The Jim Harrick story isn't ready yet to go away. Harrick, doing his first extensive television interview since his firing as UCLA's basketball coach, is Chris Myers' guest on ESPN's "Up Close" today at 3 p.m.
The show, which will be repeated at midnight, is definitely worth a look.
During the taping in Hollywood on Thursday, in which Myers' questioning was appropriately probing without being offensive, Harrick said:
--The expense report that got him fired was the first of hundreds he turned in over an eight-year period that was questioned.
--That he was unaware that UCLA players Charles O'Bannon and Cameron Dollar had put their dinner tab on his.
--That he welcomes a Pacific 10 Conference investigation because he has nothing to hide.
--That a broadcasting job with CBS is still a possibility.
--That UCLA is determined to dig up dirt on him to justify his firing. "I believe that with all my heart," he said.
--That a settlement with UCLA is close.
Asked how, in general, he was doing, Harrick said, "It's a day-to-day thing. I'll get through it. You just have to go on with your life."
Of the expense account in question, Harrick said, "I said, 'No, no, then yes.' I made an error in judgment to protect my players. It was unknown to me that they had put their bill on my tab."
Harrick said he at first asked assistant coach Michael Holton to back his story about who was at the dinner, but he said he then told him to tell the truth.
After the taping, Harrick was asked about the accusations that he lied eight times.
"I don't know where they got that," he said. "I did not lie eight times."
Of his relationship with UCLA Athletic Director Pete Dalis, Harrick said, "I always felt as though I was swimming upstream. It was always a personal battle."
Harrick said his firing felt like "someone hit me in the head with a two-by-four."
He said, "I played golf with Chancellor [Charles] Young dozens of time. I thought I was close to him. If there was a problem, he should have put his arm around me and told me there was a problem. You talk to a guy before you chop his head off."
Harrick said that retired coach John Wooden told him the firing and the way it was handled had been "disgraceful."
"What I did hurt no one," Harrick said. "What they did hurt a lot of people."
Of the Chevy Blazer his son Glen sold to recruit Baron Davis, Harrick said that UCLA's compliance director had told him that wasn't a violation and that he was cleared in that matter.
"In 37 years in coaching, 17 as a head coach, never did the NCAA ever question anything I did. I never did anything wrong. You make one error in judgment and lose your job. I can't agree with that."
Harrick said he is trying to avoid suing UCLA.
"You know, I've never had a lawyer before in my life," he said. "Now I have one."
Harrick, saying he and UCLA are close to a settlement, described it as "very little, but that's fine."
As he walked out of the Hollywood studio, he said, "A lot of people told me it was a mistake to do this show, that's it's best to keep my mouth shut. I hope this doesn't hurt me."
XTRA without Lee Hamilton? Hard to imagine, but it's a possibility.
Hamilton's contract expires after Sunday's Charger game against Denver.
"I become a free agent after the last snap," he said Thursday.
Hamilton said XTRA and the Chargers have a tentative agreement on a one-year extension.
"I've been told they can't do anything about my deal until that is finalized," Hamilton said.
He says he can't say anything publicly, but he has let it be known that he is interested in a play-by-play job with the San Diego Padres.
There are openings for a play-by-play announcer and a commentator with the Padres, who have new television with Cox Cable in San Diego. Cox will televise 100 games on basic cable and farm out another 20 to 30 to an over-the-air San Diego station.
Joel Meyers and Hamilton are among the candidates for the play-by-play job. A nice fit on the commentating side might be former St. Louis and Angel pitcher Joe Magrane, who showed a knack for broadcasting when he worked in the studio with Keith Olbermann on Channel 2 a few years ago. Magrane, with the Chicago White Sox last season, is interested in the position. Another strong candidate is former Padre pitcher Mark Grant.
Lisa Leslie makes her television debut Saturday when she and Bill Macdonald announce the USC-Long Beach State women's game at 1 p.m. for Fox Sports West. . . . Mike Breen, radio voice of the New York Knicks for WFAN and the sports anchor on the syndicated "Imus in the Morning" radio show, has signed a multiyear agreement with NBC. Breen did play-by-play on women's basketball at the Atlanta Olympics.
With cable systems owned by Tele-Communications, Inc., dropping Chicago superstation WGN on Jan. 1, it would sure makes sense for DirecTV, the mini-satellite dish system, to pick it up. A DirecTV spokesman said negotiations are underway. WGN became even more attractive last week when it settled a dispute with the NBA, allowing it to show 12 Bull games this season and 15 beginning next season.
HBO showed a replay of last Saturday's pay-per-view madcap fight between Andrew Golota and Riddick Bowe on Thursday night, and unfortunately there are no other replays scheduled. The wild, entertaining brawl ended when Golota, for a second time, was disqualified for low blows. HBO believes it has another good heavyweight fight Saturday night, delayed at 11:15 p.m. David Tua (25-0) fights David Izonritei (18-1) in what is expected to be a brawl.
Wilt Chamberlain made a rare radio appearance last Friday, spending 2 1/2 hours with Joe McDonnell on KWNK (670). Chamberlain said he hadn't done a radio talk show in 15 years. The day before, Chamberlain was at a cable television convention in Anaheim, representing the Classic Sports Network. . . . KWNK's new owner, Lotus Communications of Hollywood, probably will take over the station in mid-March and move it from Woodland Hills to Hollywood. Lotus plans to keep the all-sports format, with a focus on McDonnell.
NBC has an interesting golf event this weekend--the $1-million Lexus Challenge, hosted by Raymond Floyd, at La Quinta. It features 12 two-man teams made up of a senior player and a celebrity. The favorites might be Kevin Costner and Lee Trevino. Other celebrities include Sean Connery, Richard Dreyfuss, Clint Eastwood, Glenn Frey, Chris O'Donnell, Joe Pesci, Don Shula and Robert Wuhl. Telecast times are 1 p.m. both Saturday and Sunday. . . . Sportscaster Gary Cruz was among several on-air people let go in a downsizing by Channel 9.
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What Los Angeles Is Watching
A sampling of L.A. Nielsen ratings for sports programs Dec. 14-16.
Event Ch. Rating Share NFL: San Diego-Chicago 4 11.0 29 NFL: Philadelphia-New York Jets 11 9.9 29 Prep football: Mater Dei-Loyola 13 3.8 7 Golf: Diners Club Matches 7 2.6 6 College Basketball: Duke-Villanova 2 0.9 3 College Basketball: Fresno State-Texas 2 0.7 2
Event Ch. Rating Share NFL: Oakland-Denver 4 17.1 41 NFL: New England-Dallas 4 10.7 28 NFL: San Francisco-Pittsburgh 11 10.2 26 Figure Skating: Professional Championship 2 3.2 8 Golf: Diners Club Matches 7 1.5 3 Soccer: El Salvador-Canada 34 1.1 3
Event Ch. Rating Share NFL: Buffalo-Miami 7 19.1 30
Note: Each rating point represents 49,424 L.A. households.