Last season, Frank Woods was Mr. Inside for UC Irvine. Woods, a 6-foot 5-inch power forward, blossomed during Pacific Coast Athletic Assn. play, averaging 14.6 points and 8.1 rebounds.
Over the summer, Woods concentrated on his perimeter shooting and ballhandling skills and began to fancy himself as Mr. Outside.
"After the end of the season last year, I started thinking that the team might be better if I played on the perimeter," Woods said. "I came into the season in that frame of mind."
Coach Bill Mulligan's mind was in a different frame, however. He had Woods back in the power forward slot from the first day of practice.
Woods, the strong and silent type, didn't say anything to Mulligan. But he didn't exactly pick up where he left off, either.
He made 6 of 17 field-goal attempts and scored 18 points in Irvine's first two games as the starting power forward. Then Mulligan found out Woods was unhappy with his position.
"Frank Woods says he wants to be an outside guy," Mulligan said. "I told him, 'Fine, but don't plan on starting or playing much.' He said, 'Fine.' "
In the next four games, Woods averaged only 7 points and 17 minutes as a reserve small forward. Then, against the University of Pennsylvania on Dec. 11, Mulligan put Woods back in a post spot.
"The democracy is over," Mulligan said. "Woods is now an inside guy again."
Three days later, Woods came off the bench to score 20 points and grab 5 rebounds as Irvine rallied to beat New Orleans, 93-91. In the six games since then, Woods has averaged 17 points. "I think the biggest difference between the early season and now is that I've accepted my role on the team," Woods said. "I've quit thinking about myself and started to work within the system.
"Early in the season, when I realized I would be back in the post, I didn't handle it as well as I should have. After (assistant) Coach (Bob) Thate went to Coach Mulligan and told him how I felt about playing inside, he (Mulligan) told me that I wouldn't start or play as much out there. I wasn't too upset because I didn't figure I'd be getting 30 minutes on the perimeter until I proved myself."
Woods never proved he could help the team by making the switch. Meanwhile, Irvine's one-man inside attack--center Wayne Engelstad--was drawing too much attention. When Woods moved back to starting power forward for the first time against Bradley, it was a most happy reunion. Engelstad scored 41 points and Woods 25.
"Wayne and I do play pretty well together," Woods said. "I look to set him up and then play off what the defense does.
"I guess I do feel more comfortable in the paint. I feel confident under there because I think I'm smart enough to play inside. I may lack size and strength, but I think I make mostly intelligent decisions."
Mulligan is not quite ready to go that far. He hasn't been too happy with his team's inability to run the prescribed offense recently, but he's glad the "real" Frank Woods is back.
"Frank Woods made some glaring mistakes the other night (against Las Vegas), but at least he gives us 100% every game. So, as far as that goes, even though he made some mistakes, he played great."
Irvine began the season with a run-and-shoot offense and a gambling, pressure man-to-man defense. The Anteaters now are emphasizing a more deliberate half-court offense and a "softer," contain-oriented man-to-man defense.
Why the change?
Here, in Mulligan's words, is the spoken history of the demise of a basketball philosophy:
-- Before the season began . "We're not as quick as most of the people we play, but we're going to play this way because we think it's the way we can win."
-- After a 116-100 loss at UCLA. "A lot of people say we're not quick enough to play this up-tempo style, and winning comes first, of course, but I think you have to entertain when you play in Southern California. If you (toss) the ball around for 40 minutes, who wants to watch you?
-- After a 139-119 loss at Bradley . "Maybe we should change the way we play, but we're not going to because we like to play like that. It's fun."
-- After the Anteaters spread their offense and ran down the clock in the last 12 minutes of an 81-73 victory over Cal State Fullerton . "We're not gonna kamikaze every team, you know."