'STAR' LAYOFFS: MORE TO COME?
The Arizona Daily Star's recent workforce-reduction list is likely to hit 16 by the end of the week, as sources within the Tucson Newspapers compound are expecting one more layoff connected to the newspaper's recent downsizing.
Nine Star employees, many with decades of experience, accepted a voluntary buyout earlier this month. The following week, six more employees, including the bulk of the library staff, were let go.
WILLIAMS JOINS SITTON FOR UA BASKETBALL TV BROADCASTS
Sean Miller and a revamped roster aren't all that's new with Arizona men's basketball this season: Some of the voices broadcasting the games are new, too.
On the TV side, Corey Williams replaces Bob Elliott as color commentator for the locally produced UA hoops games broadcast on Fox Sports Arizona and KWBA Channel 58/KGUN Channel 9 as part of the Arizona Wildcats Sports Network deal.
Williams, who played basketball at the UA in the mid-'90s and parlayed that into a successful professional career overseas, says the interview process caught him off guard. He was contacted by representatives at IMG, the organization that holds the rights to UA sports broadcasts; he assumed they wanted to talk with him for a feature story, something along the lines of a "Where are they now?" segment.
"I said, 'Yeah, no problem. Anything I can do to help the school, I'm onboard.' So I go down there, and lo and behold, it's an audition," Williams recalled. "There's (longtime Wildcats TV play-by-play announcer) Dave Sitton, and we go through some tape from one of last year's broadcasts.
"I wasn't really expecting it. It's something I haven't done before, but I felt comfortable doing it. When I watch football and basketball with family and friends, I'm just talking all the time anyway. It worked out pretty good, and I was surprised when, a few days later, they told me they'd like for me to have the position."
Sitton and Williams will team up for about 15 games this season. Williams handled himself well during the season-opener, a UA victory over Northern Arizona University.
"I'm sure I'll get better. Personally, I'm a lot harder on myself than most people. The feedback I've been getting is pretty good," Williams said. "It's easy to do. I've been playing and talking about basketball all my life. That's not the problem; it's just (a challenge) when you start to think about how many Wildcats fans will be listening. There are always going to be critics. You can't please everybody. I haven't been an athlete for a couple of years now, so (I need to get) that tough skin back where you have to deal with the critics."
Williams said he thinks color commentators and referees share something in common.
"A good ref is invisible. I think the same thing applies to TV commentary," he said. "The good ones are the ones who enhance the game and don't put the focus on themselves. Just let the fans enjoy what they're watching, and offer up some insightful points here and there; that's what we have to do."
While Williams has a history with the UA basketball program, he is also familiar with most of the current roster, which is a bit of a mystery to many Wildcats fans. The newcomers routinely showed their skills as participants in the Tucson Summer Pro League, which Williams helped organize.
"I have a personal connection with a lot of these guys, so to get to see them playing for the Cats (while) going back to McKale Center and seeing so many friendly faces, it's the perfect situation for me."
MUEHLEBACH TEAMS WITH JEFFRIES ON UA HOOPS RADIO
Another former player has also upgraded his McKale Center seating assignment.
Matt Muehlebach is the new color commentator for UA radio broadcasts, available locally at KCUB AM 1290 (where I do the pregame and postgame shows) and KHYT FM 107.5.
"The game completely changes for a high school kid when he becomes a freshman. The game is so much faster," said Muehlebach, who played for the Wildcats in the late '80s and early '90s. "I can tell you when you go from having a beer in one hand and chips in the other on the couch to the booth, it (also) goes a lot faster. (Veteran Wildcats radio play-by-play announcer) Brian Jeffries is awesome to work with. He's very good at what he does. It's fun. I enjoy it."
Muehlebach came to Arizona as a player when it was clear that Lute Olson was building something special in the desert. Now he gets to watch as Olson's successor attempts to return the program to glory.
"That was one of the very exciting things about agreeing to do the color ... witnessing Sean Miller and the new staff," Muehlebach said. "He's talked a lot about this being a fresh canvas. It's new to everybody. He has a plan and a big-picture idea of where he wants this to go, and a way to execute that plan. It's going to be fun to be part of the ride, seeing it from the ground up, a lot like it would have been seeing Lute Olson when he started here. Certainly, things are different with the tradition and the brand, but Coach Miller comes into the program with only one junior and one senior and so many new players. It's going to be fun to learn the system, but I've been very impressed so far."
Muehlebach replaces Ryan Hansen, who has been asked to concentrate more intently on fundraising efforts for the university.
"The IMG people asked if I would audition. I went down there and did it and did a decent enough job that they asked me to do (the job)," said Muehlebach, who is also a lawyer. "... It's a great opportunity. All the former players enjoy being around the program ... and I've been looking for a good seat at McKale for a couple of years now, and it finally happened."