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Scandals in the Wind

Harrick won big at UCLA, Rhode Island and Georgia, but at each stop he left controversy, accusations and investigations churning in his wake

March 30, 2003|Rob Fernas | Times Staff Writer

They will remember Jim Harrick at the University of Georgia, just as surely as those at Rhode Island and UCLA will remember his basketball coaching tenures there.

Harrick won a lot -- and left investigations in his wake.

In announcing his resignation as Georgia's coach Thursday, Harrick was unrepentant to the end, saying he expected to be exonerated when the school finishes investigating alleged improprieties in his program, and adding that if any rules violations occurred during his watch they were "nothing major."

Aside from that mess, Harrick also faces scrutiny related to a sexual harassment case against Rhode Island, where he coached from 1997 to '99. A lawsuit, filed by a former female assistant in the basketball office, named Harrick and included charges of rules violations in his program, from fixing grades to arranging cars for players.

Rhode Island settled the suit in February for $45,000 but is investigating the claims.

Harrick's reputation has been tainted by a history of alleged misconduct that dates to his eight seasons as UCLA's coach, from 1988-89 to 1995-96. His fall from grace began a year after he had ascended to his greatest heights in 1995, when he became the only UCLA basketball coach other than John Wooden to lead the Bruins to a national title.

Suspicions grew when a vehicle registered in his name was sold to the sister of recruit Baron Davis by the youngest of Harrick's three sons, Glenn.

Harrick was cleared by the Pacific 10 Conference of violating NCAA rules in the sale of the car, but at the same time his career in Westwood was unraveling because of another scandal.

On Oct. 15, 1996, Harrick submitted an expense form for a $1,085 recruiting dinner four days earlier at a Westwood restaurant. That dinner violated the NCAA one-player-per-recruit rule because there were five UCLA players present and only three prospective recruits. Though the two extra players, Cameron Dollar and Charles O'Bannon, were at a different table, their dinners were included on the bill.

Harrick probably could have survived such a minor offense, but he repeatedly lied to school officials during their investigation of the dinner and he put Bruin assistant coach Michael Holton in a compromising position through his actions.

UCLA officials cited the possible NCAA violations and Harrick's conduct afterward as reasons for his firing on Nov. 6, 1996.

Thrown out of his dream job, Harrick resurfaced when he was named coach at Rhode Island in 1997. But he wasn't the same. Disillusioned and bitter, he never missed an opportunity to lash out at UCLA and former athletic director Peter Dalis for what he perceived as their shabby treatment of him.

"In the end," Harrick said, "I felt like Hannibal Lechter."

Others will argue that Harrick had only himself to blame. Lying about the expense report wasn't the first time he had put himself in a compromising position at UCLA.

The NCAA put UCLA on three years' probation in 1999 for rules violations that took place while Harrick was coach. They included excessive phone calls to recruits and providing Pat Barrett, a youth coach with ties to high-profile players, with an excessive number of tickets to Bruin games and a 1995 national championship ring.

Barrett said Harrick gave him the ring as a thank-you gift for helping to work with some of the Bruin players.

Harrick claimed he didn't remember ordering or giving the ring to Barrett.

When asked about his relationship with Barrett in the summer of 1996, months before an investigation of the UCLA program, Harrick told The Times, "Pat Barrett is like my son." He later clarified the statement, saying, "I was joking."

The NCAA and Pac-10 also investigated UCLA's 1988 recruitment of Don MacLean after allegations surfaced that Harrick had visited MacLean's home and signed him to a letter of intent during the so-called "dead period," when coaches are prohibited from contacting recruits.

The allegations were contained in an account written by Bob Hawking, MacLean's coach at Simi Valley High. Hawking composed the notes after learning he would not be hired as a UCLA assistant coach, a job he said Harrick had promised him. UCLA nixed the arrangement because it was thought that Hawking's hiring would give the impression of impropriety.

Instead, Hawking, who later became head coach at Cal State Fullerton, was hired as an assistant by Pepperdine Coach Tom Asbury, Harrick's former assistant at the Malibu school.

The investigation was dropped in 1991, the last of three inquiries into the recruitment of MacLean, who became a four-year starter and UCLA's all-time leading scorer.

After being forced from UCLA, Harrick sometimes acted like a man with a chip on his shoulder. He called Steve Lavin, his successor, a puppet for Dalis.

"In my experience, he's an innocent victim," Harrick said of Lavin in 1998. "They control everything he says, everything he does. He has to do what the boss tells him to do."

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