Recovering From the School of Hard Knocks

Times Staff Writers

A bad season such as the one UCLA had in 2002-03 has happened at other college basketball powerhouses. Some, such as Duke, Kentucky and Maryland, have rebounded nicely, and Louisville seems headed in the right direction. Others, such as Georgetown and Michigan, still haven't recovered. The jury is out on Arkansas and North Carolina. A look at how these schools, all winners of NCAA championships, became powerhouses, their slip-up seasons and the recovery process:

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*--* ARKANSAS THE CREDENTIALS When a university has a basketball arena named for a co-founder of one of the nation's most famous discount department store chains, it doesn't figure that the campus is dripping with tradition. But despite Bud Walton Arena, which opened in 1994 and is named for one of the Wal-Mart pioneers, Arkansas' tradition has been there from the start. Coach Nolan Richardson's arrival in 1985 only enhanced the reputation as he led the Razorbacks to their only national championship in 1994 behind Corliss Williamson, Corey Beck and Scotty Thurman and his "Forty Minutes of Hell" philosophy on defense. Arkansas has made six Final Four appearances, including three before Richardson took over. The Razorbacks won 22 Southwest Conference titles from 1926 to 1991, and two Southeastern Conference championships since joining the league in 1992. After a dry spell from 1952 to '74, Eddie Sutton arrived for the 1974-75 season to revive the Razorbacks' fortunes. Sutton cured Arkansas' 19-year absence from the NCAA tournament in 1977. That began a string of nine consecutive postseason appearances and 24 seasons out of 25, missing only during Richardson's first year. Sutton's 1977-78 team led by Sidney Moncrief, Ron Brewer and Marvin Delph took the Razorbacks to the Final Four 2001-02 14-15 record First losing season since 1985-86 WHAT HAPPENED If a losing season wasn't bad enough, Richardson seemed to finally snap during a late-season tirade to the media that he is treated differently because he is African American. A few days later an ESPN program focused on Arkansas as one of 36 Division I programs that had a 0% graduation rate for African American players who entered school from 1990 to '94. Soon after, the remaining six years of Richardson's contract were bought out THE AFTERMATH Arkansas hired Stan Heath, who had led Kent State to a 30-6 record and an Elite Eight appearance in 2001-02, to replace Richardson and things appear to be getting worse. The Razorbacks endured a 9-19 record this season and Richardson has a lawsuit pending against the university. Arkansas rewarded Heath with a one-year contract extension 2002-03 * Two five-game losing streaks. * Losses to Oral Roberts, Tulsa and Troy State. * Lost 15 of last 19 games

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*--* DUKE THE CREDENTIALS The Vic Bubas-coached Blue Devils wrested Atlantic Coast Conference supremacy from North Carolina in the early 1960s, winning four of six conference championships to start the decade. But Duke's rise to prominence with such players as future NBA All-Star guard Jeff Mullins virtually coincided with the start of John Wooden's reign as the Wizard of Westwood with a run of 10 national championships in 12 years. The Blue Devils reached the Final Four three times from 1963 to 1966 but would develop a habit that would drive them Cameron crazy. Duke would go to eight Final Fours over four decades without winning a national championship before a Mike Krzyzewski-coached, Christian Laettner-led team finally got the checkered flag at Indianapolis in 1991. The Blue Devils were a tour de force the next year too, repeating as national champions, and were coming off another Final Four appearance in 1994 when 1994-95 13-18 record Averaged 26 wins a season from 1984 to '94 WHAT HAPPENED The season started well enough at 9-3, but Krzyzewski, trying to ride out a painful back injury, finally had to have surgery. Without Coach K, the Blue Devils went down, down, down and it didn't help that the talent level had also dipped, with Laettner, Bobby Hurley and Grant Hill being replaced as stars of the team by Cherokee Parks, Steve Wojciechowski and Eric Meek THE AFTERMATH Like Krzyzewski's back, the Blue Devils were on the mend in 1995-96, compiling an 18-13 record and losing to Earl Boykins-led Eastern Michigan in the first round of the NCAA tournament. But one season later, Duke went back to the business of being Duke: 1996-present * Two Final Four appearances, one national championship (2001). * Five consecutive ACC tournament championships (1999-2003). * Averaged 32 victories and with a winning percentage near 90% (1996-2002). * Four players (Elton Brand, Shane Battier, Mike Dunleavy and Jason Williams) were top-six selections in NBA draft

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*--* GEORGETOWN THE CREDENTIALS For most of the 1980s, Georgetown intimidated its opponents, whether it was with Patrick Ewing dominating the inside or Michael Graham with his fearsome dunks. The Golden Era for the Hoyas begins and ends with the tenure of Coach John Thompson, who arrived in Washington in 1972 and stuck around almost until the end of the century. During a stretch between 1978 to 1990, Georgetown averaged 26.2 victories a season. In that span were three appearances in the NCAA championship game, including a victory over Clyde Drexler, Akeem Olajuwon and Houston's Phi Slamma Jamma in 1984. In their other two appearances, the Hoyas lost in 1982 to North Carolina on a last-second shot by a freshman named Michael Jordan, and in 1985 to the Cinderella of all Cinderellas, eighth-seeded Villanova in what still ranks as one of the biggest upsets in NCAA history. Still Georgetown's impact should not be discounted. The Hoyas have produced such NBA players as Ewing, Alonzo Mourning, Dikembe Mutombo, Allen Iverson and Reggie Williams -- and they maintained a reputation as one of the most intimidating teams around 1998-99 15-16 record Third-most losses in school history WHAT HAPPENED Thompson resigned in the middle of the season, not because the Hoyas were off to their worst start (0-4) in the 20-year history of the Big East Conference, he said, but for personal reasons -- namely to deal with his failed marriage. Assistant Craig Esherick took over, went 8-10 and the Hoyas lost in the first round of the NIT to Princeton, where Thompson's son, John III, was an assistant and later became head coach THE AFTERMATH Esherick is close to completing his third full season, but things haven't gotten appreciably better as the Hoyas are 15-14. The days of Ewing, Mourning, Mutombo and Iverson seem to be over for now. A new version of "Hoya Paranoia," perhaps, is emerging 1999-present * Sweet 16 in 2001. * 25-8 record in 2000-01

