Tradition didn't make the cut at UC Irvine this basketball season. Certain things we've all come to know and love about the Anteaters will be left on the bench in 1986-87.
Remember the days of BMOC, when Coach Bill Mulligan took the biggest man on campus, posted him down low and told everybody else to keep feeding him the ball until the basket was gorged? Remember what happened last season when the Anteaters had not one, but two BMOCs? They beat Nevada-Las Vegas twice and UCLA at Pauley Pavilion.
Remember all the wild colors Mulligan's face used to turn when his guards--i.e. the Irvine foot soldiers--failed to pass the ball inside? Remember Mulligan's old cry--"My kingdom for a point guard."?
Remember tiny, quaint, cramped Crawford Hall, which used to uncomfortably seat 1,200 and send visiting teams away cursing? Remember the insults--crackerbox, bandbox, matchbox, a pox on it?
Well, soon all will be fodder for the archives. This season, the key newcomer at UC Irvine is change.
The long line of big men of influence has apparently reached its end. The torch that was passed from Kevin Magee to Ben McDonald to Bob Thornton to Tod Murphy and Johnny Rogers has been extinguished. This season's Anteater center, Wayne Engelstad, fits the physical bill (6-feet 8-inches, 240 pounds), but so far, he has made a bigger impact on the scale than on the court.
This season, the emphasis at Irvine has shifted to the backcourt. After all the lean years, Mulligan suddenly finds himself with--of all things--\o7 too many\f7 point guards. He has three good ones--Joe Buchanan, Scott Brooks and Mike Hess--and wants to play them all. To accomplish this, Mulligan will have one, the 6-1 Hess, open the season at small forward. Or, as the position has been reclassified at Irvine, \o7 very\f7 small forward.
And, after Jan. 8, we will no longer have Crawford Hall to kick around. A slick new 5,000-seat on-campus arena is scheduled for its grand opening then. The facility will be called the Donald Bren Events Center, named after the project's primary financial backer, although Mulligan had a suggestion of his own.
"It should be named the Magee Center," Mulligan said, referring to the two-time All-American who formally introduced Irvine hoops to the nation. "But, he didn't give us a million bucks, either."
As Mulligan puts it, "Magee made our program" back in the early 1980s, when the 6-8 center made 66% of his shots and laid the blueprint for future Anteater offenses.
Mulligan stuck to it with McDonald and Thornton, two players who recently guarded one another when the Golden State Warriors played the New York Knicks. Then last season, behind the double-post combination of Murphy and Rogers, Irvine beat UCLA in the first round of the NIT and became the first Pacific Coast Athletic Assn. team to sweep Nevada-Las Vegas.
Now, Rogers has joined McDonald and Thornton in the NBA and Murphy was set to play for pay in Italy before he injured a knee. With the main remnants from last season's 17-13 club being three players listed at 6-1 or less, Mulligan has suddenly been forced to think small.
"We've gone from big slow players to small slow players," Mulligan said.
That, of course, is a joke. One thing that hasn't changed around Irvine is the Mulligan one-liner. But the truth is if the Anteaters are to survive in the bigger, better PCAA this season, they'll have to run for their lives.
Mulligan tipped his hand in last week's 113-101 exhibition victory over the Norwegian National Team. The Norwegians never knew what hit them. The Anteaters ran more fast breaks in 40 minutes than Fresno State has this decade.
"We've always run before, but this is different," Mulligan said. "Not only are we going to run like hell, but we're going to have to play pressure defense--stick-your-nose-in-his-navel defense. We'll shoot the three-pointer off the break. We have to.
"If we do anything at all this year, it'll be, hopefully, with our defense and our break."
The Irvine relay team is in the blocks. A look at the anchormen:
--Buchanan: A 6-1 senior, Buchanan started 17 games as a sophomore at Notre Dame before transferring to Irvine in 1984. After a redshirt season, Buchanan averaged 8.2 points and 3.5 assists in 1985-86.
"That's the only guy's house I've ever been in that had a McDonald's prep All-America plaque on the wall," Mulligan said. "Out of high school, he was one of the top two or three point guards in the nation. He's a big-time player."
He also handles the basketball better than a kitchen knife. After the Norway exhibition, Buchanan was cutting some potatoes at home when the knife slipped and cut his right hand, severing a nerve. Seven stitches were required to close the wound, but because Buchanan shoots with his left hand, he is expected to play in Irvine's season opener against Nebraska Friday night.
However, Buchanan has since been advised to try his potatoes mashed. And around the Irvine athletic department, he has picked up a new nickname: Irving Fryar.