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Monday, March 17, 2008
Bonvicini fired after 17 seasons with Wildcats

Associated Press

TUCSON, Ariz. -- Joan Bonvicini was fired on Monday after 17 seasons as the women's' basketball coach at Arizona.

Bonvicini coached the Wildcats to their first NCAA tournament berth in 1996. She had a 287-223 record with Arizona, but her last three teams were a combined 29-63. The Wildcats were 10-20 and 4-14 in the Pac-10 this season. She had one year remaining on her contract.

"I have had the highest of highs, the lowest of lows," Bonvicini said in a statement released by the university, "but I also feel I have worked with wonderful people since I've been here."

Arizona made it to the NCAA tournament seven times under Bonvicini, the most recent in 2005. Her 1996 team won the WNIT. She was head coach at Long Beach State for 12 years before coming to Tucson. Her Long Beach State teams made it to the NCAAs in her final 10 seasons and advanced to the Final Four twice.

Her most difficult time at Arizona came when star player Shawntinice Polk collapsed at McKale Center and died of a lung blood clot on Sept. 26, 2005. Last month, the Arizona Medical Board issued a letter of reprimand to team doctor Don Porter for failing to properly diagnose the potentially deadly condition when Polk complained of respiratory problems.

Athletic director Jim Livengood praised Bonvicini for her service and said the university had hired a company that would aid in the national search for a replacement.

"Our hope, and emphasis is on hope, is that we would potentially have a coach in place by the end of this year's women's Final Four," Livengood said. "I'm not talking about trying to be quick, but to make sure we use this time in great fashion when both men's and women's basketball is at its highest peak."

Arizona has faltered while in-state rival Arizona State, under coach Charli Turner Thorne, has become a perennial NCAA invitee.

"Like any of our programs we want to be as good as we want to be," Livengood said. "We want somebody who will allow us to challenge for a Pac-10 championship and obviously be one of the elite programs in the country. I would be amiss and wrong if we did not desire that."