COLLEGE BASKETBALL / GENE WOJCIECHOWSKI : Stewart Comes Off as a Real Loser

Chances are Indiana Coach Bob Knight isn't exactly shaking in his wading boots about the NCAA's investigation into his profanity-laced outburst at a West Regional postgame news conference last Friday.

Knight, as well as Missouri's Norm Stewart, two of the winningest coaches in the business, embarrassed themselves and their profession with post-loss performances in the regional.

You've probably seen the Knight tirade: Rance Pugmire, a volunteer mediator for the postgame sessions, was mistakenly told that Knight would be unavailable to reporters. Knight did show up--as he had planned to do all along--but couldn't resist unleashing a few choice obscenities in Pugmire's direction.

OK, so someone screwed up. But the coach's reaction was classic Knight overkill--and it wasn't even Pugmire's fault.

It won't take a blue-ribbon panel to see that Knight ought to receive a public reprimand and be ordered to apologize. Too bad he couldn't have acted as professionally as Pugmire, who tried to downplay the incident.

"It's unfortunate," Pugmire said Tuesday evening. "I just kind of wish it would go away."

Funny, but we sort of feel the same way about Missouri's Stewart, who didn't win any sportsmanship awards after the Tigers' heartbreaking 75-74 loss to UCLA.

Stewart stomped up the steps to the portable news conference stage, sat down at the dais and squinted into the spotlight, all but daring anyone to ask him or his players, Julian Winfield or Derek Grimm, about the defeat.

There were a few questions. Reporters wanted the players to talk about Tyus Edney's last-second basket, about Missouri's hot shooting, about how they'll remember the game, about their sense of disappointment. Reasonable inquiries.

Not to Stewart, they weren't. He leaned back in his folding chair, rolled his eyes, muttered something out of microphone range and gestured in exasperation.

Then it was his turn. Never once did Stewart congratulate UCLA or bother to acknowledge Edney's amazing effort. Instead, Stewart had the look of someone who just remembered an appointment with a prostate specialist.

Question: "Norm, you've coached--what?--1,000 games. Have you ever been beaten like that, on a length-of-the-court dribble?"

Mr. Gracious Loser: "Obviously, it's 1,000 games. I've won a hell of a lot of them like that."

The next day, Stewart continued to complain about the NCAA selection committee's decision to send the Tigers to the West Regional for the third consecutive season. (Oh, so that's why Missouri failed to double-team Edney on the critical inbound pass.) It was a tired theme. He whined about the location last week too.

"If we win (against UCLA), we got to go to Oakland," Stewart said. "If we win there, we go to Osaka."

Instead, Stewart goes back to Columbia, Mo.

Can't say we'll miss him.

WEEK IN REVIEW

Things to consider as we sift through the rubble of another failed office pool entry:

East Regional--The men's selection committee goofed big time by giving Minnesota an at-large bid and giving the Golden Gophers No. 8 seeding. No wonder Georgia Tech still is steamed about being left out of the tournament. Minnesota lost to St. Louis in the first round. . . . Many a broken office-pooler dabbed tears when No. 3 Villanova--the great Final Four sleeper pick--lost to No. 14 Old Dominion. . . . If No. 6 Tulsa somehow can beat Massachusetts and slip past the winner of Wake Forest-Oklahoma State to reach the Final Four, guess who it would face in the semifinal game: UCLA--that is, if the Bruins win their next two. Tulsa eliminated UCLA in the first round of last year's tournament. . . . The one statistic coaches notice first: field-goal shooting percentages. Oklahoma State has held nine of its last 10 opponents to less than 40.0%. . . . Picks: Tulsa over UMass, Wake Forest over Oklahoma State, Wake Forest over Tulsa.

West Regional--Another selection committee mistake: Oregon seeded No. 6. No. 10 sounds more like it. . . . If Connecticut, which is on its longest trip of the season, keeps winning, the Huskies will have gone straight from Salt Lake City to Reno (for practice), to Oakland and then to Seattle. Most popular UConn theory on revived play: Huskies are far away from the glare of the East Coast media pressure. . . . Missouri's Stewart should take sportsmanship lessons from Florida International's Bob Weltlich. . . . Picks: UCLA over Mississippi State (another one of those teams that plays great defense), Maryland over UConn, UCLA over Maryland.

