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SPORTS EXTRA / NCAA TOURNAMENT

Separated at First-Round Berth

March 15, 2001

GREENSBORO, N.C — There's nothing wrong with your TV. That's Jay Wright--not UCLA's Steve Lavin--coaching the Hofstra basketball team.

Wright and Lavin, friends off the court, bear an uncanny resemblance. They looked like twins last season, before Wright stopped slicking back his hair. Now, they could easily pass for brothers.

"This is no exaggeration: Every time I go to the Final Four, people come up to me on the street and in hotels, 'Hey, Coach Lavin! Great year! Good job!' " said Wright, 39, who is three years older and four inches taller than the 5-foot-11 Lavin. "I know they're not talking to me."

The most awkward encounter came at a party involving college and Amateur Athletic Union (AAU)coaches. At a cocktail party before the dinner, Wright walked in and was spotted by former Georgia Tech coach Bobby Cremins. Embarrassment ensued.

"Bobby was like, 'Steve, come here.' He grabbed me and introduced me to some guys," he said. "And then after a second he said, 'Oh, God, I'm sorry.' He felt so bad."

On at least two occasions, Wright signed Lavin's name when autograph hounds simply didn't believe him when he said he wasn't UCLA's coach. That revelation doesn't bother Lavin.

"It works the other way too," Lavin said. "I'll be sitting there at the Final Four and somebody behind me will start yelling, 'Jay! Jay!' It's pretty funny."

The two coaches try to get together at every Final Four, and often sit together.

"We use his tickets," Wright said. "They're a lot better than mine." --SAM FARMER

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