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No Timeouts : After Bruins Won NCAA Title, UCLA Coach Jim Harrick Kept Right On Going Through This Hectic Summer

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TIMES STAFF WRITER

Somewhere there must be a baseball team for which Jim Harrick and his UCLA Bruins haven’t thrown out the first ball, or a politician who hasn’t congratulated them on their national title.

But there aren’t many.

They threw out first balls for the Dodgers and Angels, and last week Harrick did it for the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes. They have been honored by the President, the mayor, the California Legislature and have met the defense secretary and the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff.

Harrick has been named coach of the year by two organizations, the Pacific 10 Conference and will be further honored by Playboy magazine.

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He has been to Washington, D.C., twice; Las Vegas twice, Maui and Lisbon, Portugal, and will go to Japan. He has attended the Academy Awards, the final round of the Masters and appeared on the Home Shopping Network, hawking basketball cards.

If you’re wondering, after 29 years of coaching high schools, small colleges and finally UCLA, where the facilities were better and the letters to the editor angrier, if a national title is all it’s cracked up to be, the answer is . . . Yes!

“Certainly, winning the national championship is the pinnacle of your profession,” said Harrick last week, catching his breath in his office.

“And then the three-month aftermath is just as much of a high--everywhere you go and everything that happens to you.”

It has been squeezed into a schedule already loaded with recruiting obligations and speaking engagements--the latter have quadrupled and his standard fee, free, is going up too. It has been a challenge, but he has met it.

“Let me give you an example of tired,” Harrick said.

“I got up in Newark, N.J. [site of Adidas’ camp for high school seniors] on July 12 at 2:30 a.m., L.A. time. Flew to Los Angeles for a 12-to-2 meeting, got in my car, drove to a 4 o’clock game at [Cal State] Dominguez Hills. Stayed there until 10:15, got in my car, drove home, got home about 11. . . . Got up at 4:30, flew to Vegas, spoke at a convention at Gold’s Gym, flew to Ontario and was a guest of the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes. So, if I’m looking at you cross-eyed. . . .

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“And you know what? It’s not stopping. I’m leaving Monday night for Boise, where I’m speaking. I’m recruiting in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, I’m going to the Greenbriar in West Virginia on Thursday and Friday to speak to the bankers of West Virginia.”

If he hadn’t written it down, he could never have remembered it and would have had to borrow Ed O’Bannon’s video camera. But if Harrick is anything, he’s organized, so this is how his off-season has gone so far:

Let’s start with the Academy Awards, which the Harricks attended as guests of “Forrest Gump” co-producer Wendy Finerman, the daughter of UCLA team physician Gerald Finerman.

“They hosted Sally and I at the Academy Awards, took us to the Governor’s Ball,” says Harrick.

“That was the Monday night after the regionals, before the Final Four. I would probably normally not go, but it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for my wife to go see that, and it was exciting.

“Everything in the world, you go around and say, ‘Well, that’s big-time.’ That is a good definition of big-time. . . .

“You’re standing beside Clint Eastwood. I mean, you’re right beside Clint Eastwood. And Jodie Foster. And [Sylvester] Stallone and Dustin Hoffman and Robert DeNiro. I mean, Paul Newman. . . . Those guys, you’re just kind of, ‘There they are!’ My wife and I, we just kind of walked by. We never said anything, we just kind of walked by.

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“They’ve got eight lanes of limos--you’ve got to go in a limo, now. So we went with Chancellor Charles Young and his wife, Sue. We’re out in Row 8. You get out and you walk on the No. 8 row carpet. The No. 1 carpet has the participants. And there’s a stand with all the cameramen, they’re taking pictures. So we’re just walking way on the outside. I mean, it’s not really a big deal. But somebody up in the stands recognized me and it was on ESPN, my wife and I.

“At the Governor’s Ball afterward, Wendy Finerman walked up to me, slapped that Oscar right in my hand and she said, ‘Next Monday night is your turn!’ ”

April 3--Darned if it doesn’t turn out that way. UCLA beats Arkansas and the merry-go-round starts spinning in earnest.

April 4--The Bruins do “The Tonight Show” with Jay Leno. (After the ’94 NCAA tournament loss to Tulsa, Leno’s monologue included: “As I’m sure you know, another disaster struck Los Angeles. But enough about UCLA basketball.” But basketball is about forgiveness.)

