His 4-year, $2.8-million contract with San Antonio notwithstanding, Larry Brown said as recently as last Saturday that all things considered, his heart had been set on going to UCLA.
“I wanted to be there,” he said. “No doubt about it. Chancellor (Charles) Young . . . we got it all arranged, but the timing was so bad.”
The timing, for those who have forgotten the bizarre “He’s coming! Oh, no, he’s not.” scenario at Westwood last spring, was this: Brown was offered the UCLA job in the same week that Kansas, the school he was coaching, won the National Collegiate Athletic Assn. title.
Mere hours after the Bruins thought they had their man, Brown appeared at an emotional news conference in Lawrence, Kan., to say he was staying. Eventually, of course, he didn’t, answering the siren call to return to the National Basketball Assn.
Last week, it was announced that the Jayhawks’ program was on probation for 3 years for recruiting violations.
“It’s been a bad week for me,” Brown said. “Really horrible. (The probation) was a total surprise. . . . I feel bad for the kids. I went through a similar situation when I was a sophomore at (North) Carolina, and we couldn’t go to the NCAAs.
As for UCLA, Brown said: “The only thing I’ve tried to say to people is to try putting themselves in my place. It was a very emotional time.
“I can’t do anything now. I’m happy here. But I always have said I wanted to go back (to UCLA).”
Now, Joe Barry Carroll is Willis Reed’s problem. Carroll, who once drove former Golden State Coach George Karl to rip the door off his locker, last week was traded from Houston--which had given up Ralph Sampson to get Carroll--to New Jersey.
“I’ll take his scoring and his talent, and I won’t worry about the rest of it,” Reed said of the 7-foot 1-inch center. “I’ve got a job to do, and I’ve got a team that won 19 games last year. I’ve got to do things that will make us a better basketball team.”
Carroll always could score. He had 20 points in an opening-night loss, 12 points and 13 rebounds in a victory Saturday night over New York, and 19 points in Tuesday night’s win over Washington. He also shocked courtside observers by almost diving into the press table after a loose ball.
“There’s been a great deal of misunderstanding, misinterpreting and in some cases, maliciousness,” Carroll said of his reputation as a malingerer.
David Greenwood, senior member of the Spurs, was asked the difference between Walter Berry, the enigmatic small forward who was traded to New Jersey on Larry Brown’s first day as coach, and Willie Anderson, the rookie who replaced Berry and lit up the Lakers for 30 points in his NBA debut.
“How much paper you got to write on?” Greenwood said.
If Berry was the Truth, wrote San Antonio columnist Buck Harvey, then Anderson is the Answer.
“Well, one of them can pass,” the Lakers’ Magic Johnson said, laughing.
Don’t touch that dial: Charles Barkley, filling in for a sports call-in host, was a hit on a Philadelphia radio station the other night. Among those he got on the phone was Boston’s Larry Bird.
Barkley also had this exchange with Rod Thorn, the league official who is in charge of player fines.
Barkley: “What is it that you do with all that money I give you?”
Thorn: “We give it to charity, Charles.”
Barkley: “Well, then, there can’t be a whole lot of hungry kids in the world, right?”
Take off the blindfold: Charlotte rookie Rex Chapman, the team’s No. 1 draft choice and alleged sharpshooter from Kentucky, made only 29% of his shots from the floor during the team’s exhibition season. He wasn’t much closer to being on target in the team’s first two games of the regular season, making just 11 of 34, 32.4%, although he improved to almost 50% against the Clippers Tuesday, making 9 of 20.
And you wonder why the Nets are still burning over Orlando Woolridge, who signed with the Lakers as a free agent during the summer after spending much of the season in drug rehabilitation? The Nets’ No. 1 pick in 1989 belongs to Chicago, part of the 1986 deal that brought Woolridge to New Jersey.
Who’s counting: The last teams in pro sports to win as many as 3 straight titles are hockey’s New York Islanders, who won 4 straight Stanley Cups in 1980-83; baseball’s Oakland A’s, who won 3 straight World Series titles in 1972-74; football’s Green Bay Packers, who won 3 in a row in 1965-67, and the Boston Celtics, winners of 8 straight NBA titles in 1959-66.
Also, there are 26 players currently in the NBA who have played their entire careers--minimum of 5 seasons--with the same team. Four are Lakers: Michael Cooper, Magic Johnson, James Worthy and Byron Scott.
Portland, eager to sign Soviet 7-2 center Arvydas Sabonis, is wondering whether he will be accompanying the Soviet national team when it begins a tour of the U.S. beginning in North Carolina Saturday night. Trail Blazer officials reportedly don’t expect to have Sabonis before next season.
Guard Lester Conner, traded from Houston to New Jersey in the Joe Barry Carroll trade, didn’t arrive in New Jersey until 1 p.m. the afternoon of the Nets’ opener against Atlanta, too late to practice with the team. Conner had 7 assists in 9 minutes.
The next night, he played 19 minutes--10 in the fourth quarter, when he had all 4 of his assists.
From the same people who brought you Stuart Gray comes Jack Haley, the latest in a growing line of maligned UCLA centers--beginning with Mark Eaton--that have found employment in the NBA.
Haley, who played in Europe last season after being cut by Chicago as a fourth-round draft choice, made the Bulls this season as 12th man on the roster.
Haley, who also failed a tryout with the U.S. Olympic team, apparently is aspiring to be something of an enforcer for the Bulls.
For the first time since 1958, when he was coaching his alma mater, Coe College in Iowa, Bill Fitch is without a coaching job.
“It’s a good time to recharge the batteries,” Fitch, 54, told Peter May of the Hartford Courant. “If another race gets started, I’ll get in the blocks. I’ll coach again. I feel better now than I did 10 years ago when my back was killing me.
“Right now, it’s either golf or fishing. When you’re unemployed, that’s the only decision you have to make. And sometimes you have time for both.”