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University of Arizona fielded its first men's basketball team in 1904–05. Orin Albert Cates coached the team and drew opponents from local YMCAs. The first game Arizona played ended in a 40–32 victory over the Morenci YMCA.

In 1914, Arizona's first famous coach, James Fred "Pop" McKale was lured away from a teaching and coaching job at Tucson High School to take over as Athletic Director and coach basketball, football, baseball and track. McKale took things to a new level, posting a 9–0 record his first season as a basketball coach. Moreover, McKale elevated the program to intercollegiate play. While basketball was his least favorite of the many sports he coached while at UA, He chalked up three undefeated seasons and a career-winning average of .803, which has never been bested by a UA coach who has held the post for at least three years. The McKale Memorial Center, the main arena for Arizona basketball, is named in his honor.

From 1925 to 1961, the program was under the stewardship of Fred Enke, UA's longest tenured coach.[8] Coach Fred A. Enke was responsible for the early successes of Wildcat basketball. Enke amassed 509 wins in his tenure on the UA sidelines and still ranks as the second-winningest coach in school history, winning more than 60 percent of his games. Enke also led the Cats to the first four postseason appearances (3 N.I.T./1 NCAA) in school history and in 1950-51 competed in both the N.I.T. and NCAA postseason tournaments. Finally, he was the first coach to lead Arizona to a national ranking. Two of his teams (1950, 1951) finished the season ranked in the top 15.

Under Enke, UA competed in the now defunct Border Conference. Under Enke's direction, Arizona won 12 conference championships, including a span in which the Cats won or shared seven consecutive Border Conference titles (1942-51). No Border Conference team won as many league games (231) or overall contests (398) during its membership. In 1962, Arizona joined the Western Athletic Conference as a founding member after the Border Conference disbanded.

In 1972, Fred Snowden was hired as the head basketball coach, making Arizona the second Division I school and the first major program to hire an African American head coach. Known as "The Fox," Snowden brought the excitement back to Wildcat basketball during his 10 years on the Arizona sideline, averaging more than 80 points per game in six of his 10 years and topping the 100-point barrier 27 times. Snowden led Arizona to the NCAA tournament twice, in 1976 and 1977, getting as far as the Elite Eight in 1976 before losing to UCLA 82–66, a game after defeating UNLV in a Sweet Sixteen matchup. During the 1976 tournament he also logged Arizona's first and only tournament wins until Lute Olson's hiring, beating John Thompson's Georgetown team 83–76. Snowden's 1976 team also won the school's only WAC championship title on a buzzer-beater by Gilbert Myles verses New Mexico, with the help of the spectacular play of Bob Elliott, Jim Rappis, and Al Fleming. In 1978, Coach Snowden helped transition the basketball program over to the newly formed Pac-10. Snowden could not sustain success in the Pac-10, however, finishing no higher than 4th place in the conference. His 9–18 final season led UA to look for a replacement.

Athletic Director Dave Strack brought in Ben Lindsey to replace Fred Snowden in 1983, and on the surface, it seemed like a reasonable move. Lindsey had junior college expertise, having had a successful career at Grand Canyon University, where he won two national titles. What resulted, however, was nothing short of disaster. The 1983 team went 4–24, with only one Pac-10 win.
(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arizona_Wildcats_men%27s_basketball) www.arizona.edu