April 5--Harrick and the Bruins get a parade down Disneyland’s Main Street.

That afternoon, 13,000 students jam Pauley Pavilion to watch the championship banner raised. Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan promises the crowd an encore.

“He said, ‘They’re going to do it again next year!’ ” says Harrick. “I said, ‘Do you want me to vote for you or not? Easy.’ ”

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April 7--Black-tie dinner as O’Bannon gets the John Wooden Award.

April 8--Harrick flies to Dallas to speak at Billy Packer’s basketball clinic.

April 9--To Atlanta with a side trip to Augusta to see the final round of the Masters golf tournament. CBS helps get him in. A member has to extend an invitation, so the network gets Frank Broyles to do it. Broyles, of course, is the Arkansas athletic director.

April 10--Back in his tuxedo, Harrick receives the Naismith Award as coach of the year in Atlanta. He’s also the Pac-10 and National Assn. of Basketball Coaches’ coach of the year.

April 12--To Boston for breakfast at Reebok, which outfits the Bruins and employs Harrick as a consultant. O’Bannon flies in too, as the company tries to sign him as an endorser. (He later signs with Nike.) They fly home for a Sports Illustrated reception to announce its commemorative issue.

April 20--Harrick, O’Bannon, Cameron Dollar and Chancellor Young go to Sacramento as guests of the Legislature.

“Probably the week or two after, the most popular person in the state of California was Ed O’Bannon,” says Harrick.

“He’s got about 50 people following him, kids and even workers there in the Capitol. We’re going from the Senate to the [Assembly]. There’s probably about five people kind of wanting my this-and-that and the chancellor is walking, he’s got nobody with him. I’m saying, ‘Oh, that’s a good deal, here’s a guy who’s our boss.’ ”

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April 25-26--In Tampa, Fla., Harrick appears on the Home Shopping Network, selling Michael Jordan collectible cards for Upper Deck.

April 28--The Bruins throw out the first ball at the Dodger home opener.

May 2--The Bruins throw out the first ball at the start of an Angel home stand.

May 8-11--All bookings canceled.

“My wife had come in and told my secretary to change it,” says Harrick. “My wife and I went to Maui.”

May 19-22--To Chicago for the national restaurant show. Harrick speaks to Sunkist distributors at Michael Jordan’s restaurant, signs autographs at the show.

May 25--To Washington to see George Zidek honored at the GTE Academic All-American banquet.

Memorial Day weekend--Annual Harrick family get-together at Palm Springs.

June 1-2--Back to Washington with the team to visit the White House. Side trips to the Treasury to see the money being printed (with many jokes about Ed’s batch, since he’s an NBA lottery pick) and to the Pentagon.

The Bruins meet Gen. John Shalikashvili, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Defense Secretary William Perry shows them a picture of a since-dismantled Ukrainian ICBM with seven warheads.

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“He told us they had had 100 of those intercontinental ballistic missiles with seven on each one of them,” says Harrick. “Seven on each one of them. Seven hundred warheads, all pointed at American cities. Now that was about three or four years ago. . . . I tell you, the eyeballs of our players were just bulging. Me too. I mean, this is serious business. This is no basketball game. I mean, this is the real deal.”

That afternoon, they meet President Clinton. High points include assistant coach Steve Lavin getting the President to drop into a defensive crouch.

The reception is in a ballroom but an FBI man takes Harrick to see the Oval Office.

“Most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen in my life,” says Harrick. “The lighting was magnificent. It was just perfect.”

June 5--The Harricks stop in Las Vegas on the way home, stay at the Mirage, see Siegfried and Roy.

June 9-16--The Harricks go to Portugal as guests of coaches there, and Jim addresses their clinic. Side trip to the Algarve, the Portuguese Riviera.

June 18--Back home to see son Glen graduate from UCLA.

“One of the great days of our life,” says Dad. “I’ll go back to the 28th of July a year ago. We had our first granddaughter. So from our granddaughter to the Academy Awards to the national championship to the Masters to our son graduating, it has been a magical, magical year.”

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He’s only halfway through his summer, which includes more recruiting, speaking, banquets, his basketball camp and his trip to Nagoya, Japan, where he will help the coaches of the Mitsubishi Electric basketball team.

By fall, he will have covered 15 time zones, and even a UCLA basketball season will be a relief.

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