For Don Kruger, Wildcat of Yore, Color Purple Again Has a Rosy Hue

Ah, the good old days.

Don Kruger remembers them well.

But the former Northwestern quarterback never experienced anything as glorious as the current Wildcat team, which beat the odds all season to earn a berth in the Rose Bowl against USC on New Year's Day.

"This happening is like the Miracle on 34th Street," Kruger said. "It's unbelievable."

Kruger, 76, of Encino, played for Northwestern from 1939-41 and helped the Wildcats to winning seasons as a junior and senior.

Since then, though, Kruger hasn't had much to cheer about.

The 1948 team beat California in the Rose Bowl, but other than that, following Northwestern football has mostly been an exercise in frustration for alumni.

That all changed this season as the Wildcats went 10-1 and racked up victories over Notre Dame, Michigan and Penn State.

Kruger, who engineered a 20-0 victory over Notre Dame in 1940, says Northwestern's revival has renewed his school spirit. He plans to attend the Rose Bowl with his wife, Marjette.

"To be [ranked] third in the nation, from nowhere, is a miracle really," he said. "It makes you feel that you were part of that once. It makes you feel pretty good."

Copy cat: Ventura College women's basketball Coach Ned Mircetic has borrowed a page from the book of former Pirate men's coach Philip Mathews and added a wrinkle.

Mircetic is using his version of the orange and black units developed by Mathews at Ventura.

The Mathews scheme deployed two five-man units that rotated in and out of games every few minutes, with the two groups taking turns starting the games. The units seldom mixed.

Mircetic's approach calls for the same five players to start each game but for another five-player unit to replace them after a few minutes. He also intermixes players during games.

"We do it in certain situations," said Mircetic, who was an assistant to Mathews for several seasons and is now in his sixth season with the women's team. "The plan is to have the best team on the floor at certain times. Whatever is necessary."

Mircetic must be finding the right combinations. The Pirates are 13-0.

Do as he does: Granada Hills High Athletic Director Tony Estrin certainly sets a good fitness example.

Three or four times a week, Estrin bikes 28 miles to work and back from his home in Santa Clarita, dodging automobiles on a $3,000 road bike.

"It's a trick getting up and down Balboa [Boulevard] without getting killed," said Estrin, who pedals down McBean Parkway to Pico Canyon to The Old Road and then Balboa on his commutes. "I'm toying with the idea of going racing next year in the 40-55 age bracket."

Estrin began his treks about a year ago when he went in for a checkup and was pronounced substantially overweight. Since then, Estrin has lost more than 40 pounds and plans to keep going.

"Ten or 15 pounds more; the doctor's almost happy," he said. "Now it bothers me when I don't ride and if I don't go for two days I feel like a brick."

E instead of O: Kim Mortensen of Thousand Oaks High became the third Californian to win the girls' title in the Foot Locker national cross-country championships Dec. 9, but that doesn't guarantee sportswriters are going to spell her name correctly.

In the latest issue of Harrier magazine, Mortensen is spelled Mortenson.

Another botched last name was Nordhoff's Elaine Canchola, which was spelled "Conchola."

Quotebook

The Harvard-Westlake High boys' basketball team is ranked No. 1 in The Times' regional poll and 12th in the state by Cal-Hi Sports. But that doesn't mean the Studio City private school doesn't emphasize academics. Last season, Wolverine players had an average SAT score of 1,340, including two perfect marks of 1,600.

Said Coach Greg Hilliard: "I don't like to call timeouts because I'm the dumbest guy in the huddle."

Honors

The men's volleyball team at Pepperdine is ranked eighth and Cal State Northridge is ninth in the nation in a preseason poll conducted by College Sports magazine.

Things to Do

Westlake Boys' basketball tournament final, Westlake High gym, 8 p.m.

Contributing: Fernando Dominguez, Rob Fernas, Jeff Fletcher, Vince Kowalick, John Ortega, Tris Wykes.

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