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Cool Relationship Could Affect Future of Basketball Program

November 12, 1996|CHRIS FOSTER

An athletic director and head basketball coach have difficulties stemming from their divergent personalities, which contribute to the coach leaving the school.

UCLA last week? Yes.

UC Irvine this spring? Could be.

No one at Irvine talks much about the gap between Athletic Director Dan Guerrero and Coach Rod Baker. But it exists, and the fallout in one area--recruiting--is similar to UCLA's.

To be sure, there are distinct differences between the situations. The relationship between Guerrero and Baker is cool at worst. They may not be buddy-buddy, but they are professional in the public eye.

Baker, who was hired one year ahead of Guerrero in 1991, does not fit the profile of the kinds of coaches Guerrero has hired as UCI--coaches who mirror his own enthusiasm and outgoing personality. Baker, on the other hand, is more reserved and introspective.

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Wednesday November 13, 1996 Orange County Edition Sports Part C Page 9 Sports Desk 1 inches; 19 words Type of Material: Correction
Water polo--UC Irvine plays at UCLA Sunday. The location of the match was incorrectly reported in Tuesday's Times Orange County Edition.

It certainly isn't anything to rival the eight-year relationship between UCLA Athletic Director Peter Dalis and Coach Jim Harrick, which ended last week with Harrick's firing and subsequent verbal gun-play.

Still there are some similarities.

Both programs face the same vital questions: What happens today and what does it mean for tomorrow?

The early signing period begins Wednesday. Although Irvine deals on a subterranean level compared to UCLA, the problem is the same.

Speaking Monday about the UCLA recruiting situation, Baker said, "How could a parent allow their child to go to UCLA without having any sense who the coach is going to be?"

A good question, one Baker has heard regarding his own position. The Anteaters have not received a single oral commitment. That is somewhat unusual, considering Baker's skills as a recruiter are held in high regard.

Baker has spent time answering what the remaining UCLA staff is certainly being asked by recruits: Who will be the coach?

"We get that just about every time," said Baker, who is in the last year of his contract and has yet to be offered an extension.

"We talk about what has happened and not about what might happen. From that standpoint, I feel pretty good."

He'll feel better Wednesday if that pitch brings in a recruit or two. The Anteaters signed four freshmen last year, but that group will need some additions; a power forward for example, to replace senior Paul Foster.

"I think we'll be able to furnish a couple people who find us acceptable for their signatures," Baker said.

Baker hopes to be there long enough not only to see the ink dried but also faded.

The bottom line is, he knows no more about who will be the Anteater coach next season than UCLA officials do about who will be the Bruin coach. The big difference is Irvine can't attract players on the school's name recognition.


One recruit Baker might get already calls UCI home.

Chris Harger, a 6-foot-10 senior middle blocker on the Anteater volleyball team, is considering returning next year to play basketball for one season.

"I got out of my car one day and Rod stopped me and said, 'I hear you have a big kid on the volleyball team,' " volleyball Coach Charlie Brande said. "I told him that I didn't know if Chris can shoot a lick, but he would run through walls for him."

Brande discussed it with Harger, who played football, basketball and volleyball at Long Beach Poly, and found him eager to try.

"Chris would love to do it," Brande said. "We discussed him coming back and getting his teaching credential while he plays basketball."

One hitch in the plan: Harger is such a good volleyball player he might be on the U.S. national team by next year.


Telecom, a club team from Portugal that plays Irvine on Wednesday, has one player who already is accustomed to the Bren Center. Wayne Engelstad played at Irvine from 1984-88 and is the Anteaters' third all-time scorer.

Also on the team is former Long Beach State guard Rasul Salahuddin.


The women's basketball team opens its season Thursday with an exhibition against Jiangsu, a team from China. The play of returning point guard Princess Hatcher will likely determine how the Anteaters do this season.

Hatcher, a 5-8 sophomore, averaged 5.5 points and had 68 assists last season. Those numbers should improve. Still, there is one area that still needs a little work.

"She needs to get a little more vocal on the court," Coach Colleen Matsuhara said.

She's talking decibels here, not leadership skills.

"Princess is very soft spoken and sometimes the other players can't hear her," Matsuhara said. "She needs a little more volume for her teammates."

They will have time to do sound checks. The Anteaters do not have a senior on the roster.

Forward Leticia Oseguera, who averaged 15.5 points and 10.3 rebounds, and guard Sabrina Roberson are back this season. The Anteaters also have four talented freshmen in Shannon Anders, Kirsten Cappel, Megan Stafford and Chelsea Mackey.

Anteater Notes

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