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The Inside Track | SECOND THOUGHTS

After the Latest, Perhaps Lavin Rented 'Titanic'

January 20, 2003|Chris Dufresne

Steve Lavin resign?

No way, never, forget about it, and you wonder how these stories get circulated.

After the ugly home loss to St. John's on Jan. 11, remember, the UCLA basketball coach was so not despondent he reported of gobbling a turkey sandwich and taking his girlfriend to see the movie "Chicago."

Lavin always has been a song and dance man.

Anyway, that was the spin on it, before the dark clouds started spewing fire and rain, before the Arizona armada swept through Westwood, before the worst-ever defeat at Pauley Pavilion, before maybe even Lavin knew it really is over.

The movie title that jumps to mind after Saturday's blowout loss to Arizona: "No Way Out."

Resign, no, but there is resignation.

Before the Arizona agonies, you could picture Lavin in the war room mapping out a reprise of the 1999-00 campaign. That spring he took a no-hope 4-8 conference record to the Bay Area, stormed from 19 behind to defeat California on a Thursday, then stunned No. 1 Stanford two days later and made that miraculous job-saving run to the Sweet 16.

UCLA is headed to the Bay Area this week, to face Stanford and Cal, only this time without a flicker of flame.

That 1999-00 UCLA team, by comparison, was the 1975-76 Indiana Hoosiers whereas this season's squad, well, you needed to hire a private investigator to find UCLA in last week's Sagarin basketball ratings -- Ring, Hello? Yes, Ma'am, we found your Bruins at No. 167 hiding in the attic between Stephen F. Austin and Tennessee Tech.

So, if Lavin won't quit and the athletic director won't fire him before season's end, what we're left with is six weeks of free throws and death throes.

The only carrot left dangling is UCLA somehow winning the Pacific 10 Conference tournament and the automatic NCAA bid, but at this point the Bruins appear utterly incapable of such execution -- it would be akin to asking someone who can't tie his shoes to win a marathon.

The sad part, of course, is Lavin never should have been subjected to this torture -- he was robbed of his coaching innocence by a quick-fix former athletic director who hired a buck private to lead an army. Given the ridiculousness of the premise, Lavin has exceeded all expectations.

The irony is that had he been allowed time to learn his craft, the way former Jim Harrick bench assistants Mark Gottfried and Lorenzo Romar have worked their way up the Division I ranks, Lavin might now be qualified to be the next UCLA coach.

Unfortunately, you can't rewrite history, you can only learn from it.

News item: Houston Rockets defeat Lakers.

Second thought: That's one small step for Ming, one giant leap for Ming-kind.

News item: Shaquille O'Neal admonishes writers for embellishing racially insensitive comments he made about Houston center Yao Ming. "I'm disappointed in some of you media people for that," O'Neal said.

Second thought: The media responded by offering Shaq a blanket apology of "toy-inchee," only to realize that was the Cantonese phrase for "I'm sorry" and what the media really meant was the Mandarin "duna-boochee."

News item: San Francisco 49ers and Coach Steve Mariucci part ways because of "philosophical differences."

Second thought: The dispute was over Greek philosophy. The 49ers were devotees of Socrates while Mariucci has always been a Plato man.

News item: Washington State could get stuck with $750,000 tab for not selling its allotment of Rose Bowl tickets.

Second thought: Washington State's take is this: "You can't keep jamming these Rose Bowl bids down our throats. We went to one in 1931, 1998 and 2003 -- that's an average of one appearance every 34 years. You think we're made of money up here?"

More on Rose Bowl tab: Washington State ought to send a bill collector named Rocco to Tuscaloosa, Ala., and have him rap his knuckles on the new head coach's office door.

News item: Carson Palmer writes Senior Bowl week diary for ESPN.com.

Second thought: You knew this really wasn't a tell-all because nowhere in Palmer's account does he include the passage, "Dear Diary, if the Cincinnati Bengals draft me, I will become monk and move to Tibet."

News item: NCAA wraps up its annual convention in Anaheim.

Second thought: The jaw-dropping news coming out of this yawn-fest was a proposal that would make players from schools that don't meet academic standards wear uniform patches as a badge of shame.

If that doesn't work, will the NCAA demand players trade uniform numbers for grade-point averages?

Announcer: "Foul on University of Cincinnati forward, No. 2.1."

News item: Injuries force tennis star Martina Hingis to contemplate retirement.

Second thought: Welcome to this week's installment of "In Tennis They Eat Their Young." It works like this: Put racket in kid's hand at age 3, introduce kid to their new best friend, Mr. Ball Machine, transfer kid from kindergarten to tennis academy, toss kid on pro tour after puberty, hope kid cashes in before career-threatening injuries begin to pile up ... at age 22?

Horses should be forced to retire at 22, not tennis stars.

News item: Baseball owners propose to award home-field advantage in World Series to league that wins All-Star game.

Second thought: And you thought Disco Demolition Night was a dumb baseball idea.... FYI: the last eight seventh games in World Series play have been won by the home team, and now that advantage could be decided on a pinch-hit single in July by a Milwaukee Brewer?

And not that this could happen, but what if the All-Star game ends in a tie?

Bud Selig's next brainstorm: Bring back "10-cent beer night" in Cleveland.

News item: Gary Carter to be inducted into baseball's Hall of Fame wearing a Montreal Expo cap.

Second thought: After ceremonies, Major League Baseball will take over day-to-day financial operations of Carter's cap and possibly relocate it to Washington in 2004.

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