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THE INSIDE TRACK | T.J. SIMERS

Message Between the Lines Should Be Loud and Clear

February 22, 2001|T.J. SIMERS

UCLA Athletic Director Peter Dalis said Tuesday he had given it a try and had been honest with the media, and the way he made it sound, it was like the first time in his 18 years of administrative work here.

However, he made it clear, "That will never happen again."

In renewing his vow to be dishonest, Dalis said he had learned his lesson, which is what is supposed to happen at an institution of higher education, although I'm not sure this is the curriculum most taxpayers have in mind when it comes to supporting our public schools.

Concerned, I called professor Tom Plate, who teaches UCLA's "Ethical and Policy Issues on Institutions of Mass Communications," and asked if Dalis was going to be a guest lecturer soon.

He laughed, and a few minutes later after he had stopped, the communication studies' professor said, "No comment."

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ABOUT THE SAME time Tuesday, USC basketball Coach Henry Bibby announced across town his players would no longer be allowed to talk to the media.

I asked Bibby if USC student-athletes were capable of talking and focusing on basketball at the same time, knowing full well UCLA gets all those players, and Bibby said, "I don't have to give an explanation."

I made some calls, worried about the old-school message that was being sent here, and was surprised to learn President Steven Sample's university has a school of communication. I'm guessing he has never been in the building.

I placed a call, someone said, "The Annenberg School for Communication," and then I got dead air. I'm thankful every day I sent my kid to Notre Dame.

I checked the Annenberg School for Communication Web site, noticed there was a four-hour advanced class in nonverbal communication and tried to enroll so I could find a way to interview USC's basketball players.

"That class has more to do with facial expressions and how people use space," said Patricia Riley, the school of communications' director, and I wish I could have seen her face to see if she was referring to the space on Page Two.

I asked her if Bibby has taken any communication classes, and Riley said it's her impression he's a very busy man, although I suggested he might have plenty of time to take a class once the NCAA tournament begins.

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HAVE YOU EVER tried communicating with Bibby? I get better responses from my mother-in-law when her hearing aid batteries go out, and she can't hear what I am talking about.

I asked Bibby about the high expectations people had for his team this year, and he said, "That's your opinion."

I asked him about the team's talent and its inability to beat the top three teams in the Pac-10 this season, and he said, "That's what you say."

I asked him what he would say, and he said, "I'm happy where we are."

USC lost its last game by 44 points, hasn't had a breakthrough win all season long, lost twice to UCLA--a team picked in a preseason Pac-10 poll to finish behind the Trojans, and listening to all this nonsense, tell me, whose stock has fallen more in the past few months: Bibby's or Dalis'?

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AND THE WINNER is Steve Lavin. I spent a day with him last week, and joined him at a speaking engagement where he was greeted by a standing ovation.

First Dalis made him a sympathetic figure, and then Bibby helped make him a winning coach. Now he's standing on his own two feet, and Bibby and Dalis are trying to recover.

Lavin has been brilliant--on the court in coaching his team to 13 wins in 15 games and in the public arena in displaying composure under an onslaught of criticism with no visible support from the school's administration.

And yet when the fans gave him his standing ovation, instead of an "I told you so," he gave them a speech about how good his three assistant coaches have been and how they each deserve a chance to run their own program.

To listen now to Dalis grind on how the media has done him wrong, we're to believe he has been the victim. To listen to Bibby defend himself by reminding us how his players have let him down, the gag order has been misplaced.

One thing has become very apparent in all this--when it comes to communication, neither Bibby or Dalis are in the same class as Lavin.

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AFTER WINNING HER 400th game, Notre Dame Coach Muffet McGraw was presented with flowers and a game ball. When she wins her 500th game, it's hoped someone will give her a first name befitting an adult.

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I READ THE Lakers' story in the newspaper Wednesday morning that had Shaquille O'Neal singing in the shower all happy, and I wondered if it was just a coincidence that Kobe Bryant had stepped on O'Neal's foot a few minutes earlier, injuring his ankle and knocking him out of the next couple of games.

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