideline as his Runnin' Rebels ran through their open practice Thursday. The UNLV athletic director's Rebels will play Illinois in the Southwest Regional bracket of the NCAA Tournament, but Livengood will watch with a torn heart as his former Wildcats face off against former Arizona player Josh Pastner Friday at approximately 11:40 a.m. Pacific Time.
""It's amazing that all those things can come together at this particular site,"" Livengood said. ""But it happened. It's unbelievable.""
And it gets even more personal for Livengood.
His son-in-law, Jack Murphy, is an assistant coach under Pastner after spending eight years on Arizona's staff, serving as everything from team manager, to video coordinator to director of player operations. He's married to Livengood's daughter Michelle, a lawyer and Arizona graduate.
""It really puts us in an awkward spot,"" Livengood said. ""Murph is family. Our two granddaughters are his two daughters.
""Certainly, we want the Wildcats to do good, we want Memphis to do good, we certainly want the Rebels ... we want everybody to do good,"" he added. ""And not everybody can do good. It's just not all going to end up where everybody is OK.""
As much change as first-year athletic director Greg Byrne has brought to Tucson, Arizona is still feeling the effects of the Livengood era. After all, it was he who hired Miller away from Xavier once it appeared every elite coach had spurned the move to Wildcat Country.
""I'm incredibly proud of Sean,"" Livengood said. ""I'm incredibly proud of Arizona, and what they've become. Sean Miller is not only a great coach, Sean Miller is an outstanding person, and the program will just continue to grow.""
The move to Las Vegas, Nev., has served he and wife Linda well. After spending 15 years at Arizona, Livengood is hoping to make a brief stand at UNLV that he hopes will turn around an athletic program generally believed to be off-kilter before his arrival.
""It's been a really good change,"" he said. ""We're not going to do this for a long time, that was never the game plan. The game plan is we're going to go in and spend three years, and we've enjoyed some really wonderful people, we've made some great friends. I think we've made some changes in a very positive ways to help our university at UNLV and also to help Rebel athletics.""
After a few coaching changes, Livengood is optimistic about the program's direction. He's learned over the past year how to manage a place very different from Tucson, and he says he's also leaning on changing UNLV's perception as a school.
""The cities obviously are different size,"" he said. ""The schools, they're just two different schools. It's not one's better. It's just different. Arizona in the Pac-10. UNLV is in the Mountain West. UNLV is a much better school than many people perceive it to be, so we've been really excited and pleased with that.""
But tomorrow, he'll just find himself rooting for three of the eight teams playing in Tulsa, Okla.
""Murph is family, Josh (Pastner) you know,"" Livengood said, of course listing off his hire in Miller and former Wildcat Steve Kerr, who will be calling the game. ""This is why it's so weird, in terms of having everybody right here tomorrow.""