Dick Vitale, Bob Knight and Arizona

From left, Rece Davis, Dick Vitale, Bob Knight and Digger Phelps.

Dick Vitale will be broadcasting the UCLA-Michigan basketball game for ESPN on Thursday from Madison Square Garden. The game will be the semifinals of the 2K Sports Classic basketball tournament. Bob Knight will handle the Duke-Southern Illinois semifinal.

During a conference call today, Vitale said he's no longer calling doubleheader games after undergoing last year's throat surgery to remove some pre-cancerous lesions.

Vitale also dropped an interesting nugget about Knight, who is becoming more involved in broadcasting now that he's out of coaching (for the time being, anyway).

"I was really shocked that Arizona didn't go after Bob Knight," Vitale said. "He would have been the ideal guy to have stepped in, and I firmly believe he would have accepted that role, taken that role until they hired another guy in the future."

Since Vitale broke the news of Lute Olson's retirement last month, one suspects he knew that Knight wanted the job. Probably, Knight has some selfish interest in more coaching -- like increasing his lead when it comes to the most college coaching victories. But if Arizona could have brought in Knight for this season, what a boost it would have been for the Pacific 10 Conference.

Ben Howland versus Knight twice during the year? The publicity value for a conference that is so easily ignored on the national scene because the Pac-10 broadcast contract is with Fox instead of ESPN, as well as because of late-night starts in the rest of the country?

Knight teaching basketball instead of, um, uh, oh yeah, Russ Pennell? What do you think? Would Arizona have lost to UAB by a point Tuesday night because of a series of incredibly bone-headed plays at the end, including an intentional foul committed with less than a second left that gave UAB the winning free throws?

Well, maybe. But if Knight were coaching, the aftermath might have been noteworthy. Thrown chair? Choking someone? Kicking megaphones, shoving faces, giving suggestions to rape victims? The possibilities are endless.

But the coaching matches this season would have been interesting too. Knight against Howland, USC's Tim Floyd, Cal's Mike Montgomery? In my mind those would be three of the top 10 or 15 coaches in the game right now. Too bad the Pac-10 couldn't have ordered Arizona to hire Knight for a season.

-- Diane Pucin

Photo: From left, Rece Davis, Dick Vitale, Bob Knight and Digger Phelps on the ESPN "College GameDay" set in an April file photo. Credit: Darren Abate / ESPN

Sports Illustrated says Pac-10 basketball is 'cost-effective'

Darren Collison Among the 50 findings in Sports Illustrated's "Hoops Ideology Report" included how different basketball conferences spent money.

SI concluded the Pac-10 is the most cost-effective league. Luke Winn writes, "It managed to be the strongest conference in '07-08 despite not having a single team even in the top 20 in spending."

The Pac-10 had six teams make the NCAA tournament last year. This year, three teams rank in the AP's Preseason Top 25.

That includes No. 4 UCLA, which ESPN's Andy Katz predicts will make its fourth straight trip to the Final Four.

In that same video, Katz said five teams will make the tournament this year. USC, coming off a 78-55 victory over UC Irvine, is ranked No. 18.

Though they've lost O.J. Mayo, the conventional thinking is that the Trojans will have more depth this year.

Meanwhile, No. 15 Arizona State won its season opener against Mississippi Valley State.

And ESPN picked UCLA guard Darren Collison and USC forward DeMar DeRozan as first- and second-team All-Americans.

We'll have a whole basketball season to find out if the Pac-10 can replicate last year's success. But let SI's study serve as a lesson learned that dollar signs don't necessarily equate to wins.

-- Mark Medina

Photo: UCLA's Darren Collison drives against Prairie View A&M in the second half of their game last week. Credit: Alex Gallardo / Los Angeles Times

Lute Olson: Another rocky episode for the coach

Christine Olson This is the saddest story we've seen today, so far.

Lute Olson, one of the most respected college basketball coaches of the last quarter of a century, has not had an easy time in recent years.

There was the death of his first wife, Bobbi, who was like a second mother to many Arizona basketball players; a second marriage that didn't work out; a year's hiatus from the game; a stroke; retirement that he didn't want to come so soon.

Now there's this about Olson's second wife, Christine.

-- Randy Harvey

Photo: Christine Olson. Credit: University of Arizona Athletics

The REST of the Lute Olson story...

The scoops got it wrong about the Arizona basketball coach.

Who goofed? How about a retraction?

Oh, sure, ESPN's Dick Vitale got part of the story right when he broke the news Thursday that Lute Olson was retiring at age 74.

But what about the big news?  Vitale and others were a little quick to speculate assistant Mike Dunlap would be named Olson's temporary successor. ESPN's original story stated, "Associate Coach Mike Dunlap will take over the head coaching duties on an interim basis, the source told Vitale."

In gumshoe Watergate days, Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee would have, in his bathrobe, stared Dicky V down on his front porch and told him to go get another source. "The future of Arizona basketball is at stake!"

Didn't happen. Oh, well.

Russ Pennell Friday, Arizona announced that assistant coach Russ Pennell was getting the job, with Dunlap staying on staff.

You could call it a little bit curious. Pennell (pictured) only returned to college basketball last May, joining Arizona's staff after spending the last two seasons running the Arizona Premier Basketball League.

More curious: Pennell, 47, spent eight seasons, from 1998-2006, as an assistant coach for arch-rival Arizona State.

Even more curious, Pennell spent the 2007-08 season doing radio color commentary for Arizona State basketball.

Hey, it's worked before. The Lakers once tapped Chick Hearn sidekick Pat Riley to coach the team, and Riley led the Lakers to four NBA titles.

This is just a guess, but we don't see Pennell winning four NCAA titles in Tucson.

-- Chris Dufresne

Photo: Russ Pennell. Credit: University of Arizona