The only thing zanier than college basketball fans and officials are college coaches and the writers who cover this delirious, out-of-control sport. Take last weekend, for instance.
Stan Morrison, this year's local hero, finally lost a close one in conference play, and, predictably, sulked his way through the postgame interview. Here's a guy who has won at least a piece of a championship, which his school does regularly once every quarter-century or so, whose team could have just as easily finished fifth in the Pac-10 as first, and he's "embarrassed." It's not bad enough that USC's players have to perform in the dark and empty Sports Arena, they've also got a coach who is "embarrassed" for them in their last home game of a once-in-a-generation championship season.
The following day we're treated to a scene right out of "Noises Off" when poor Al McGuire has to try and keep a straight face on camera while Dean Smith is forced to read an extraordinary message to the effect that Chris Mullin has won the Wooden Award over Patrick Ewing. This is roughly equivalent to saying that Gary Coleman is a better actor than Robert DeNiro. It's as if an army of Scott Ostlers has somehow infiltrated the august body of "basketball experts" who perpetrated this farce, and, in the name of some kind of awful, empty whimsy, made a practical joke of the whole thing.
Then, a little later, we're graced with one last bit of cabaret when the network breathlessly announces that the NCAA selection committee has included Fairleigh Dickinson and Lehigh in its tournament. Seems as if things are getting to the point where only (counter-culture author) Dr. Hunter S. Thompson can adequately describe the weird, twisted goings-on of this bizarre sport.
Amateur Athletes Lost a Good Friend in Kelly
The death of John B. Kelly Jr. is a loss too great to comprehend.
Jack, or Kell as he was known to thousands of amateur athletes, was not the opportunist who played the game of "sports politics" to gain national office. Jack was an Olympic medalist and Sullivan Award winner. He knew far better than those who administered amateur sports what was best for the competitor. He fought against the bureaucracy to see that athletes' needs came first.
When elected president of the Amateur Athletic Union in 1971 and 1972, he said on assuming office, "The rules of amateurism need updating and modernizing." He was ahead of his time as he diligently fought to remove the antiquated shackles placed on amateur sports.
He threw the weight of his office behind an attempt to bring the NCAA back into the U. S. Olympic Committee. Though not successful, his efforts and dialogue did ease the tensions and restrictions that the NCAA imposed on the student-athlete competing in open and international competition.
He was passed over several times as president of the USOC because he wasn't part of the Olympic hierarchy. But he never failed to advocate that athletes must serve on national committees and their problems must remain the highest priority. Kelly was more than an administrator in the field of athletics. He understood the athlete and represented the heart and soul of every competitor, regardless of sex, color or ethnic origin.
We have lost more than a U.S. Olympic Committee president. We have lost a far-sighted, courageous, honest man whose devotion to amateurs was unparalleled.
Rancho Palos Verdes
Bell Left a Legacy to Inspire Us All
Thank you for publishing the article on Ricky Bell. In my estimation, Ricky Bell is an honor to the whole human race. He has shown us what success really is: being who you are. He is an example of a person who gave his full measure of devotion to life. The individuals who knew him personally are especially honored.
You can't blame God for wanting Ricky Bell with him. He knew what He was doing.
WILLIAM J. REGAN
How Many Autographs for a Plugged Nickel, Al?
I really had to laugh when new Dodger and self-proclaimed superstar Al Oliver was quoted as saying, "I've never one time cheated the fans," and "being unselfish turned out to be my weakness in the big leagues."
Isn't this the same Al Oliver who, while at Montreal, refused to sign autographs for kids, telling them if they wanted his autograph they would have to send money to the Al Oliver Fan Club, and then they would be sent an autographed picture?
Who is this guy kidding? Certainly not this "cheated" fan who would never send Oliver a plugged nickel for his autograph, and who will never pay to see his "unselfish" act embarrassingly displayed in Dodger Blue!
Little has been written about the return of Jay Johnstone to the Dodgers, but I think it may play an important role in the team's return to dominance in the National League West. Keeping a team loose can make a big difference, and Jay's rejoining Jerry Reuss and Steve Yeager might make Tommy Lasorda's job hairy but enjoyable.
EARL S. DRAIMIN
USC's Stan Morrison Has Shown a Touch of Class
After years of invisible media coverage and general apathy regarding USC basketball, it's nice to find a positive article about Stan Morrison. His selfless attitude is a reflection of his character and sportsmanship. Not one to make excuses, Morrison never blames the official for a loss or demeans an opposing team's victories.
And yes, Walt, "life is charming at the top" but we can't all "luck out" can we?
MARY Y. YO
Coach of the Year? Let's Hazzard a Guess
My vote goes to Walt Hazzard for coach of the year. He took a dismayed bunch of guys, had the shortest bench in the country, got murdered in his initial tests, then built a machine that gained the country's respect.
I'm non-partisan; from neither USC nor UCLA, but from NYU. (Watch us! We used to be a prime power in basketball, then got fed up with the recruiting deal and dropped the sport. Watch us in the next three years; we just decided to try again.)
CAPT. MACE FUHR
Walt Hazzard should have been coach of the year. He did an outstanding job of bringing together a motley crew of inexperienced players and come within an eyelash of winning the Pac-10. The Bruins have been playing harder and more as a team than they ever did under Coach Farmer.
As a Bruin, I'm proud to have Mr. Hazzard coaching the team.
JOSEPH GOETZ, M.D.
Or Perhaps It Was Someone Else Altogether
Both Rick Reilly and letter-writer Dale Sweetman are wrong about the "first of the great jump-shooters." It was neither Bevo Francis nor Paul Arizin, but Joe Fulks of the Philadelphia Warriors in the post-World War II old NBA. One night against the Indianapolis Olympians, he threw in 63 points at a time when teams averaged 75-80 points total.
PHILIP N. ROBINSON
Paul Arizin was probably just completing kindergarten when Hank Luisetti of Stanford was showing the country his invented jump shot.
UNLV Should Lose More Than Just a Few Games
The University of Nevada at Las Vegas is an example of what is wrong with colleges in general and athletics in particular. What are athletes doing in college without a high school diploma? What kind of admissions officer would not be able to spot that on a completed transcript? Schools like this shouldn't be penalized athletically. They should lose accreditation. I find it hard to imagine a degree from UNLV being of any value whatsoever.