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The Inside Track | PAGE TWO / RANDY HARVEY

Lavin Deserves Kudos, Not Half-Joking Asides

March 16, 1998|RANDY HARVEY

Late during upset victories Sunday by UCLA and Rhode Island, CBS' Billy Packer asked if any coach had ever had two teams among the NCAA tournament's Sweet 16 in the same year.

Will Steve Lavin ever get any respect?

I'm sure Packer was half-joking when he implied UCLA is still Jim Harrick's team, even though he is now coaching--and coaching well based on Rhode Island's astonishing victory over Kansas--in the Atlantic 10 instead of the Pacific 10.

But that would mean Packer also was half-serious.

It might be a natural assumption, considering Harrick brought UCLA's senior leaders, Toby Bailey, J.R. Henderson and Kris Johnson, to Westwood.

It also would be wrong.

The Bruins have been Lavin's team, for better and worse, since he pulled them up from a potential season-wrecking 48-point loss last year at Stanford and took them to the final eight.

Almost a year later, after Sunday's victory over Michigan, Lavin's tournament record is a robust 5-1.

Lavin's critics no doubt will point out that Michigan is the tournament's only team with an even less experienced coach, Brian Ellerbe.

But they have to give Lavin and his staff credit for a game plan that made Michigan's Robert Traylor virtually disappear. Considering that the Tractor is 6 foot 8, 300-plus pounds, that's magic.

After Jelani McCoy, the Bruins' only true center, left the team, it hardly seemed possible they would advance to the Sweet 16.

It seemed even less likely after their sloppy first-round victory Friday night against Miami in a game that must have made the tournament committee wonder why either team was invited.

Packer criticized Lavin in the second half of that game for slowing down the pace, seemingly unaware that that Bruins were so tired that they couldn't go faster.

My question was why Lavin hadn't developed a deeper bench during the season.

Perhaps he has done better than I thought. Perhaps he has done better than he thought.

Lavin had little choice Sunday but to give quality minutes to freshman Travis Reed. After playing only six minutes against Miami and contributing nothing to the boxscore other than a foul, he played 22 minutes against Michigan and had 11 points, three rebounds and an assist.

He was one of three freshmen in the game at one point, and none was Baron Davis.

If it wasn't Lavin's coaching that brought them so far so fast, at least applaud him for his recruiting.

*

If Homer Drew hadn't received so much publicity, I'd guess Gene Hackman coached the Hoosiers from Valparaiso. . . .

Valparaiso's next game, against Rhode Island, has more father and son plot twists than a Turgenev novel . . .

CBS does a better job on this side of the Pacific. . . .

During four days of NCAA tournament games, the network proved particularly nimble in switching to games at critical junctures. . . .

The best example Sunday came when CBS left Stanford's easy victory over Western Michigan to bring us the final minutes of Valparaiso and Florida State. . . .

Naturally, the West Virginia player who made a three-point shot Saturday to beat Cincinnati was named West. . . .

Jerrod West says he doesn't know much about West Virginia's original Mr. Clutch , Jerry West, but perhaps they'll meet at the--what else?--West Regional this week in Anaheim. . . .

I'm not sure anyone on the Atlantic coast will acknowledge this, but the Pac-10 has four Sweet 16 teams for the second year in a row. . . .

Taking nothing away from Rhode Island, the biggest NCAA upset so far was Harvard over Stanford at Maples Pavilion in the women's tournament. . . .

It was the first time in 75 men's and women's tournament games a No. 16 seed has beaten a No. 1. . . .

Maybe the StingRays shouldn't have been mapping out a parade route after the first two games of their ABL championship series against Columbus. . . .

The StingRays' collapse in Columbus was no fault of Clarissa Davis-Wrightsil, who scored a career-high 36 points in the decisive Game 5 loss Sunday. . . .

Former Spark and USC coach Linda Sharp once said that Davis-Wrightsil, out of Texas, is the only college player she saw who compared to Cheryl Miller. . . .

One final note to brighten your Monday morning: Our professional teams still have zero championships in the '90s.

*

While wondering if anyone thought my picks in the office pool were serious, I was thinking: Anyone who got the Midwest Regional right should be investigated, Harrick is one of the worst and best coaches in tournament history, the UCLA-Alabama fiasco in Tuscaloosa is a perfect example of why women's teams shouldn't be allowed to play tournament games at home.

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