The Cards Are Back
This is the kind of week it was for Louisville coach Denny Crum. He joined Bob Knight and Dean Smith as the only active college coaches in the Basketball Hall of Fame. His Cardinals won two games—over South Florida 65-50 and Tulane 77-73—to improve their season record to 20-2 and their AP ranking to No. 5. And on a fishing trip in Florida, a six-pound bass literally leaped into his boat.
It's about time things went right again for Crum. He has achieved plenty in his 23 seasons with the Cardinals (two NCAA titles, four other Final Four trips, 19 seasons with at least 20 victories), but his program had seemingly gone into decline in the '90s. This prompted his critics to suggest that the high-post offense Crum learned while making three earlier Final Four trips as an assistant to UCLA's John Wooden was obsolete. They charged Crum with being too rigid to make use of the three-point shot.
But now Crum has bounced back. He has done so, moreover, with the same high-post set and the same kind of unselfish players he had in the early 1980s. Leading the way is 6'9" junior center Clifford Rozier, the talented transfer who came to Louisville after an unhappy freshman year at North Carolina in '90-91. Rozier has produced double figures in both points and rebounds in 16 of Louisville's 22 games, and when rival defenses give him special attention in close, it opens the way for his teammates to bomb away from outside. Yes, indeed, Louisville has finally discovered the trey.
The Cards' only glaring weakness is a bench so thin that Crum can't use his press as much as he would like. However, the lack of depth hasn't been too noticeable because the starters have played so well.
Still, Crum insists that the Cardinals aren't yet a contender for the NCAA title. "I've been to nine Final Fours, and I know how to get there," he says. "This team isn't even close." Crum knows that unlike certain fish, NCAA titles just don't jump into your boat.
—WILLIAM F. REED
Who's in Charge Here?
The comportment of college basketball coaches is routinely so whacked out that it takes truly bizarre behavior for one of them to attract much notice. Last week, for instance, the always inflammable Dale Brown of LSU tried to make a citizen's arrest of an Alabama fan after a Tiger loss in Tuscaloosa. "He's probably related to the guy who stabbed Monica Seles," Brown ranted later.
On Sunday, Temple's John Chaney got into a violent exchange with UMass coach John Calipari. The trouble started after the Minutemen beat the Owls 56-55 in Amherst and Chaney spotted Calipari haranguing the referees in the hallway outside the dressing rooms. Chaney interrupted Calipari's postgame news conference to denounce Calipari's complaining, and within moments Chancy had to be restrained from charging Calipari. The irate Temple coach was clearly heard to say, "I'll kill you. You remember that." On Monday, Chancy issued an apology and was suspended for one game by Temple.
Also on Sunday, Arizona's Lute Olson and Cal's Todd Bozeman nearly got into it in the closing minutes of Arizona's 96-77 win. Bozeman had been working the refs in the second half, complaining about the trash-talking of the Wildcats' Reggie Geary. But it was Bozeman who was eventually hit with a T. With 1:38 left Olson interrupted Bozeman's continuing complaints by yelling, "Oh, sit down."
"No, you sit down, you sit down," Bozeman shouted back. The two ended up cursing each other as the game came to a stormy finish.
But maybe the most disturbing behavior of the week was that of first-year Northwestern coach Ricky Byrdsong. On Feb. 5, as the Wildcats tipped off against Minnesota in Minneapolis, the 37-year-old Byrdsong for some reason sat on a stool at the end of the bench and handed the coaching reins to assistant Paul Swanson. In the second half Byrdsong got a technical foul after he ran onto the court to argue a referee's call, and that seemed to really set him off. He walked through the stands, slapping high fives with stunned fans and even with the Minnesota mascot, Goldy Gopher. At one point he sat in an aisle until a building official told him he had to move.
Byrdsong's postgame antics were no less eccentric. Minnesota won 79-65, but after the buzzer he sent guard Patrick Baldwin to the scorer's table to ask that the score be changed to Northwestern 35, Minnesota 34. Baldwin later returned with assistant Tim Carter, who made at least three requests for the change.
Byrdsong was granted a leave of absence two days later—at his own request, said Northwestern athletic director Rick Taylor. "Ricky feels the need to take time for the appropriate action and think about himself and his job," Taylor said. Byrdsong did not make any public statement until last Saturday, when he told a Chicago Tribune reporter that he "feels fine" and hopes "to be back very soon" coaching at Northwestern.
Inevitably, some wondered last week whether Byrdsong was suffering from the stress of coaching at what is historically one of the losingest schools in Division I. (After a 9-0 start in nonconference play this season, Northwestern lost its first seven league games. The Minnesota loss made it eight.) Swanson, now at the helm, offered another explanation. "Coach Byrdsong felt basically we lacked courage," he said following the Minnesota game "The bottom line was he felt he had to show the ultimate demonstration of courage, and he did that."
Byrdsong may have demonstrated the ultimate in something, but courage hardly seems the name for it.
Surprising Missouri, 18-2 overall and undefeated in the Big Eight at week's end, has received a big lift from guard Paul O'Liney, who, after being named MVP of the juco national-championship tournament while playing for Pensacola (Fla.) Junior College last year, joined the Tigers in December—despite the fact that Missouri had already used up all of its 13 scholarships. Playing as a walk-on, he averaged 13.6 points in the Tigers' last five games through Sunday.
How did Missouri get so lucky? Well, O'Liney had intended to go to Clemson, but when it became clear that he wouldn't graduate from Pensacola by the fall, Clemson withdrew its scholarship offer. O'Liney moved on to Connors State, a community college in Oklahoma, where he earned the credits he needed to get into a four-year college without having to take an exit exam, a requirement at Pensacola and other Florida junior colleges. After he saw Missouri's televised 120-68 drubbing by Arkansas on Dec. 2, O'Liney called his legal guardian, Joyce Hobson, an August enrollee in Missouri's business school. According to O'Liney, Hobson called Missouri assistant coach Rich Daly, and, voilà, Missouri had a rather handy 14th man. Said Oklahoma coach Billy Tubbs after O'Liney contributed 20 points to Missouri's 104-94 win over the Sooners on Feb. 5, "Isn't that a nice walk-on they have there? It's pretty hard for us to get a most valuable player from the junior college tournament. Rarely do we have one of those guys walk on to our program."
Rozier has brought a smile to Crum's face by causing double trouble for Louisville opponents.
DILIP VISHWANAT/THE MINNESOTA DAILY
Byrdsong's sojourn into the stands at Minnesota was just one of the acts that baffled onlookers.
Players of the Week
Izett Buchanan, a 6'6" senior guard for Marist, averaged 42.5 points and 13.5 rebounds as the Red Foxes beat Long Island University-Brooklyn 115-101 and St. Francis 99-87.
Freshman Tora Suber, a 5'7" guard for Virginia, had 24 points and eight assists in an 83-74 upset of No. 3 North Carolina and 21 points and six assists in a 73-60 win over Duke.
Ted Berry, a 6'1" senior guard for Division III Christopher Newport, averaged 35.5 points, 3.5 rebounds and three steals as the Captains defeated Ferrum 85-77 and Averett 97-92.