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MARCH MADNESS / NCAA TOURNAMENT | EAST REGIONAL / NOTES

Holton's Saga of the Rings Has a Two-Decade Timeline

March 21, 2001|SAM FARMER

PHILADELPHIA — Michael Holton's championship ring arrived in the mail this week, a mere 19 years after his UCLA team won the Pacific 10 Conference title.

No, this is not a postal-service horror story. Holton, now a Bruin assistant coach, was a guard on the 1981-82 team that won the conference crown but was put on probation by the NCAA and did not play in the NCAA tournament.

As a memento of the season, Holton last summer came up with the idea to design and purchase commemorative rings for every player and coach on that team--17 people, in all. It was a complicated undertaking that required approval from Athletic Director Peter Dalis. The gold rings feature a basketball on the face, the Bruin crest on one side, and the player or coach's last name on the other.

"I told the guys about it and got their ring sizes," said Holton, 39, who wore his ring Tuesday for the first time. "Half the team said, 'That's nice,' and sounded excited. The other half was like, 'What do you want?' "

When they won the title, the players were given the choice of championship rings or watches.

"We picked the wrong thing; we picked watches," Holton said. "I've still got mine. It's on my dresser. It doesn't work anymore."

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If Duke wins Thursday, it probably will be Jason Kapono's last game in a UCLA uniform. The sophomore forward is likely to submit his name for the NBA draft this spring.

"I think he'll definitely explore the option of playing in the NBA next year and gather all the information he can on it," said Coach Steve Lavin, adding he wouldn't be surprised if Kapono decided on either option, to stay or go.

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Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski said Lavin has done a "terrific" job this season in resurrecting the Bruins from their 4-4 start.

"Coaching in that area, you know you're going to have incredible highs and incredible lows," he said. "He's used it to bond his group together. It can disintegrate a group or bond them, and I think they bonded. They play hard and really well together. They're a team that can win the national championship, no question about it. They have the talent and they're going to be a difficult opponent."

He said he sympathized with Lavin this season, particularly after hearing that Dalis contacted Rick Pitino.

"If my AD talked to Rick Pitino, I'd talk to [NBA Commissioner] David Stern," he said. "See if he wanted to get into a little bit of that."

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