Arizona has a long and rich basketball history.
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.
The program came to national prominence under the tutelage of former head coach Lute Olson, who since 1983 has established the program as among America's elite in college basketball. One writer referred to UA as "Point Guard U" because the school has produced successful guards like Steve Kerr, Damon Stoudamire, Khalid Reeves, Jason Terry, Gilbert Arenas, Mike Bibby and others.
From 1985 to 2009, the Arizona basketball team reached the NCAA Tournament for 25 consecutive years, two years shy of North Carolina's record of 27. Despite a 1999 appearance later vacated by the NCAA, the media still cites Arizona's streak, and simply note the change. The Wildcats have reached the Final Four of the NCAA Tournament on four occasions (1988, 1994, 1997, and 2001). In 1997, Arizona defeated the University of Kentucky, the defending national champions, to win the NCAA National Championship. In Pac-10 play, former head coach Lute Olson currently holds the record for most wins as a Pac-10 coach at 327. In addition, the team has won 12 Pac-10 regular season titles and 4 Pac-10 tournament titles. Arizona also holds the distinction of recording 5 out of the 7 17–1 Pac-10 seasons (one-loss seasons). No team has gone undefeated since the formation of the Pac-10. Arizona has spent 110 weeks in the top 5 which is 10th all-time, 226 weeks in the top 10 which is 8th all-time and 423 weeks in the top 25 which is 10th all-time. Arizona has intense rivalries with the in-state Arizona State Sun Devils, and the out-of-state UCLA Bruins and Kansas Jayhawks.