UC Irvine's basketball teams have never been known as defensive juggernauts, but the Anteaters have been successful in recent seasons using a combination of excellent offense and just enough defense.
In his eighth season at UCI, Coach Bill Mulligan has a more-than-respectable 121-84 record, but his teams have a tendency to wilt under postseason pressure.
Irvine hasn't made an NCAA appearance under Mulligan and is 2-2 in National Invitation Tournament play. But what really irks Mulligan is the Anteaters' 2-7 Pacific Coast Athletic Assn. tournament record.
"We have a history of fading by the time the tourney rolls around," Mulligan says with more than a hint of disgust in his voice.
This season, Mulligan decided to do something about it. He persuaded veteran coach Andy Andreas, who worked under Bobby Knight at Indiana for two seasons, to come in as a volunteer assistant.
"We always start out stressing defense and then I get away from it," Mulligan says. "Andy's going to keep me honest."
Andreas, with 30 years of basketball coaching experience, is a defensive specialist who thinks he understands what has happened to Irvine teams in the past.
"College basketball has changed drastically over the last few years," Andreas said. "Now, the good defensive teams take over at the end of the year. Your offense only gets so good. You've only got so many points in you, but the defense keeps improving until it takes over.
"Look at it on a national level. You just can't shoot your way to an NCAA championship anymore. Those days are gone. Everyone has shooters, and so the deciding factor is usually the quality of defense."
The Anteaters haven't exactly been shutting down teams with stifling defense, but Andreas' influence is showing in more subtle ways.
"The attitude has changed," Mulligan said. "The kids are aggressive, really trying to please us with their defense."
Andreas began coaching in 1945, after graduating from Kent State and a short stint playing AAU ball. He coached at Roosevelt High School in Kent, Ohio, and his teams twice played for the state championship. They lost once to a team that featured Frank Howard, who went on to play for the Dodgers, and once to a team led by Jerry Lucas, who later starred in the National Basketball Assn.
Later, while head coach at Cuyahoga Falls High in Sandusky, Ohio, Andreas gave Knight his first coaching job. Knight was there for one season and was drafted. Andreas helped Knight cut a deal to go to West Point and coach the Plebe team.
Andreas, who was a principal and later a superintendent of schools, retired at 54 and began a second career . . . coaching for free. He was a volunteer assistant at two Florida community colleges before moving to California, where he coached at Riverside City College, Cal State Dominguez Hills, Chapman College and Rancho Santiago.
Then Mulligan persuaded him to take on the challenge of improving the Anteater defense.
Mulligan is a proponent of pressure man-to-man defense. Although he admits he doesn't have the ideal personnel for it, he won't use a zone that might hide some of his team's defensive deficiencies.
"I won't play a zone because I'm a dumb, stubborn SOB," Mulligan said.
Andreas, however, doesn't think a zone is the answer.
"In Division I today, it's very difficult to extend the kind of pressure you need with a zone," Andreas said. "When a team has just one or two shooters, you can do it, but most teams these days have four or five shooters.
"This defense can work here. It just won't happen overnight."
UCI's third-place finish in the NCAA water polo tournament last weekend marked the 12th time in the last 19 years that the Anteaters have finished in the nation's top three.
Irvine, which beat UCLA, 13-10, in the third-place match, finished the season at 20-9, the 12th time the Anteaters have had 20 or more victories.
UCI also won its sixth Pacific Coast Athletic Assn. title with a 9-1 mark.
Irvine's Jon Pinckney finished seventh in the National Singlehanded sailing championships contested on the waters of the Cooper and Ashley rivers near Charleston, S.C., last week.
Pinckney won two of 16 races and finished third twice. The races were held in winds ranging from 10 to 25 knots and temperatures in the mid-50s.
Chris Larson of the College of Charleston won the event.