The Massimino Mess
When Rollie Massimino accepted the basketball coaching job at UNLV two years ago, he sounded like a man who would have worked for tree. "This isn't about money," said Massimino. "It's about people. It's about challenges. It's about opportunities."
It was also about keeping quiet on the subject of an extra $375,000 a year that Massimino would be getting from a nebulous private group called the Varsity Club. That money, added to his announced salary of $511,000, would bring Massimino's annual take to $886,000, considerably more than the approximately $600,000 Jerry Tarkanian would have made had he not left UNLV after the 1991-92 season, when he was forced out by Robert Maxson, UNLV's president at the time.
The under-the-table contract was exposed last week by the Las Vegas Sun, which reported that interim president Kenny Guinn had axed the deal. Guinn, who took over in May when Maxson moved on to Long Beach State, said that because the regents board had never approved the supplemental contract, the university would not honor it. Massimino will apparently keep the $300,000 or so he has earned thus far from the secret deal but will not, Guinn told him in a Monday meeting, get the rest. Stubbornly, Massimino insisted that the secret deal should be honored.
Although Maxson says the contract was "handled in an appropriate and ethical manner." there is something wrong with playing hide-and-seek with hundreds of thousands of dollars. First, Maxson made the overly generous offer at a time when his university, including the athletic department, was in financial peril. Guinn revealed in June that UNLV was operating under a $10 million shortfall during Maxson's administration, and there have been severe budget cuts throughout the university for several years. Yes, the funds were private, but shouldn't the president of a beleaguered institution be trying to funnel such money into educational programs rather than into an already overpaid coach's wallet? In addition, hatching a secret deal—it was Massimino, according to Maxson, who insisted that the supplemental payment be hush-hush—was the wrong way to begin an era that was supposed to clear the air after the scandal-tinged Tarkanian regime.
Clearly Massimino is not worth the money. His two-year record is 36-21, and last season's 15-13 slate included losses to Cal State-Fullerton, Utah State, San Jose State and Nevada, teams that the towel-chomping Tarkanian usually dispatched with ease. Also, Massimino's arrogance has alienated many longtime Runnin' Rebel fans—home attendance was down 33% last season—as well as the local media.
When he got the job, the ex-Villanova coach waxed sanctimonious about cleaning up the program at UNLV. Massimino's immediate task is to clean up after himself.
Able with Cane
Mercifully, the Michael Fay and/or caning stories have all but ceased in the U.S., but two books about Singapore's celebrated crime and punishment incident hit that country's bookstores last week. One, The Caning of Michael Fay by Dr. Gopal Baratham, provides the unsettling revelation that like baseball and tennis players, each Singapore caner has his own swinging style.
"There were those who twirled and those who...took careful aim." writes Baratham. "There were those who took three steps forward and those who stood absolutely still...some played a serve-and-volley game and some preferred to play from the baseline, some used a lot of topspin, others preferred the quick smash."
Lather, Rinse, Whinny
Some of the grooming products that keep thoroughbreds' manes silky, tails tangle-free and hooves strong and supple are now available for human use. Among the equine products to be found in drugstores next to Pert and Finesse are Magical Mane shampoo, Tail and Mane Detangler and Hoof Fix. Consumers should be aware, however, that the drugstore versions come without fly repellent.
Net Loss, Net Gain
The woes that bedevil tennis (SI, May 9) came to surface in two very different ways last week. As Jim Courier, citing a lack of desire, walked away from the game at a tournament in Indianapolis, the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP), in hopes of reviving fan interest, unleashed an assortment of what it called "eye and ear candy" during a tournament in New Haven, Conn.
Courier, who turned 24 on the first day of a hiatus that he said might last "one week, one month, one year or 10 years," portended his departure last November at the ATP Tour World Championship in Germany, where he took advantage of a changeover to catch up on some reading. The signal was clear: His motivational fires were burning out. Sure enough, by July he was out of the Top 10. And last week, following a second-round loss in Indianapolis, Courier called it quits.
Meanwhile, in New Haven, the ATP began its quest for greater fan appeal. First, before each match, the competitors were introduced, one at a time, to a song they had requested (Andre Agassi, for instance, chose soulmate Barbra Streisand's The Way We Were). Second, a disc jockey played music during warmups and changeovers, with selections ranging from Frank Sinatra to Pearl Jam. Finally, after some matches the winners stayed on court to field questions from fans.
Agassi was one of many players who decried the playing of music during changeovers, using words like joke, embarrassment and circus to describe the environment during a second-round loss.
But the feeling here is that the ATP has hit on something, at least with the musical introductions and postmatch interviews. Indeed, an exit poll showed that 77% enjoyed the postmatch interview, while only 44% found the match more enjoyable because of the music during changeovers.
Even no-frills immortal Rod Laver liked the introductions and the postmatch interviews. "We thought tiebreakers were the greatest mess of all time, but we adjusted," said Laver. "As long as the music stops when the players are walking onto the court, they'll get used to it."
No Stock Answers
Last Saturday, Ernie Irvan, one of the best drivers, in one of the best-prepared cars, on one of the safest tracks on the NASCAR tour, became the latest victim in a tragic year for auto racing. At week's end Irvan was still on life support in an Ypsilanti, Mich., hospital with massive head and chest injuries, after a near head-on crash into the wall during practice at Michigan International Speedway.
His accident further disproved the notion held in some quarters that the stock car circuit is the sport's safest. Last February veteran driver Neil Bonnett and rookie Rodney Orr died of injuries suffered in crashes at Daytona International Speedway. In August 1992 Clifford Allison died after crashing at Michigan. Allison's father, Bobby, has never recovered completely from injuries suffered at Pocono International Speedway in 1988. Grant Adcox died of injuries suffered in a race at Atlanta Motor Speedway, and Rick Baldwin has been comatose since a crash at Michigan in 1986.
Irvan, who lost control after hitting a piece of debris and blowing a tire, was apparently a victim of "deceleration syndrome." When a driver is moving at 170 to 180 mph, as Irvan was, and then is brought to a sudden stop, his head and neck can suffer severe trauma from flopping violently about, even as his body is restrained by the safety harness.
While stock cars don't travel as fast as their Indy and Formula One counterparts, at 3,500 pounds they weigh twice as much as Indy Cars and three times as much as F/1 cars. Further, they are far more rigid than the open-wheeled Indy and F/1 racers, which break apart on impact, dissipating much of the energy of a crash before it reaches the driver's body. NASCAR's commitment to heavy, rigid cars might be precisely the source of its seemingly insoluble problem—more driver vulnerability to deceleration syndrome than in Formula One or Indy Cars.
Grisly occurrences, such as the medical evacuation of Irvan, have become all too common in NASCAR.
This Week's Sign That the Apocalypse Is Upon Us
Pleading hardship, San Francisco Giant slugger Barry Bonds, who was making $4.75 million this season before the baseball strike, had his $15,000-per-month child and spousal support payments cut in half last week by a judge who then asked him for his autograph.
They Said It
The Denver Nugget center, on himself and fellow pivot men and Georgetown alums Alonzo Mourning and Patrick Ewing, who will be joining him on an NBA tour of South Africa: "If the NBA takes Patrick Ewing, Alonzo Mourning and Mutombo to South Africa for the next five years, no kids there will know how to dribble or shoot."