It was another successful year playing at home for Arizona Basketball, as the Wildcats dominated the Pac-12 in McKale Center.
It says something about a fanbase when a team consistently wins on their home court. And for the past few decades, the Arizona Basketball team has truly been blessed to possess a genuine advantage on campus, regardless of who is coaching them.
Back in the early-90s, whether I was attending the game or working at the Flandrau Planetarium in the evenings across the Mall from McKale Center, after an Arizona Wildcats men’s college basketball game there was unadulterated jubilation as fans left McKale. And dare I say, a hint of smugness, too.
This is what happens when the Cats, then led by Hall of Fame coach Lute Olson, won 71-straight home games. Of course, it was UCLA, led by the nefarious Don MacLean, that broke the streak on January 11, 1992. (MacLean was the player that broke Sean Elliott’s Pac-10 all-time scoring record. He was a cactus needle in Arizona’s proverbial side).
As I worked in the planetarium gift shop that night, I vividly recall how eerily silent the campus was as fans despondently walked back to their vehicles and dorms, respectively.
McKale is, as cliché as it sounds, a special place. This is not the subjective opinion of some fanboy, which I admittedly am, I can quantify this proclamation!
More recently, Arizona owned the nation’s longest home winning streak again, this time under Sean Miller. This time, it was the dastardly Oregon Ducks, who seemingly replaced UCLA as the Cats’ ultimate nemesis for Pac-12 supremacy, that snapped Arizona’s 49-game winning streak on January 28, 2016. Oregon was led by Dillon Brooks, in my mind right up there with Don MacLean as top Wildcat killers.
It is impressive for a basketball program to have not one, but two of the nation’s longest all-time home winning streaks, but Arizona has had THREE.
While coached by the longest-tenured coach in Arizona men’s basketball history, Fred Enke, and playing in the venerable Bear Down Gymnasium, from 1945-1951 Arizona rattled off an amazing, 81-straight wins at home, currently the fifth longest home winning streak in men’s NCAA college basketball history.
As of right now, the Wildcats are riding a 19-game homecourt winning streak going back to Miller’s final year. Coach Lloyd’s squad did not lose a single game at McKale last season, going 17-0.
Call me eternally optimistic, but here’s hoping this new iteration of Arizona Wildcats basketball will eventually secure their fourth time of holding the distinction of having the nation’s longest home winning streak, under yet another different coach. If it’s not the same coach, and the players change year after year, it must be the fans that generate the Tucson magic!