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February Alum of the Month

Matt Muehlebach: The Lasting Impact of an O’Dowd Education

If you ask Matt Muehlebach, there’s a lot of similarity between the 1988 University of Arizona Final Four basketball team and the 1986 California Interscholastic Federation Division 1 state runner up O’Dowd varsity basketball team. He should know. He played on both squads.

“Both teams had great coaches (Lute Olsen and Mike Phelps) and a lot of really good players but, more importantly, great chemistry,” he said.

A few months after O’Dowd’s 70-69 loss to Crenshaw of Los Angeles at the Oakland Coliseum, Muehlebach’s family moved to Kansas City, Missouri, where he finished his senior year at Rockhurst High School, his father’s alma mater. But he still considers himself a Dragon from the Class of 1987.

“O’Dowd was such a unique environment, where you had a great combination of academics, athletics and an awesome community. There was a high value placed on being well-rounded,” he said. “I have that ‘street cred’ because I played basketball at O’Dowd. But anybody who is familiar with O’Dowd as an academic institution knows I have ‘street cred’ there, too.”

Matt Muehlebach (third from right) was among a host of former Dragon hoops stars who attended the 2017 O’Dowd Basketball Celebration. Others included, from left to right, Erik Fisher ’86, Gio Welch ’86, Carlos Perry ’86, Phil Palmer ’87 and Tony Ronzone ’83.

Today, Muehlebach combines two very unique professional roles. By day, he’s Vice President and General Counsel at 5Lights Group where he is responsible for managing, supporting and effecting all legal functions and matters within the company and across portfolio companies and private equity investment activities.

At night and on the weekends, Muehlebach is a basketball analyst for the Pac-12 Networks, covering University of Arizona games.

“I’m really blessed to be in both positions, that’s for sure,” he said. “I really love doing both and neither feels like work to me.”

Matt Muehlebach, left interviewing Olympian Michael Phelps during a game along with legendary broadcaster Ted Robinson who currently is the play-by-play announcer for the San Francisco 49ers.

One of the most enjoyable aspects of his basketball analyst position is working games featuring players that went to O’Dowd, Muehlebach said. Those players include Richard “Junior” Longrus ’12 (Washington State University); Brandon Ashley (University of Arizona); Paris Austin ’15 (Cal); Ivan Rabb ’15 (who attended Cal and is currently playing for the Memphis Grizzlies) and Isaiah Thomas ’15 (Northern Arizona University). “Every time I would see them we would talk about O’Dowd,” he said. This year, he is looking forward to chatting with Naseem Gaskin ’18 (The University of Utah) and Elijah Hardy ’18 (University of Washington).

Muehlebach’s love of O’Dowd started early – when he was in elementary school at Castro Valley’s Our Lady of Grace. He regularly attended O’Dowd basketball games and loved watching the Dragon stars of the day, such as Andre Rivers ’81, Tony Jackson ’82, Tony Ronzone ’83 and Eric Holloway ’83, and dreamed of wearing Black and Gold.

He lived that dream. And, after a successful high school basketball career, Muehlebach became an elite college player who left a lasting mark on the University of Arizona record books. He is the 2nd all-time assist leader, 3rd leading three-point percentage shooter (41.9%) and was the first player in Arizona history to record a triple-double.

The three-year starter was a member of four consecutive Pac-12 (then Pac-10) championship teams (1988-1991), was a three-time First Team All-Pac-12 Academic selection, was voted MVP by his team after his senior season and was named the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year in 1991.

During his four years as a Wildcat he played with notables such as Warriors head coach Steve Kerr, popular Bay Area sports radio talk show host and former Warriors player Tom Tolbert and six-time Major League Baseball All-Star and Gold Glove winner Kenny Lofton.

“It’s super coincidental that I am really good friends with Steve Kerr and he ended up coaching the team that I grew up loving – The Warriors,” he said.

It was Muehlebach’s University of Arizona connections that led to him landing a job as the radio analyst for the Wildcats. Once the Pac-12 Network was born, he accepted a TV analyst role there. “For the first couple of years I actually did a combined schedule of radio and TV, and then I moved over to doing TV only,” he said.

Muehlebach says combining two disparate jobs isn’t as hard as one would think – he can carry out his legal work remotely while traveling to cover games. “It’s really only about five months of the year that I do both, and during that time I just have to be super-efficient and organized,” he said.

Both positions bring him an incredible amount of joy. “With respect to the General Counsel work, I really like the problem solving aspect and working towards a good outcome,” he said. “There’s also a lot of analysis when it comes to basketball announcing. And I just love still being connected to the game and the people. I run into so many people who have been a part of my basketball life,” he said.


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