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THE INSIDE TRACK | PAGE TWO / RANDY HARVEY

Thanks to a Blizzard, Gophers Missed a Wizard

March 24, 1997|RANDY HARVEY

A Final Four regular in ice hockey, Minnesota will make its first appearance in the NCAA basketball semifinals Saturday. But who knows how the Gophers' athletic legacy might have been altered if not for an untimely snowstorm?

In 1948, John Wooden, then at Indiana Teachers College, tentatively agreed to become the head coach at Minnesota, pending a formal offer he anticipated would come in a long-distance telephone conversation with the university's athletic director.

Wooden waited. And waited.

When the phone finally rang, it was UCLA.

Impressed with the opportunity and thinking that perhaps Minnesota had reconsidered, he committed to move to Westwood.

Minutes later, the phone rang again. The Minnesota athletic director explained that he had been caught in a blizzard and couldn't reach a telephone. Wooden informed him he was no longer available.

For want of a cellular phone . . .

If Wooden had gone to Minneapolis, those 10 national championship banners he won might now be hanging from the rafters of Williams Arena on the Minnesota campus.

Nah.

The Gophers attract an occasional Kevin McHale, Mychal Thompson or Bobby Jackson, but it's safe to assume they wouldn't have lured Lew Alcindor or Bill Walton.

*

The victory over UCLA on Saturday was Minnesota's revenge on Hollywood for "Fargo." . . .

Of the three Bruin non-seniors with NBA potential, junior J.R. Henderson is the most likely to go pro this year because of academic underachievement. But as much as the pros like his moves, they want him to become a more frequent visitor to the weight room. He needs another year in college. . . .

So does Jelani McCoy. . . .

So does Toby Bailey. . . .

Minnesota Coach Clem Haskins says he doesn't recruit prep superstars. "They're already driving a Rolls Royce and wearing $1,000 suits in their heads," he says. "I'd rather have the kids who are going to help us for four years and then go pro." . . .

Haskins says, "There is no 'I' in Minnesota." I like his chances to win the NCAA tournament better than "Wheel of Fortune." . . .

Until Saturday, UCLA had not played Minnesota since the 1969-70 season. Bill Fitch was the Gophers' coach in a 72-71 loss. . . .

Texas' Tom Penders to Rutgers? . . .

Tonight's Tennessee-UConn game is to the women's tournament what UCLA-Kentucky or Kansas-North Carolina would have been to the men's. . . .

Another Bruin in San Antonio on Saturday was Gail Devers, appearing at the Antioch Baptist Church's "Ganging Up For Jesus" crusade. . . .

It's good to see Devers, the 100-meter gold medalist in back-to-back Olympics, get equal treatment to Michael Johnson in that Nike commercial with "psychologist" Jan Hooks. . . .

While growing up in San Antonio, Channel 2 sports anchor Jim Hill chafed when he rode by the segregated San Antonio Country Club each school day in a bus. "I told myself I would play golf there some day and that they would call me Mr. Hill," he says. Both came true when he was in San Antonio to cover the Midwest Regional. . . .

African American NFL assistants are meeting in New York today with Commissioner Paul Tagliabue to discuss their limited opportunities to become head coaches. . . .

Dusty Baker on the way out in San Francisco? . . .

Jim Fregosi on the way in? . . .

Only five more days until the Galaxy opener. . . .

The L.A. Sports Council is sponsoring a luncheon for the Galaxy on Tuesday at the Sheraton Grand Hotel. . . .

Tara Lipinski's agent says he and her parents will keep a watchful eye on the 14-year-old figure skating phenom to make sure she doesn't become another Jennifer Capriati. . . .

There's already a Tara doll in the works. . . .

Robin Williams says his next project is "Gandhi on Ice with Tonya Harding."

*

Amid the Dodger-Giant feud, Matt Williams once threatened to deliver hard line drives up the middle when Orel Hershiser was pitching. Now they're teammates in Cleveland and joking about it.

When they faced each other recently in batting practice, Hershiser says Williams tried to make good on his previous threat.

"But I knocked him down," Hershiser said. "Didn't you notice he's a little balder?"

*

While wondering if "When We Were Kings" will fare better than "Hoop Dreams," I was thinking: Nick Van Exel and Roy Jones Jr. obviously weren't, Steve Lavin's tears were touching because they were real, Kentucky will repeat.

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