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If Bibby Wants to Rebel, He Has the Place for It

February 07, 2001|T.J. SIMERS

I stopped by USC to say goodbye to Coach Henry Bibby.

I know the talk so far has centered on UCLA Coach Steve Lavin leaving town at the end of the season, but these recent rumors that have Bibby moving on to coach at Nevada Las Vegas next season have a real feel to them even though surprisingly they didn't come from Peter Dalis popping off.

As you also know--they didn't come from USC President Steven Sample.

But they are out there and being repeated by top people in the basketball business, which I guess means Lavin is also clean as the source.

As the rumor goes--it's also the job Bibby really wants.

"I'll tell you the truth," Bibby said, "you're always interested in an opportunity--when a door opens you should take a look."


WHY HANG AROUND? USC is a basketball dead end.

Take a walk into the school's sports information department and the room is decorated in football team pictures and one poster dedicated to professional women basketball players with a USC background.

You have to go into the media room, a trashy office to the rear, to find any acknowledgment that the school has a men's basketball program.

Former football coach Paul Hackett drew larger crowds to his news conferences than USC draws to some of its games.

The Trojans have been ranked in the top 25 all season, but only twice have pulled in more than 5,000 fans for a home game. One of the black marks against Lavin is the fact that the Bruins are averaging only 7,897 fans a game at home. A crowd of 7,897 would be the Trojans' largest to date.

How would you like to be Bibby and live in Lavin's shadow?


THE MIGHTY DUCKS draw more people than USC basketball, and I'll bet you can't even tell me the name of the coach of Anaheim's hockey team.

You would think everyone would want to come to USC to see one of the country's best basketball teams. I don't know, maybe USC Athletic Director Mike Garrett is scaring everyone away. He can have that impact on people--just ask Dennis Erickson.

There's a problem here, all right, and it's the fact that basketball at USC will never be embraced as it is as UCLA. How else do you explain the fact that UCLA is coming to the Sports Arena on Thursday night for one of the Trojans' biggest games of the year--and with blue-dressed fans probably filling a good section of the arena--the game still is not expected to be a sellout?

The last time USC sold out a home basketball game was Feb. 27, 1992--which means Bibby has never experienced the feeling while here.


WHEN THIS SEASON is over, Bibby, who began the season with a 57-57 mark, will undoubtedly have posted his best record in five years at the school, and he says his present team has the talent to advance beyond the first, second and even third rounds of the NCAA tournament. The Trojans haven't won two games in the same NCAA tournament since 1954.

Get out while you can, Henry.

As a compliment, I suggested his team is tough, much like him, and he said, "No it's not. It's soft, and I tell them that all the time. I was competitive all the time and wanted to win and went after it with everything."

If he doesn't take the UNLV job, I'd have him coaching the USC football team.

Come tournament time, of course, Bibby will be driving this team hard, and the final results might be as good as it ever gets for USC, which will result in opportunities for Bibby elsewhere.

"You look at jobs like Michigan and UNLV--that people say are going to come open--but it's not always better on the other side," said Bibby, who has a contract reportedly running through the 2004-2005 season. "But I do like challenges--that's what I'm all about and things should be explored.

"There's also a mountain here to still climb, and I've made a commitment to Mike Garrett, who saw something in me no one else saw. Mike has made me happy and I appreciate that. We've already taken giant steps here, there are more to take, and let me tell you, I enjoy building a program."

Well said, but I'm still betting Bibby leaves town before Lavin.


POTENTIAL NCAA VIOLATIONS, a forced resignation as football coach at the University of Kentucky--he should have known it would come to this. If you have a last name like Hal Mumme, you have to know people are going to dig things up.


I HOPE BOTH Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal were paying attention. The reason Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman have decided to separate, a spokesman for the pair said, was because of career conflicts.


INSTEAD OF GOING after Rick Pitino, I don't understand why everyone isn't going after Jim O'Brien, the guy who replaced Pitino and has the Celtics winning.


PHILLIE FIRST BASEMAN Travis Lee, who hit .235 last season, lost his salary arbitration and had to settle for a $300,000 raise.

If baseball wants to get back on track, they ought to have the fans sit in arbitration.


WHO IS MORE upset now that Mo Vaughn is out for the season? Angel fans, or opposing pitchers who have incentive clauses rewarding them for the number of players they strike out?


TODAY'S LAST WORD comes in an e-mail from Alfonso:

"I continue to read your columns with diminishing hope you will one day say something positive about someone. I'm a psychology major and it's quite clear you were always the last one picked as a child, consequently you berate every person with athletic talent to atone for years of athletic impotence."

Thank you for being so positive and boosting my self-esteem.


T.J. Simers can be reached at his e-mail address:

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