For a moment there, I thought we had all the makings of a wonderful little power struggle. The stubborn, dogmatic head basketball coach--UC Irvine's Bill Mulligan--vs. his gentle but equally opinionated volunteer assistant--Andy Andreas.
Headlines and story leads danced in my head:
Andreas to Mulligan: 'Anteaters Couldn't Guard Tomb of Unknown Soldier.'
Disgruntled UC Irvine assistant Andy Andreas, whose job it was to help reshape the Anteater defense, resigned Sunday evening, but not before delivering a few three-point potshots of his own.
"I have nightmares now," Andreas said, his voice shaking noticeably. "Horrible nightmares. We score points, hundreds and hundreds of points, but we always lose. Layup after layup. I couldn't take it any more. If Mulligan just would have listened to me."
Or . . .
Mulligan to Andreas: 'You Wouldn't Know Defense if It Handed You a Business Card.'
An angry Bill Mulligan told reporters Monday that the departure of assistant Andy Andreas from the UC Irvine program was for the best.
"We never had enough seats on the bench, anyway," Mulligan said. "I mean, you try kneeling on a towel for two hours."
And so it would go. The back-stabbing. The delicious character assassinations. The sort of stuff notebooks live for.
One problem: It didn't happen.
Andreas resigned, all right. He informed Mulligan of his decision last Sunday night. No apologies. No regrets. He simply wanted out.
Explanations are a bit harder to come by. This from Andreas:
"Well, I think it was . . . I just think . . . I felt that I could . . . I don't know, I guess I was a little bit tired of the routine of the coaching on the floor," he said. "It was something that sort of evolved."
Andreas has taught basketball for more than 40 years. He coached his Kent, Ohio, team to two appearances in the state championship. He remembers this because a lug named Frank Howard (later known better in on-deck circles) helped beat the Kent team one year, and Jerry Lucas (later known better at Ohio State and with the New York Knicks) helped beat them the other.
This is a coach who is partly responsible for unleashing Indiana's Bobby Knight on an unsuspecting America. "I hired him out of Ohio State," said Andreas, who was coaching at Cuyahoga Falls High in Sandusky, Ohio, at the time. "I had him as an assistant."
Knight went on to win national championships at Indiana and fracture once-peaceful relations with Puerto Rico. Meanwhile, Andreas became a principal, then a superintendent of schools. Then he retired. From schools, that is; he never quit coaching.
Indiana. Two Florida community colleges. Chapman College. Cal State Dominguez Hills. Riverside City College. Rancho Santiago College. If you had a spare whistle and a seat on the bench, Andreas would stop by long enough to tinker with your defense. More times than not, he left it in better condition.
Then Mulligan came calling. Could Andreas help with the Irvine defense? Mulligan asked. For free.
Certainly, said Andreas.
"I think (Mulligan) thought that I could give or bring in my philosophy of defense, my drills, things like that," Andreas said. "Not to totally overhaul everything, but try to do things a little bit differently."
So they took the Anteater team picture and there he was--Andreas--first row, second from the right. All he had to do was help Irvine do the unlikely: Play like Nevada Las Vegas (run, run, run on offense; pressure, pressure, pressure on defense), but without the advantage of UNLV-like athletes.
Some scores of interest:
--Bradley 139, Irvine 119.
--UCLA 116, Irvine 100.
--Irvine 93, New Orleans 91.
--Iowa 124, Irvine 88.
Exciting basketball, to be sure. The Anteaters were entertaining, but they tended to give up a point or two. For Andreas, the defensive purist, this was like watching someone take a can of spray paint to the Pieta.
"It was a new experience," Andreas said. "But then we can flip the thing over. It was a new experience to see that many points scored on my team, but it was also a new experience to see (Irvine) score that many points."
Andreas likes to talk about point differential. What's the difference, he said, between a 120-100 loss and a 80-60 loss? You lost by 20 each time, didn't you?
Andreas did what he could. But along with Andreas were a part-time assistant and two full-time assistants. Only so much time at chalk talks.
And that pressure defense and running offense Mulligan would like? Andreas offered a bit of advice.
"If Bill is going to proceed on that basis, it would take a couple of years to put it in," he said. "Nothing is immediate in basketball. Everything is sort of a laborious, time-consuming process. But you see what Vegas is doing year after year. You know that they have better athletes. At least you assume they do--and they do--but you say, 'I'd like to try some of the things Jerry (Tarkanian, UNLV coach) is doing.' "
Irvine tried, and it didn't work. At least not yet. Anteater opponents are averaging 93.5 points.
So Andreas is gone. He said he'll spend some time at the neighborhood health club, catch an Irvine game now and then, mostly "just mosey around."
"I think some of the ideas that I brought there had been established," he said. "I just didn't feel there was any need for me to be there the rest of the season. I guess it was for my convenience."
As for those juicy verbal blood baths we were hoping for, the Andreas vs. Mulligan Showdown, forget it.
"Billy and I are friends," he said. "There's no bitterness, no frustration. Nothing alienated me from that program or staff." Mulligan also said they parted amicably.
Too bad. Not about the bitterness part, but about Andreas leaving. Irvine could use whistles like that.