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COLLEGE BASKETBALL / GENE WOJCIECHOWSKI : Stewart Comes Off as a Real Loser

March 23, 1995|GENE WOJCIECHOWSKI

Chances are Indiana Coach Bob Knight isn't exactly shaking in his wading boots about the NCAA's investigation into his profanity-laced outburst at a West Regional postgame news conference last Friday.

Knight, as well as Missouri's Norm Stewart, two of the winningest coaches in the business, embarrassed themselves and their profession with post-loss performances in the regional.

You've probably seen the Knight tirade: Rance Pugmire, a volunteer mediator for the postgame sessions, was mistakenly told that Knight would be unavailable to reporters. Knight did show up--as he had planned to do all along--but couldn't resist unleashing a few choice obscenities in Pugmire's direction.

OK, so someone screwed up. But the coach's reaction was classic Knight overkill--and it wasn't even Pugmire's fault.

It won't take a blue-ribbon panel to see that Knight ought to receive a public reprimand and be ordered to apologize. Too bad he couldn't have acted as professionally as Pugmire, who tried to downplay the incident.

"It's unfortunate," Pugmire said Tuesday evening. "I just kind of wish it would go away."

Funny, but we sort of feel the same way about Missouri's Stewart, who didn't win any sportsmanship awards after the Tigers' heartbreaking 75-74 loss to UCLA.

Stewart stomped up the steps to the portable news conference stage, sat down at the dais and squinted into the spotlight, all but daring anyone to ask him or his players, Julian Winfield or Derek Grimm, about the defeat.

There were a few questions. Reporters wanted the players to talk about Tyus Edney's last-second basket, about Missouri's hot shooting, about how they'll remember the game, about their sense of disappointment. Reasonable inquiries.

Not to Stewart, they weren't. He leaned back in his folding chair, rolled his eyes, muttered something out of microphone range and gestured in exasperation.

Then it was his turn. Never once did Stewart congratulate UCLA or bother to acknowledge Edney's amazing effort. Instead, Stewart had the look of someone who just remembered an appointment with a prostate specialist.

Question: "Norm, you've coached--what?--1,000 games. Have you ever been beaten like that, on a length-of-the-court dribble?"

Mr. Gracious Loser: "Obviously, it's 1,000 games. I've won a hell of a lot of them like that."

The next day, Stewart continued to complain about the NCAA selection committee's decision to send the Tigers to the West Regional for the third consecutive season. (Oh, so that's why Missouri failed to double-team Edney on the critical inbound pass.) It was a tired theme. He whined about the location last week too.

"If we win (against UCLA), we got to go to Oakland," Stewart said. "If we win there, we go to Osaka."

Instead, Stewart goes back to Columbia, Mo.

Can't say we'll miss him.

WEEK IN REVIEW

Things to consider as we sift through the rubble of another failed office pool entry:

East Regional--The men's selection committee goofed big time by giving Minnesota an at-large bid and giving the Golden Gophers No. 8 seeding. No wonder Georgia Tech still is steamed about being left out of the tournament. Minnesota lost to St. Louis in the first round. . . . Many a broken office-pooler dabbed tears when No. 3 Villanova--the great Final Four sleeper pick--lost to No. 14 Old Dominion. . . . If No. 6 Tulsa somehow can beat Massachusetts and slip past the winner of Wake Forest-Oklahoma State to reach the Final Four, guess who it would face in the semifinal game: UCLA--that is, if the Bruins win their next two. Tulsa eliminated UCLA in the first round of last year's tournament. . . . The one statistic coaches notice first: field-goal shooting percentages. Oklahoma State has held nine of its last 10 opponents to less than 40.0%. . . . Picks: Tulsa over UMass, Wake Forest over Oklahoma State, Wake Forest over Tulsa.

West Regional--Another selection committee mistake: Oregon seeded No. 6. No. 10 sounds more like it. . . . If Connecticut, which is on its longest trip of the season, keeps winning, the Huskies will have gone straight from Salt Lake City to Reno (for practice), to Oakland and then to Seattle. Most popular UConn theory on revived play: Huskies are far away from the glare of the East Coast media pressure. . . . Missouri's Stewart should take sportsmanship lessons from Florida International's Bob Weltlich. . . . Picks: UCLA over Mississippi State (another one of those teams that plays great defense), Maryland over UConn, UCLA over Maryland.

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