U.S. OLYMPIC FESTIVAL : MacLean, Campanelli Uneasy Partners on West Basketball Team
Was it something he said? Something he did?
Perhaps something he didn’t do?
Don MacLean has a theory, but he would like to know for sure.
He came to the U. S. Olympic Festival with a basketball resume as glossy as gold.
He was a first-team freshman All-American and Pacific 10 Conference Freshman of the Year after leading UCLA with a 18.6 scoring average. At Simi Valley High, MacLean had been one of the nation’s most coveted recruits, yet somehow he managed to perform even better than expected during his first college season. His selection to the West squad at the Olympic Festival only confirmed his standing among the nation’s best underclassmen.
So why is he counting the hours before he can catch a flight home?
The box scores read well enough. MacLean, who set a Pac-10 freshman scoring record with 577 points last season, has reached double figures in each of the West’s three games. Still, disappointment, even anger, is etched plainly and painfully on his face.
Oklahoma has been anything but OK to the 6-10, 220-pound forward, and for that he blames a man from California.
That’s California as in Cal, or the University of California, Berkeley, a school that has called Lou Campanelli its basketball coach for the past four years.
Campanelli is tall, thin, tan, wears his salt and pepper hair stylishly brushed back, and appears impeccably prim even while attired in sweats. He also is coach of the West team, and as MacLean sees it, Campanelli might as well have horns and wear a red cape.
MacLean, speaking Sunday after the West had lost its second consecutive overtime game, ripped his coach for benching him the final eight minutes of regulation and the entire overtime period.
“Ever since I’ve been here Coach Campanelli has had some kind of grudge against me,” MacLean said. “I’m one of the top five players at this Festival and I’m only getting 16 minutes a game. There’s something wrong.”
Campanelli, who is 305-175 in 17 seasons as a college coach, let his feelings be known long before the game was even over.
“You are useless on defense, MacLean!” he screamed at one point during the first half.
MacLean is unconvinced, however. He chooses to believe Campanelli has personal reasons for benching him. MacLean averaged 26 points and 10 rebounds against Cal last season.
“I think maybe that has a little to do with it,” MacLean said. “I think he’s still a little salty about us going up there and beating them pretty bad.”
Festival rules stipulate that each team must split into two units of six players with each platoon scheduled for 10 minutes of play in the first half and six in the second. There is free substitution in the final eight minutes of each game. MacLean has averaged 17 minutes going into today’s 1 p.m. bronze medal game against the South and has been straddling a chair at the end of two overtime losses and a two-point victory.
After a season in which he became the first first-year player to lead UCLA in scoring since Bill Walton in 1972, MacLean finds his role as bench jockey particularly frustrating.
“It feels good to have that season under my belt,” MacLean said of his first year as a Bruin. “It’s just a shame that it comes down to something like this. You want to play and you would think that the guys out there coaching you would have a little more respect for you after averaging 19 points a game as a freshman.”
Playing ahead of MacLean for the West has been Adam Keefe, a 6-9 sophomore from Stanford, and Reggie Smith, a 6-10 sophomore from Texas Christian. Neither is as dangerous offensively as MacLean, who also averaged 7.5 rebounds a game for UCLA.
Keefe, from Irvine, averaged 8.4 points and 5.4 rebounds. Smith, from San Jose, averaged 7.6 points and 4.2 rebounds. But both are more Golden Bearish on defense, according to Campanelli.
“He’s had some problems on defense and basically that’s been it,” he said. “You try to go with the most complete guys at crunch time, guys who can rebound and block shots--not just score.
“You know he’s a fine offensive player, a fine free-throw shooter, but we’ve got Keefe, who’s a little bulkier, and Smith, who’s a shot blocker. And they both rebound.”
As unfamiliar as he is with having to watch from bench, MacLean seems equally uncomfortable with his role when he’s playing. On defense, he often draws the opposition’s center and plays the low post on offense.
Similarly, Mitchell Butler, a UCLA-bound freshman from Oakwood School in North Hollywood, has been asked to play the power forward spot at times. Butler, 6-5 and 200 pounds, is expected to play off guard as a Bruin. Campanelli has been forced to be creative with his lineups. Of the West’s 11 healthy players, all but four are best-suited for the guard position. Four are point guards.
“In this situation, with limited practice time together, you just can’t design something offensively that’s going to be best for 12 guys,” Campanelli said.
MacLean is making little effort to veil his displeasure and it seems, at times, that his attitude has affected his play. On Sunday, shortly after catching an earful from Campanelli about his shoddy defense, MacLean fueled his coach’s ire by twice committing turnovers while making lackadaisical inbounds passes.
“When I don’t play well it’s like I lose my desire because I know I’m only going to be playing six minutes in the second half,” MacLean explained. “It’s like there’s no chance to make up for a mistake.
“Going into the game with that frame of mind is taking away from my game anyway. I knew even if I had 20 (points) in the first half I wouldn’t be playing the last eight minutes.”
The following day, as if to test his rationale, he scored 11 points and grabbed six rebounds in 11 first-half minutes. In the second half he failed to score and had one rebound in seven minutes.
It may be little consolation, but MacLean isn’t the only unhappy player. Adonis Jordan, a Kansas-bound freshman from Cleveland High, has been the odd guard out on a West squad that includes Darrick Martin of UCLA, Anderson Hunt of Nevada Las Vegas and Georgia Tech-bound Kenny Anderson of Rego Park, N.Y., last season’s consensus national high school player of the year.
Jordan, the sixth man on one unit, rarely has taken a shot and is averaging only 10 minutes a game.
“I’m getting in the game, distributing the ball, getting into the flow of things, then, by the time it’s time for me to shoot, it’s time for me to sit on the bench again,” he said. “I’m just trying to keep my poise. I figure I can learn something from the other players even if I’m not in the game. I’ll get something good out of this one way or the other.”
A bronze medal perhaps--a small consolation to at least one of Jordan’s West teammates.