In a city that revolves around glitz and glamour, Tyus Edney has
emerged as a hero for the common man. Raised to regard overt
celebration as an act of weakness, Edney forged a four-year career
at UCLA marked by taste and restraint. The personable point guard
is the coolest customer in the land of cool; it's the rest of
Tinseltown that's going nuts over Edney and the NCAA champion
The contemporary athlete is supposed to be brash, demonstrative
and eager to talk trash. Edney comes off more as a guy who's just
taking out the trash. It's something he learned from his father,
Hank, who coached him as a kid.
``I was always taught to go out and do my best, try my hardest and
let my actions speak for themselves,'' Edney says. He learned that
recognition would come with success.
After leading the top-ranked Bruins on a remarkable NCAA
tournament run that ended with their first title in 20 years,
Edney finally has a rapt audience. Overshadowed by Cal's Jason
Kidd and Arizona's Damon Stoudamire for most of his career, the 5
10", 152-pound dynamo did not become a marquee player until this
Dedicated Bruin watchers, however, have been hip to Edney ever
since he arrived as a hot recruit from Long Beach Poly High. The
subtleties of Edney's skill as a floor leader were obvious to one
particular old guy who has been known to hang out at Bruin
practices -- fellow by the name of John Wooden. Bruin coach Jim
Harrick recalls a conversation with his legendary predecessor
during a workout that took place before the start of Edney's
freshman season: ``The first time Coach Wooden got a look at Tyus,
he called me over and said, `That little guy sees the floor better
than anybody you have.' ''
Edney also runs the floor faster than most people can think. Is he
the fastest Bruin guard ever? Not according to Edney, who gives
the nod to one of his childhood heroes, ``Rocket'' Rod Foster, a
freshman starter on the UCLA team that lost to Louisville in the
1980 NCAA title game. ``Man, Rocket was fast,'' Edney says. ``But
no, I'm not that fast.''
Edney showed his speed on the mad full-court dash that set up his
amazing game-winning shot in UCLA's second-round contest with
Missouri. In the craziness that followed, Edney was typically
low-key, quieting an ebullient Bruin locker room by warning
teammates, ``We got a reprieve.'' But Edney became more animated
as the tournament wore on. Though a badly sprained right wrist
kept him on the bench for all but the earliest moments of the
Bruins' 89-78 victory over Arkansas in the title game, he was a
spirited presence on the sideline, ultimately shedding tears
during the postgame celebration.
If Edney is suddenly more emotional than usual, it may be because
the breadth of his journey is starting to hit him. He and Bruin
forward Charles O'Bannon once played together on a youth-league
team, the Victoria Park Hawks. Tyus was nine at the time, Charles
was seven. From time to time they'd also play pickup ball with
Charles's big brother, Ed. That the three players would team up
more than a decade later to win the national championship, with Ed
holding up his NCAA tournament MVP trophy and proclaiming Edney as
the ``real MVP,'' is a tribute to the selfless, respectful way
they learned to play as kids.
``I was always very scornful of celebration,'' recalls Hank Edney,
a human- resources manager for TRW. ``When I was the coach, I'd
tell them that if you wasted time celebrating your own
accomplishments, the other team could beat you down the court for
a layup. So that stuff was frowned upon.''
Tyus may go way back with the O'Bannon brothers, but he also has
some personal history with 7-foot Bruin center George Zidek. When
Zidek, who grew up in the former Czechoslovakia, arrived in
Westwood as a freshman, his roommate in the dorms was the
diminutive Edney. On appearance alone they had the makings of a
modern-day Odd Couple. Their first interactions were awkward, but
they ended up forging a powerful friendship. The two players
roomed together again their sophomore year, this time by choice.
``His first couple of years, George wasn't playing much, and he
ended up being sort of a protector for Tyus,'' Bruin assistant
coach Steve Lavin recalls. ``A couple of times Tyus hit some free
throws to win games and got mobbed on the court. George would
carry him off the floor like he was Tyus's big brother.''
At the same time, Edney was helping Zidek in return. Unlike Edney,
who stepped right into the Bruin rotation as a freshman, Zidek
toiled on the bench for most of his first two seasons. He strongly
considered leaving UCLA after his sophomore year and returning to
the Czech Republic, but Edney's pep talks persuaded him to stay.
When you talk about the intangible qualities of a good point
guard, Edney has them all.
Another intangible is his popularity with women of all ages, who
feel compelled to reach out and give him a hug because of his
slight physical stature. ``Yeah, that does happen every now and
then,'' Edney says. ``I just smile and thank them.'' At UCLA home
games, says Lavin, the sight of Edney being knocked to the floor
routinely provoked gasps from female fans. ``Girls always go nuts
over him, because he's `soooo cute,' '' Lavin says. ``He's like a
mascot or something.''
Edney's teammates are much less fawning. While Harrick refers to
Edney as the Little General, to Bruin players he is known as Scary
Boy. Edney prefers the moniker that he and backup Cameron Dollar
bestowed upon themselves: Rated PG, as in point guard.
Even Edney's real name is a source of some controversy. Hank says
he made up the name Tyus, while Tyus's mother, Barbara, a
schoolteacher who is the sister of former major league baseball
player Lenny Randle, says she named her son after 1964 and '68
Olympic sprinting champion Wyomia Tyus. ``They're still arguing
about it,'' Tyus says of his parents.
There was no dissension in the family as the Edneys watched the
Bruins win it all in Seattle. Things got pretty crazy that night,
and for a while Tyus threw aside all his years of anticelebration
training. He and his teammates ended up at a local club, the Fenix
Underground, and suddenly Edney was onstage, blurting out an
impromptu rap about the Bruins into the microphone while Zidek did
a funky Eastern European-influenced dance. The rap might not have
been polished enough for some Hollywood scenes, but the little man
certainly was entitled.
COLOR PHOTO: BRIAN SPURLOCK His coach called him the Little General, but Edney's leadership was not the least bit high-handed. [Tyus Edney holding basketball]
COLOR PHOTO: RICHARD MACKSON With plays like this acrobatic drive against Connecticut, Edney clearly hit his stride in the NCAA tournament. [Tyus Edney jumping to shoot basketball]