Uh-oh, here we go again. Last week it was Rick Majerus and his past. This week it's the Runnin' Utes and their past. When the University of Utah meets Arizona State Tuesday night in the second round of the National Invitation Tournament, Lynn Archibald will be on the Sun Devils' bench.
Remember Archibald? Young and good-looking, a nice man and good coach. He was Utah's head coach for six years, and then he was suddenly fired with a year remaining on his contract. He was replaced by Majerus.If you liked last week's NIT game between Majerus and his old Ball State team - the school he dumped for Utah - then tune in Tuesday's televised game between the Utes and ASU/Archibald - the coach they dumped for Majerus.
"Bitterness? Nah. Life's too short," says Archibald, responding to the obvious question. "I'm looking forward to seeing some of the players. I haven't seen them since I left."
Archibald recruited current Utes Jimmy Soto, Craig Rydalch, Tyrone Tate and Larry Cain. "I've known Tate since he was 11 or 12 years old," says Archibald. Tate, whose older brother, Robert, played for Archibald at Idaho State, stayed at Archibald's house to attend Ute basketball camps.
"I'm excited to see those guys again," Archibald repeats.
If Archibald is happy for the brief reunion, it's only because it's on his own turf.
"I'm glad we're not playing there (in Salt Lake City)," says Archibald. "It would have been really hard to be in that building with so many friends. Now it's just another game here."
Archibald claims no bitterness about his dismissal, but it was there when he left Utah. Following 11-19 and 15-16 seasons, Archibald led the Utes to three straight post-season tournament appearances - one NCAA and two NIT - posting 20-10, 17-13 and 19-11 records. The Utes were a strong favorite to the win the Western Athletic Conference title in 1989, but then his team was decimated by three knee operations and one back surgery, and the Utes finished with a 16-17 record. And Archibald was fired.
"They never have said why," says Archibald. "They tried to put out that it was the academics, but we were always good there. This is the first time I've talked about this with anyone in a long time."
Archibald "took a settlement (from Utah)" and quickly landed a job at Arizona State, which had just hired head coach Bill Frieder from Michigan. ASU, which hadn't had a winning season since 1983, has qualified for post-season play in all three years under Frieder. This year's young team, loaded with former prep All-Americans, is 19-13, having beaten the likes of Arizona at home and New Mexico and Santa Barbara on the road.
"It's been good for me and my family," says Archibald.
His son, Damon, was a 20-point scorer for one of Arizona's top prep basketball teams and won a basketball scholarship to Boise State (he redshirted this season as a freshman); his daughter Lee Anne played on a nationally ranked prep volleyball team; and his son, Bo, is a promising ninth-grade basketball player.
"We have great memories of Utah," says Archibald, who was born in Logan but raised in California. "That is still kind of home for us. But you've got to look ahead. You can't look behind. I'm not worried about the past."
Archibald, who has been a head coach at both Utah and Idaho State, hopes to be a head coach again. "I'll get another chance someday," he says. "But first I want to get my kids through school."