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The Wizard of Corvallis Visits UCLA Today : Oregon State's Miller Tries to Match Wooden's Mark of 667 Victories

February 05, 1989|JERRY CROWE | Times Staff Writer

In front of God and family, but in the conspicuous absence of the Wizard of Westwood himself, Ralph Miller can equal John Wooden's career record for victories today when Oregon State plays UCLA at Pauley Pavilion.

"That's what the book says," said Miller, 69, who is seventh on the all-time list with 666 career victories, including 14 this season and 351 at Oregon State. "However, I think that is very immaterial as far as this particular game is concerned because the importance of the contest is (in) the standings.

"We have a chance to put UCLA into a tie as far as the loss column is concerned."

Indeed, a victory by Oregon State (14-4 overall, 7-3 in the Pacific 10 Conference), would drop UCLA (13-5, 8-2) into a three-way tie for second place with Stanford and the Beavers and would all but assure Arizona of its second straight Pac-10 title.

"At this point you've got to admit they've just about sewed up the conference title," Miller said of the Wildcats. "But the Nos. 2, 3 and 4 positions are wide open."

Sure they are, but overtaking Wooden, who is in the East giving speeches, must be of some significance to Miller, who will retire after the season to Black Butte Ranch, a resort community outside of Bend, Ore.

"From a personal standpoint, it's just one more little accomplishment that you were able to come up with," said Miller, who was inducted last May into the National Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass. "There are people like Dean Smith who are going to pass us all anyway. But at least you might be able to stay up on the list a few more years."

Oregon State swamped UCLA, 82-69, last month at Corvallis, Ore.

Or did it?

It may come as a surprise to Oregon State, Stanford, UC Irvine and Notre Dame, all of which outscored the Bruins, but UCLA Coach Jim Harrick said last week that North Carolina was the only team that has really beaten the Bruins this season.

"We lost to Oregon State and Stanford," Harrick said. "They played a little bit better than us that night, but they didn't dominate us. You might think they did, but watching the tape, we were our own worst enemy. Then, at Stanford, we didn't have our guys in the game (because of foul trouble).

"And Notre Dame we should have (beaten) and Irvine we should have (beaten). So, really, North Carolina is the only team that has really beaten us.

"And I can live with that."

OK.

When Harrick coached at Pepperdine, he was so angered that Miller employed a delay game in the second half of a 70-51 Oregon State victory over the Waves in the 1982 National Collegiate Athletic Assn. tournament that he later said of Miller: "I'm sure when he roomed with Dr. Naismith, he learned that this isn't the way to play basketball."

Miller didn't actually room with the game's creator--Miller isn't that old--but he studied under Naismith during Naismith's tenure as a professor at the University of Kansas in the 1930s.

"I was a guinea pig when he was experimenting a little bit on whether it was a good or bad move to eliminate the center jump (after every basket)," said Miller, who was a freshman in 1937.

So, how would Naismith have reacted to Miller's delay game?

"He didn't care how the game was played," Miller said. "He invented it for fun. Coaching tactics and techniques were something that he didn't ever bother with."

Bruin Notes

It has been a busy weekend for Ralph Miller. In Newport Beach Saturday, his youngest daughter, Shannon, was married to Jack Jakowsky of Newport Beach. "It's probably the most active weekend I've had in my coaching career," Miller said. Many of Miller's relatives are expected to be in attendance today, including the newlyweds and Miller's wife, Jean. . . . Miller's career record in more than 37 seasons as a major college coach is 666-366. . . . John Wooden's record in 29 seasons, including 27 at UCLA, was 667-164. . . . Miller was 3-0 against Wooden at Wichita State and Iowa, but only 1-9 against him after moving to Oregon State in 1970. He is 12-15 against UCLA since Wooden retired in 1975. . . . Jim Harrick is 0-4 against Miller. . . . Oregon State has won five straight games and 10 of 11 since losing to Arizona Dec. 23 at Corvallis, 73-69. Since then, its only loss was against Arizona, Jan. 12 at Tucson, 85-64. Harrick calls the Beavers "the hottest team in the West." . . . Don MacLean needs 16 points to surpass Rod Foster as UCLA's all-time leading freshman scorer.

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