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L.A. UNIVERSITY BEAT / WENDY WITHERSPOON

Keeping Track of Him Is Easy

March 29, 1994|WENDY WITHERSPOON

Jim Bush is wandering around a track again this spring.

No surprise there.

Bush, in his fourth year as coach at USC, has been track-side somewhere in this city for more than 40 years.

What is new, though, is that Bush, 67, apparently has recovered from prostate cancer.

Bush's condition was diagnosed on Feb. 15 and he was told that immediate surgery would be necessary.

His first inclination was to wait until after the track season.

"If I don't show up there when I don't feel good, how do I expect my athletes to show up?" Bush argued.

But his wife, Francoise, and the doctors insisted, and a compromise was reached. Bush was allowed to postpone the surgery for a week--until after the track banquet and the first meet of the season.

On Feb. 21, two days after the Long Beach Relays, Bush underwent surgery.

He coached from his bed for the next three weeks--watching videotapes and talking to athletes over the telephone--before returning to the track.

Although he now realizes it was probably foolish to return so quickly, he said, simply, "The kids needed me."

And he needed them.

"I do love coaching," Bush said. "It's my whole life. It's all I've ever wanted to do."

Bush coached UCLA from 1965-84, leading the Bruins to five NCAA championships and three second-place finishes.

He spent the next five years as the conditioning coach for the Dodgers, the Raiders and the Clippers before becoming a volunteer assistant coach at USC in 1989.

He took over the USC program two years later.

Although Bush has received more awards than anyone can shake a baton at, he knows there are those who want him to retire.

"My opponents tell everybody I'm too old and I'm quitting, but they are full of baloney," Bush said. "I'm either going to die here or they are going to have to fire me."

Those who know Bush would figure as much.

"I only have one speed and that's all out," he said.

That could be why he has had three operations, including the surgery for cancer, in the last eight months.

In August, he fell off his jet ski at Lake Tahoe and suffered a knee injury, which required surgery. A month later, he had more surgery to remove cartilage in his jaw, which had been bothering him since April.

Considering all that, it may amaze some that Bush is back at the track.

"I'm a tough, old son of a gun," he said. "Next year, I will be meaner--and more determined--than ever."

Nothing new about that, either.

*

Balazs Kiss, who won the NCAA title in the hammer throw last season as a freshman, returns to lead USC.

The Trojans hope to improve on last season's third-place finish in the Pacific 10 Conference meet and 18th-place finish at the NCAA meet.

*

UCLA is well on its way to running away with its third-consecutive Pac-10 title.

The Bruins also finished fourth in the NCAA indoor meet at Indianapolis March 11-12.

UCLA is led by its throwers, four of whom are capable of putting the shot more than 60 feet. Bob Larsen, 10-year veteran UCLA coach, said that gives the Bruins the best group of shotputters in collegiate history.

They are led by John Godina, who won the event at the NCAA indoor meet with a mark of 65-8 3/4. That tied his personal best, which he set last year when he was second in the NCAA outdoor meet.

*

Jeanette Bolden, who took over the UCLA women's track team at the end of last season from nine-year Coach Bobby Kersee, has had her hands full this season, learning how to be a head coach.

Teaching the athletes is the easy part for Bolden, who was Kersee's assistant the last two years. Bolden was a five-time All-American at UCLA from 1981-83. She won a gold medal as a member of the U.S. 400-meter relay team in the 1984 Olympics here and placed fourth in the 100 meters.

The difficult part about being a head coach, Bolden said, is the paperwork.

She relaxes by visiting the family business, the 27th Street Bakery, in Los Angeles.

The bakery, which specializes in sweet-potato pies, has been in Bolden's family for 40 years. It kept its doors open after the 1992 Los Angeles riots despite having lost 25% of its customers because so many surrounding businesses had been burned or destroyed.

For UCLA in-season athletes, the bakery's goods are off limits because they are too fattening.

The Bruins are hoping to repeat as conference champions and to improve on last season's third-place finish at the NCAA meet.

Last year's star, two-time national champion shotputter Dawn Dumble, will red-shirt this season to save her senior year of eligibility for next season.

The Bruins will be led by freshman Amy Acuff, who won the NCAA indoor national high jump title earlier this month with a mark of 6 feet 2 1/4 inches.

*

The USC women's track team, which placed third last season at the Pac-10 meet, will get assists this season from basketball players Lisa Leslie and Karleen Shields.

Leslie, a 6-5 senior who was voted the Naismith national player of the year, and Shields, a 5-7 junior guard, led USC to the NCAA Mideast Region final this weekend in Fayetteville, Ark., where the Trojans lost to Louisiana Tech.

Leslie and Shields are expected to join the track team in mid-April.

Leslie high-jumped for four years at Morningside High, winning the 1990 Southern Section Division 2-A title. She will compete in the high jump and long jump for USC.

Shields earned all-state honors as a senior at Snyder High in Texas in 1986. She will compete in the long jump and triple jump for the Trojans.

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