Today marks the fourth anniversary of the death of former Arizona center Shawntinice Polk, who collapsed after a workout and died later that night from a lung blood clot. The Wildcat basketball program, which had enjoyed a tradition of success, began to decline, culminating in the firing of Coach Joan Bonvicini in April, 2008.
Fans have long said it was the death of this young woman that caused the program to go downhill. This excerpt from today’s piece in the Arizona Daily Wildcat seems to support that theory:
But Polk’s passing affected her team in such a distinct way. Arizona went 8-22 with a 3-15 Pacific 10 Conference record the season after Polkey died — a year that included Arizona’s first five-game losing streak since 1994-95. Arizona has won just 11 games in the past three seasons.
Team counselors worked with players for weeks upon weeks. Nearly a dozen players have left the program early since Polk’s death.
“There were some players who had some problems — very severe problems,” said Bonvicini, who was replaced by Niya Butts before the start of last season. “I don’t know if it was the direct result of Polkey passing away. It brought up within them family secrets that had been deep down — buried deep down in, who knows — in their conscience.”
“All kinds of issues came out because of this,” Bonvicini added. “I’m not here to blame anyone because I love Polkey. I loved coaching her and I miss her.”
I hope UA can rebuild. They were fun to watch back in the day.