MUTINY ON THE HARDWOOD
On Feb. 6, Drake players announced that they would no longer play for second-year coach Tom Abatemarco, who they say treated them abusively. To strengthen their case against him, the players alleged that Abatemarco had given them free access to the school's telephone WATS line and free gym shoes to sell, and that he was aware that assistant coach Tom Butler had written school papers for some of them. The next day university vice-president Jack Ohle announced that Abatemarco would be reassigned until an investigation into the charges could be completed. He was replaced by assistant coach Eddie Fields.
Drake is the third school in the last five weeks to be confronted with a case of hoops mutiny. At Northern Arizona, coach Pat Rafferty, 32, resigned on Jan. 23 after six players allegedly met with university administrators and demanded that he step down. The players accused Rafferty of verbal abuse.
Rafferty's 8-35 record at Northern Arizona, which hired him in 1988, may have increased the pressures inherent in his job. "I wanted the team to take on my personality, my intensity, my emotion," he said after resigning. "If you look at their play, they have to be pushed in every capacity."
Lumberjack athletic director Tom Jurich defended Rafferty—"I've had coaches here that made Pat look like a pussycat," he said—but he also revealed that Rafferty was suffering from "serious personal problems." He would not elaborate beyond that.
On Jan. 12, Florida A&M women's coach Mickey Clayton, who had a 199-138 record in 13 seasons at Tallahassee, was reassigned to the post of NCAA compliance officer at the school following a week-long walkout by the Rattlerettes. Just what the players have alleged about Clayton, 36, has yet to be revealed, but the university did issue an official denial of rumors that Clayton's conduct toward his players had been "immoral." Clayton was philosophical about his situation. "We tried to teach them to stand up for things they believe in," he said. "Evidently, that's what they did."
The Drake case has become the most contentious of the three. Abatemarco, 40, has denied violating any NCAA rules. And in an interview on ESPN he said, "I didn't think I did anything to abuse my players." However, Eric Berger, a former Drake guard who completed his eligibility last season, said Abatemarco "treated you like feces. That's about all you can say."
At Drake's 68-62 home loss to Wichita State last Saturday, fans, especially students, generally supported the players. On the other hand, one sign in the stands read: MY SHOES ARE TOO TIGHT—I WANT A NEW COACH.
Winston-Salem State coach Clarence (Bighouse) Gaines, the president of the National Association of Basketball Coaches, is worried that coaches are not getting a fair shake when accusations like these become public. "One of the only places you'll find any discipline on many college campuses is on the athletic teams," he said. "The kids might say the coach isn't treating them right, but it's possible that whatever problems the players have could have been handled without going to the chancellor first."
For years the women's team at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas has been a lounge act, playing before less-than-capacity crowds in a 1,500-seat campus gym while the headliners, the men's team of coach Jerry Tarkanian, draw SRO audiences to the 18,500-seat Thomas & Mack Center near the Strip. This season, however, thanks to the Jordan twins, Pauline and Geannine, the Lady Rebels have emerged as a snappy show in their own right, with NCAA title aspirations every bit as serious as those of their male counterparts. With a 92-62 blowout of No. 8 Long Beach State at home last Saturday night, third-ranked UNLV lifted its record to 21-1.
Pauline, who's righthanded and the taller sister by an inch at 6'3", is a fanatic about hoops. "If one light's on in the gym, it wouldn't matter," says Lady Rebel coach Jim Bolla. "She'd be in there shooting." At week's end she was averaging 16.5 points and 13.2 rebounds a game. Geannine, a lefty with a telltale mole on her forehead, is steadier but less spectacular; after Saturday's game she was averaging 12.4 points and was third in the Big West in shooting percentage (.540). Geannine cares more about working than playing basketball, and she once briefly quit the Muir High team in Pasadena, Calif., to keep a job. "I'm into working and making money," she says. "I love money."
