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Tyus Edney returns to UCLA after 15 years and 4.8 seconds

After playing in the NBA and Europe, Edney is UCLA's director of basketball operations, handling administrative duties and mentoring players. But no one lets him forget his 4.8-second dash that propelled the Bruins to the 1995 national championship.

December 14, 2010|By Ben Bolch

Lunch tray in his hands, Tyus Edney cut to the left, then to the right.

This time he couldn't find an opening. Every seat inside the UCLA student union was occupied on a rainy day, leaving the former Bruins point guard to make a mad dash for the nearby athletic offices.

Edney went unnoticed amid the crush of students, some of whom were still in diapers 15 years ago when the diminutive dynamo made one of the most celebrated shots in NCAA tournament history.

Top-seeded UCLA was only 4.8 seconds from an upset loss to Missouri in the second round when Edney raced up the floor, twisted around the outstretched arms of the Tigers' 6-foot-9 Derek Grimm and banked in the winning layup at the buzzer.

It was the flash point for the Bruins' most recent national title run and a highlight that remains embedded in the Pauley Pavilion video board. Not that UCLA's new director of basketball operations would mind if his alma mater produced some fresh material.

"I think we're headed in that direction again," Edney said of winning a championship.

Edney, 37, has become a face of the program again, his image featured alongside those of current players during a video promotion shown before Bruins' home games. The promo ends with the mantra, "Champions begin here."

Though Edney's role is ostensibly to handle administrative duties — "Just kind of making sure everything's in order away from the court," he said — coaches and players alike seek him out for advice.

"It's good to hear from somebody who's done it, who's played at a high level," junior point guard Jerime Anderson said. "It's pretty cool."

Edney watches film with the coaching staff and provides his take. He also mentors players who want to replicate the success he had as a Bruin. He loves every part of this first step in his coaching career.

"It feels almost like coming back home," Edney said.

Edney won the bulk of his championships away from Westwood. After spending two seasons with the Sacramento Kings and one with the Boston Celtics, Edney moved to Europe and helped his teams win nine titles before retiring last year.

He reconnected with the Bruins after returning to Southern California and reaching out to Coach Ben Howland, who added Edney to his staff in August.

"He knows basketball and he's a good mentor for these kids and an example of what hard work and dedication can do for a player," Howland said.

When someone recognizes and stops Edney these days, he or she invariably wants to talk about his last-second shot against Missouri.

"Everybody seems to remember where they were, which is unbelievable," he said.

Edney said he remembered walking out of the timeout huddle thinking he had to get the ball down the floor as fast as he could. He wasn't worried about the time because the Bruins had a practice drill in which they had to dribble the length of the court in three seconds.

"Being that we had done it," he said, "I knew I could get down there. So all I could think about was getting down there without being stopped and whatever happens, happens. It just so happened that it opened up for me to go all the way."

It's going to take longer than 4.8 seconds for UCLA to win another national title. But Edney is once again doing everything he can to make it seem like a blur.

ben.bolch@latimes.com

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