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THE INSIDE TRACK | PAGE TWO

Link to Trojans' Past Evokes Memories Sad and Sublime

March 14, 1997|RANDY HARVEY

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — USC's first practice Thursday, the day before a Southeast Regional game against Illinois, was the strangest of the season for the Trojans.

For one thing, it was open to reporters. That's a rare occurrence for the Trojans under media-wary and weary Coach Henry Bibby but required in this case by the NCAA.

For another, looming large among the aliens was CBS' George Raveling.

Seeing him on the sideline no doubt brought back good memories for the three current Trojans who played for Raveling when he coached USC, David Crouse in 1992-93 and Stais Boseman and Jaha Wilson in '93-94.

Both seasons were winning ones, seasons in which the Trojans advanced to the NIT. The future looked even more promising.

But Raveling's presence in the Charlotte Coliseum also reminded the three Trojan seniors of what transpired after the car accident days before the start of the 1994-95 season that cut short his distinguished coaching career.

"We've been through a lot of tragic things," Boseman said.

The Trojans lost their last 14 games in 1995 under Charlie Parker, then lost Parker when he was fired with nine games left last season. Under Bibby, they lost all nine.

With nine new teammates this season, they didn't know what to expect. Then real tragedy entered their lives. Crouse's father died in August, Wilson's grandmother in December.

Somehow, Bibby held the team together. The Trojans finished with a 17-10 record and tied for second in the Pacific 10. Considering their college experience, however, it's no wonder Boseman, Crouse and Wilson expected more disappointment when the NCAA tournament bids were announced Sunday.

Never have they been so elated to be proved wrong.

*

In Raveling's three years as a television analyst, today's game will be the first he has worked involving USC. It will be only the second time he has seen the Trojans play live since he resigned in 1994. . . .

"My partner, Tim Brando, asked me to fill him in on USC, and I told him I'm probably more up on Illinois," Raveling said. . . .

Even with half the Southeast Regional teams playing here, including Duke, the Charlotte sports media are focused entirely on the other half of the bracket about 65 miles up the road in Winston-Salem. Dean Smith is there. . . .

With a victory Saturday, Smith will be recognized as college basketball's winningest coach in every household except one. Adolph Rupp's family believes he should be credited for three victories at a 1966 tournament in Israel. . . .

Rupp, forced to retire when he reached Kentucky's mandatory retirement age of 70, later accepted the coaching job at Duke but backed out to manage his 500-acre cattle farm when the foreman died. . . .

How classy is Smith? On the day Smith's 1982 North Carolina team won the NCAA title, former Tar Heel Mitch Kupchak called to congratulate him. All Smith wanted to talk about, Kupchak said, was how well another former Tar Heel, Bob McAdoo, was playing for the Lakers. . . .

A Charlotte Observer column Thursday speculated on Smith's eventual successor. The presumption is that it won't be Roy Williams, a former Smith assistant who apparently agrees with Dorothy that there's no place like home in Kansas. . . .

One NBA coach is prominently mentioned. That's a good guess, but, no, it's not Larry Brown. It's another former Tar Heel, George Karl. . . .

Karl is one of a few coaches pugnacious enough to handle what is known in college basketball as the "Gene Bartow treatment." . . .

Speaking of pugnacious coaches, one of Bibby's first calls after USC made the tournament was to an old CBA colleague, Bill Musselman. . . .

Bibby asked Musselman about preparing a team for the tournament. I'm guessing Musselman had a question of his own, about preparing his South Alabama team for first-round opponent Arizona. . . .

From what we in the media hear about his frosty relationship with Lute Olson, I'm guessing Bibby spilled everything he knows to Musselman. . . .

Not even at a Trojan basketball practice can you escape talk about Trojan football. The word around the athletic department is that the New York Jets are concerned about Ohio State offensive tackle Orlando Pace's knee and might instead take USC defensive tackle Darrell Russell with the first pick in the draft.

*

While wondering how Rupp would have liked Scott Pollard's fingernail polish, I was thinking: USC needs Rodrick Rhodes to play as big as his reputation to win today, maybe Jim Boeheim knows now why Syracuse wasn't invited to the NCAA tournament, North Carolina's Smith deserves everything good that happens to him.

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