--Long ago, I heard that Gene Bartow left UCLA because he couldn't stand reading all those letters to the editor about how, as a coach, he was no John Wooden.
This mystified me. If I quit my job over letters to the editor, my editor would think I was a yellow, spineless little weasel, after which he would probably make me an editor.
Years later, Jim Harrick spoke of how similar letters and "talk radio" remained an occupational hazard in coaching UCLA. This shouldn't be, because while "all-sports" radio remains popular in San Diego, in Los Angeles it ranks right up there with the all-Connie Francis station.
Lately, however, I have seen what Harrick means. This guy is taking some serious shots in the newspaper--not from writers, but from readers--and on radio from callers, all because of UCLA's performance in the NCAA tournament . . . which hasn't started yet.
Lemme see here.
He won a national championship. He lost three starters, all of whom went to the NBA. He plays a freshman at center. He starts no seniors. He has a point guard with an injured hand. He lost a top assistant coach to another school.
Yet his team won the conference. It qualified for the tournament . . . a week before the season ended. It won seven times in the final minute . . . when a coach's so-called shortcomings are supposed to cost a team the game.
What does this guy need to do?
Apparently, Jim Harrick must win the NCAA title every year, clinch it before the season ends, win each game by 20 points except for the Oregon State game, which he must win by 40 points, then recruit five freshmen starters, all of whom should share time with five seniors, while personally refilling the cups of every fan in the stands, many of whom should look into decaf.
--And now, a replay of the final three seconds of the UCLA-Washington game at Pauley: 0:03, UCLA inbounds ball. 0:03, Cameron Dollar dribbles four or five times. 0:03, Dollar spins and shoots. 0:02, UCLA clock-keeper starts clock.
--OK, go ahead, change the California Angels to the Anaheim Angels. But if that "CA" on their caps is changed to "AA," each game is going to resemble a company picnic for alcoholics.
--Out-of-town organists can now play such popular songs as: "Anaheim Dreaming," "Anaheim, Here I Come," and, of course, that old Beach Boys favorite, "(I Wish They All Could Be) Anaheim Girls."
--In a related matter, Disney is changing the title of Gene Autry's greatest hit to: "Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer of Anaheim."
--Quote from Dodger rotation candidate Mike Harkey: "I'm just going to worry about Mike Harkey. If Mike Harkey does what he's capable of doing, good things will happen." Mike Downey says Mike Downey wishes Mike Harkey luck.
--Hey, Lasorda! If you play nine solid veterans every day, the poor National League will have to scrap rookie of the year.
--Every day I think to myself, if only the Boston Red Sox could get Billy Ashley away from the Dodgers, he would break Roger Maris' home run record . . . in April.
--Kevin Mitchell signed a contract with the Red Sox that calls for incentive bonuses of up to $1.75 million for every baseball he catches with his gloved hand.
--The Mimbs twins pitched against each other in a spring game. This could be the first case of an umpire, concerned about cheating, asking not to see the ball, but a birthmark.
--From what I hear, those Mimbs twins are so close, when one of them chews tobacco, the other spits it.
--College basketball's top teams might be Massachusetts and Connecticut. On the other hand, Vermont stinks.
--Well, let's see, among those qualifying for the NCAA tournament will be Duke, Wake Forest, North Carolina, Western Carolina, North Carolina Greensboro, South Carolina State, Central Northern North Carolina, Lower Middle Carolina A&M;, Saint Carolina's, Winston-Salem Tech (the Fighting Nicotines), Mayberry Baptist, North Carolina Greenwich Village and Tammy Faye School of Beauty.
--Some NBA club should hurry up and lock Coach Don Nelson to a six-month contract.
--Just asking, but is Patrick Ewing the most humorless human being in the history of the world?
--Hey, you think the L.A. Kings look good now, wait'll they get Roman Vopat!!!