Southeast Regional--Nobody is playing better than No. 1 Kentucky. . . . Mount St. Mary's Coach Jim Phelan, whose team was blasted by the Wildcats in the first round, just turned 66. He had the right idea about his and the school's first NCAA tournament appearance. "Enjoy the moment," he said. "That's what I told the players. The 2032 (Mount St. Mary's) team might win it all, but this year's team is going to be the first team in it." Asked how he would feel about coaching that 2032 team, Phelan said, "I have some reservations, but I wouldn't mind. Actually, I wouldn't mind being anywhere in 2032." . . . Picks: Georgetown over North Carolina (the two teams have met only once since the 1982 NCAA title game won by the Tar Heels), Kentucky over Arizona State (but it won't be a rout), Kentucky over Georgetown.

Midwest Regional--Kansas Coach Roy Williams insists that playing games at Kansas City's Kemper Arena--site of this week's semifinals and final--isn't a home-court advantage for the Jayhawks. He says Kansas has won only one of the seven Big Eight Conference tournament titles played at Kemper during his tenure. "That's a tremendous home-court advantage for Roy Williams," he said sarcastically. "It makes me sick. I think people ought to think of something else to talk about." What Williams doesn't mention is that his Jayhawks are 11-0 in regular-season nonconference games played at Kemper, including a rout of UConn in late January. . . . Picks: Kansas over Virginia, Arkansas over Memphis, Arkansas over Kansas.

TARK RETURN?

Call Fresno State these days in search of Athletic Director Gary Cunningham and here's what you get: a recording.

"While we appreciate your opinions regarding our basketball search, the volume of calls is impeding our workload," the tape-recorded message says. "Therefore, in order to continue operations, we can no longer accept calls for general comment on basketball. If you have a legitimate athletic department business, you may leave your name and number and someone will get back to you as soon as possible. Thank you."

They take their sports seriously up in California's heartland, which is why the phones have been ringing constantly at Cunningham's office. So intense is the interest that Cunningham had to release a statement Monday updating Bulldog fans on a newly formed nine-member screening committee to find a successor to Gary Colson.

Cunningham also said that he has had "an informal telephone conversation" with Jerry Tarkanian, the former Nevada Las Vegas coach and a Fresno State alumnus (Class of '55). "Jerry is someone I have known for a long time," read the statement. "He understands that we have to follow university procedures in our search."

Tarkanian, who has been in self-imposed coaching exile since he left UNLV after the 1991-92 season, said he would "definitely be interested in talking" with Fresno about the opening. Only a few weeks ago, Tarkanian said he occasionally thought about a return to coaching, but not seriously. Too much physical and mental stress, he said.

"I really wasn't (interested)," Tarkanian said earlier this week. "But Fresno is like my old town. It's my alma mater."

Tarkanian began his coaching career at Fresno's San Joaquin Memorial High. He remains involved in Fresno charities and played in a local golf tournament Sunday. And during his farewell tour in 1992, the Fresno State crowd gave him a five-minute standing ovation.

Cunningham didn't say where Tarkanian stood in the search, but indicated that there would be follow-up contact by the screening committee. Other possible candidates include Arizona assistant Jessie Evans, Cal State Bakersfield Coach Pat Douglas, College of Southern Idaho Athletic Director Boyd Grant (a former Fresno coach) and Charles Fisher, an assistant on Colson's staff.

THE REST

Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski hit the recruiting road earlier this week, the first time he has done that since back pain and basketball-related stress forced him to miss the last three months of the season. Tommy Amaker, Duke's well-regarded assistant coach, still hasn't heard a thing from USC. Amaker was a leading candidate several weeks ago. And Blue Devil assistant Mike Brey has been asked to interview for the vacant Delaware job. . . . Georgia apparently has targeted Tulane's Perry Clark as its No. 1 choice to replace Hugh Durham, who was fired Sunday. . . . Nothing against Seth Greenberg's right to pursue any job he wants, but didn't he just agree to a sweetened contract deal at Long Beach State? Greenberg was applauded for staying, rather than entertaining an offer from USC. But since then, Greenberg has actively sought the UNLV job and its reported $300,000-per-year package. That's capitalism, but we're not sure it's loyalty. Wouldn't it be something if Long Beach loses Greenberg to the Runnin' Rebels? Imagine, Long Beach President Robert Maxson, formerly of UNLV, getting stung by his old employer.

Top 10

As selected by staff writer Gene Wojciechowski

No. Team Record 1. Kentucky 27-4 2. UCLA 27-2 3. Wake Forest 26-5 4. North Carolina 26-5 5. Kansas 25-5 6. Massachusetts 28-4 7. Connecticut 27-4 8. Maryland 26-7 9. Virginia 24-8 10. Arkansas 29-6

Waiting list: Tulsa (24-7), Arizona State (24-8), Oklahoma State (25-9), Memphis (24-9), Mississippi State (22-7)

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