Last week they gave Larry Farmer, former UCLA basketball coach, a White Mercedes 190E before his current team, the Weber State Wildcats, went out and routed Utah State, 108-76.
A bunch of hometown fans in Ogden, Utah, reportedly gave Farmer the luxury car as a token of their appreciation for the best start in Weber State's history. The Wildcats were 8-0 as the week began and, better still, they had beaten the state's other big-time basketball teams (BYU, Utah) this year.
When Pepperdine defeated Brigham Young, 83-73, to win the championship of the Cougars' tournament at Provo, the host team gave radios to Coach Jim Harrick, his assistants and their players. The Waves (6-1) won their sixth straight at BYU and cracked UPI's top 20, even if it was only 20th place.
But the disparity between Farmer's present and those given to the Pepperdine people was not a reflection on Harrick's team's only loss of the season, 67-61, to Kansas in the preseason NIT. If the Cougars had won their tournament they would have received the radios.
Win or Walk Plank
It must be that fans of Weber State, not ranked by UPI, go in for serious gift giving.
They're just as serious about basketball in Kentucky, ranked 14th this week by UPI. If Coach Eddie Sutton and his Kentucky Wildcats fail to win their invitational this weekend at Adolph Rupp Arena in Lexington, they'll probably be polishing up a plank to give to Sutton, who took over the pressure-laden job when Joe B. Hall retired after last season.
That's plank, not plaque. One for Sutton to walk.
Kentucky is 5-1 after losing to Kansas last week, 83-66, giving the Jayhawks their first victory over the Wildcats since 1973. That was Hall's first year, after succeeding the legendary Rupp, whose teams won 880 games and lost but 190 in his 42 years at the school.
"Winning, then, is an evident characteristic of Kentucky basketball," says the school's current press guide. "Rupp demanded it."
Harrick Demands Hustle
Coach Harrick, whose Pepperdine team faces Southern Methodist (6-0) Friday in the opening round of the Kentucky tournament (the Wildcats meet 4-1 East Carolina in the second game), doesn't seem to demand victory from his players. But he does want them to work hard.
After Pepperdine had defeated Western Illinois, 85-67, in the opener of the BYU tourney, Harrick was displeased because, he said, one or two of his players "hadn't broken a sweat." Western Illinois had managed to make it close until late in the game.
Pepperdine's Dwayne Polee was named the BYU tourney's most valuable player after he scored 36 points (on 13-of-17 shooting) and handed out 13 assists in the two games, and teammate Jon Korfas, who played well in both games, was named to the all-tournament team with Polee.
Levy Middlebrooks, the Waves' sophomore center who didn't seem to need an anti-perspirant against Western Illinois, sweated plenty against BYU. In the title game, the 6-7, 225-pound Middlebrooks, who may have been bothered the first night by the thin air of the Wasatch Mountains, seemed to have plenty of oxygen. He and Polee each scored 20 points, and Middlebrooks also grabbed a team-high nine rebounds and was named to the all-tourney team.
'Win Without a Star'
"I like the way we win without a star," Harrick said, "and every night it seems like a different guy rises to the occasion." Against Western Illinois, the riser was sixth man Grant Gondrezick, who scored a game-high 21 points, including 15 in the second half, and grabbed some key rebounds.
All the Waves may have to soar for this week's occasion, a tournament that has much tougher opposition than last week's BYU field, which included third-place winner Cal State Long Beach.
Pepperdine's first opponent, SMU, defeated Illinois State last week, 68-55, to win the championship of the Dallas Morning News Classic.
SMU hasn't beaten anyone special and all their victories have been at home. The other victims have been Northwest Louisiana, Morgan State, Prairie View, Central Michigan and North Texas State.
But SMU Coach Dave Bliss has been experimenting with different combinations, and so far he likes the results. "The youngsters are making progress, and our veterans (senior point guard Butch Moore, 6-6 senior forward Kevin Lewis, 6-9 sophomore center Terry Williams and 6-4 junior guard Scott Johnson) are doing a good job providing them with leadership."
Lewis Tops Scorers
Lewis is the scoring leader with an average of 17 points a game, Williams is averaging 13.7 points and a team-high 9.7 rebounds, and Moore is averaging 8.3 assists and 12.8 points.
East Carolina, Kentucky's first-round opponent, was a young team last season that finished in the cellar in the Colonial Athletic Assn., a conference won by Navy. The Pirates finished 1-13 in league play and 7-21 overall.
This year the Pirates are veterans, led by senior guard Curt Vanderhorst (17-point average last season) and 6-2 (that's right) junior forward William Grady, who averaged 15.7 points last season.