Illinois basketball Coach Lou Henson has taken a team to the Final Four before.
His 1970 New Mexico State team, which included future NBA players Sam Lacey and Charlie Criss, reached the national semifinals, where it lost to UCLA.
Another of the players on Henson’s 1970 team was Jimmy Collins, now an Illinois assistant. Collins has spent five months trying to keep the Fighting Illini calm.
“They’ve been talking Final Four since Oct. 15 and I’ve been trying to shut their mouths,” Collins said. “But, I’m not going to shut their mouths any more. Obviously, they knew what they were talking about.”
The Non-Fighting Illini: New York Mets pitcher Jeff Innis, an Illinois alumnus, has not let baseball get in the way of basketball.
He bought a miniature television set and took it to the bullpen with to watch the NCAA tournament. While the Illini were playing one day, a fight broke out between the Mets and Toronto Blue Jays.
“Illinois was on a fast break at the time,” Innis said. “I was thinking, ‘Should I stay or should I go and join the fight?’ ”
Trivia: Last Sunday’s Brazilian Grand Prix in Rio de Janeiro was the 177th race for Italy’s Riccardo Patrese. It broke the record Patrese shared with two other drivers. Who are they?
How bad was he? NFL referees think they’ve got it tough? Their soccer counterparts in Europe would beg to differ.
FIFA, international soccer’s governing body, last weekend banned two Yugoslav players for life. Their crime?
According to wire reports, Dragan Babic and Dusko Vlaisavljevic were suspended for life for, respectively, “kicking the referee in the . . . (well, a particularly vulnerable spot)” and “spitting in the referee’s face and then kicking him in the shin.”
The identity of the unfortunate ref was not revealed.
Change that dial: From Tim Kurkjian of the Baltimore Sun: “Pittsburgh Pirates reliever Jim Gott has a 14.40 ERA this spring. Teammates are kidding that he could be an AM radio station.”
Neigh, Sean, neigh: During the NCAA’s Southeast Regional, Michigan’s Sean Higgins and other Wolverine players visited Calumet Farm, where the Lexington Herald-Leader heard this from the former Fairfax High star:
“At first, we thought it was going to be sort of boring,” Higgins said. “But then they showed us Alydar and told us how sexy he is now. He gets $300,000 each time he breeds.
“If it was that way for me, I’d be a rich man.”
Sometimes, a rose isn’t a rose: Pete Rose memorabilia apparently has been considerably devalued by being made too commonplace.
“One of the jokes in the hobby,” New York collector Lew Lipset told the Cincinnati Enquirer, “is that if you go to a show anywhere in the country and told a dealer you wanted a (game-worn) Rose jersey, he could say, ‘What year? What size? What color?’ ”
Trivia answer: The late world champion Graham Hill of England and France’s Jacques Laffite.
Quotebook: Said Boston Coach Jimmy Rodgers, after watching the Celtics look good in a loss at Milwaukee: “Sometimes ugly wins are better than pretty losses.”