From age five until the end of their senior year at Muir High, the Jordans were interested mainly in soccer; they won 11 straight American Youth Soccer Organization division championships under the coaching of their mother, Carrie. Basketball was a second sport for the girls, but they still led Muir to a 114-6 record over four years. The Jordans decided to concentrate on hoops in college because it offered more scholarship opportunities than soccer did.
They share a passion for riding identical bikes around campus, prompting Bolla to call them "twins on Schwinns." That is a more appealing label than the ones given them by opposing fans. Says Pauline, "They'll say something like, 'Have I seen you dancing up there at Caesars? Don't you work at [the transvestite show at] La Cage?' "
But the Jordans can shrug off jabs at UNLV's image. "When you're third in the nation," says Pauline, "you don't care."
Between the shadows cast by LSU's blooming giants, Stanley Roberts and Shaquille O'Neal, and Florida's former center Dwayne Schintzius, little light has shone on the most complete big man in the SEC. At week's end, Georgia's Alec Kessler, a 6'11", 230-pound senior, was ranked third in the conference in scoring (20.7), fourth in rebounding (9.9) and probably first in GPA (3.91). He has been accepted by several medical schools, including Johns Hopkins, but will probably defer applying his microbiology degree until he revels in the macroeconomics of the NBA as a possible lottery pick in June.
While Kessler's grades have leveled off—he has earned a perfect 4.0 the last eight quarters—his basketball stock has continued to rise. As a bony 6'8" senior at Roswell (Ga.) High in 1985, he signed with the College of Charleston, an NAIA school. But before classes started, he was lured away by Georgia coach Hugh Durham. Kessler redshirted his freshman year, and since then he has pursued a weightlifting regimen that has helped him put on 50 pounds.
Each year he has improved his shooting touch, his ball handling and his strength on the boards. This season he has kept a talent-thin Georgia team in the SEC race. Last Saturday the Bulldogs beat Alabama 75-64 to improve their record to 15-6 and move into a second-place tie in the league. Kessler finished with 18 points and 17 rebounds.
Georgia bills Kessler as the nation's premier student-athlete, a claim that is hard to dispute: He is currently taking Greek culture, immunology and an independent-study course in U.S. history. But his phys-ed class, badminton, may cause him the most sweat. "I'm not much into recreational sports," says Kessler. "After basketball practice, I just want to get away from athletics."
The Dinosaurs continue to rewrite history. Last Saturday the University of Calgary's women's team won its 61st straight game to extend its Canadian and U.S. record for consecutive victories. The previous record was held by Louisiana Tech, which won 54 games in a row from December 1980 to January 1982....
The Buster Douglas Award goes to Toby Christian of Baylor, who after going 11 games without scoring more than two points, got 10 of the Bears' final 12 in their 82-77 upset of third-ranked Arkansas....
In a send-up of big-time college athletes who are somehow blessed with fancy cars, The Stockton Record listed the wheels for the players at Pacific. Among the items listed were a '73 Volkswagen and an '86 Honda scooter. When asked about his mode of transportation, Don Lyttle, the Tigers' top rebounder and scorer, looked down and said, " '87 Nikes."
Geannine (left) and Pauline have become big wheels in Las Vegas.
PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
MEN: Rumeal Robinson, a 6'2" senior guard at Michigan, scored a total of 47 points as the seventh-ranked Wolverines defeated No. 12 Illinois 93-79 and No. 25 Indiana 79-71. Robinson made 17 of 32 shots from the field and 10 of 11 free throws.
WOMEN: Pam Hudson, a 5'11" senior forward, poured in 48 points and grabbed 23 rebounds to lead Northwestern State to a 102-85 victory at McNeese State. She had 30 points and 16 rebounds in a 96-83 win over Sam Houston State.
SMALL COLLEGE: Chris Madigan, a 6'2" senior guard at Division II Saint Anselm College, totaled 61 points, 12 rebounds and 11 steals in wins over Bryant (99-75) and Quinnipiac (103-80). He converted 23 of 44 field goal attempts, including 10 three-pointers.