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*--* KENTUCKY THE CREDENTIALS As glowing as they came in college basketball entering the 1980s. An all-time victory total that was second to none (the first school to reach 1,000 victories), a string of Southeastern Conference championships (31 in the conference's first 48 seasons), an NCAA championship count (four) that stood tall until the Wooden era kicked into high gear, a team good enough be deemed "World Champion" in 1948 (Kentucky represented the U.S. in the London Olympic Games), star-studded rosters and a Hall of Fame coach, Adolph Rupp, who oversaw much of the glory. The Baron handed the coaching reins to assistant Joe B. Hall, who kept the ball rolling with eight SEC championships, one NCAA title and a .762 winning percentage in his first 12 seasons. However, his 13th season was far from Hall of Fame quality (18-13) and the Wildcats turned to Eddie Sutton, whose coaching claim to fame had been with the Three Basketeers (Moncrief, Brewer and Delph) at Arkansas. Kentucky went from 18-13 to 32-4 in Sutton's first season (1985-86), but the Wildcats would soon slip into the dark shadows of college basketball: 1988-89 13-19 record First losing season since 1926-27 WHAT HAPPENED Kentucky's program had its dirty laundry money aired out with the infamous Chris "the Cash Is in the Mail" Mills incident, and Eric "the ACT Made Easy" Manuel episode also helped drag the Wildcats into the NCAA violation cesspool, costing Sutton his job THE AFTERMATH The Wildcats showed that image was everything, hiring slick Rick Pitino to restore tradition. From 14-14 in 1989-90, Kentucky became a college basketball thoroughbred once again: 1990-97 * One NCAA championship. * Two Final Four appearances. * Six SEC tournament titles. * 205-36 record, .851 percentage 1997-present When Pitino went for the pot of gold at the end of the Boston Celtic rainbow, Kentucky turned to blue-collar Tubby Smith, who has kept the program grazing in the bluegrass * One NCAA championship. * Four SEC tournament and regular-season championships, including a 16-0 conference record this season. * 161-46 record, .778 percentage

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*--* LOUISVILLE THE CREDENTIALS Bernard "Peck" Hickman pulled the Cardinals from the college basketball scrap heap and won more than 70% of his 628 games. Denny Crum, a John Wooden protege, then lifted the program to a higher level, transforming it into a national Coupe de 'Ville. The Cardinals won nearly 73% of their first 846 games under Crum, including two NCAA championships -- one with Darrell "Dr. Dunkenstein" Griffith in 1980 and "Never Nervous" Pervis Ellison in 1986 -- and five other appearances in the Final Four. The Louisville Colonel eventually ran afoul by averaging only 16 victories from 1997 to 2000 and having the NCAA put sanctions on the programs twice, which led to 2000-01 12-19 record Third losing season since 1941-42 WHAT HAPPENED As Crum began his 30th season at Louisville, he had already been a Hall of Fame coach for five years, but was being treated more like a Clipper coach. After Louisville lost six of its first eight games, it was apparent that fourth-year athletic director Tom Jurich was trying to put Crum out to pasture two years before his contract would run out. There was much sniping in the media between the two and some Watergate-type leakage of high-level memos regarding Crum's future. As the season wound down and losses piled up, Crum stood his ground, saying he still had something to offer Louisville basketball. The Louisville administration also had something to offer: a title of "special assistant" to school President John Shumaker and a $7-million buyout, which Crum took out to pasture THE AFTERMATH Two weeks after settling with Crum, Louisville added more fuel to its heated basketball rivalry with the University of Kentucky by hiring its former coach, Rick Pitino. "I think tradition runs through cycles," said Pitino when asked what it meant to be at a school with a great basketball tradition. "The tradition schools go through periods of a down cycle, but they always come back because of their reputation." The comeback: 2001-present * 19-13 in 2001-02, including a winning streak that ended at eight after an 82-62 loss to Kentucky. * 24-6 in 2002-03 and a 17-game winning streak that included an 81-63 victory over Kentucky, which has won 23 in a row since. The Cardinals also went on to win their first Conference USA tournament championship

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*--* MARYLAND THE CREDENTIALS During the first 37 seasons of Maryland's program, the Terrapins hardly had a sniff of the postseason, and tradition seemed as if it might never take root. In 1957-58 under coach Bob Millikan, Maryland finally broke through, advancing to the Elite Eight and finishing in third place in the NCAA East Regional. Not until Lefty Driesell took over in 1969-70 did the Terrapins start on a true path toward respect. In Driesell's third season, Maryland won the NIT championship, routing Niagara, 100-69. The next year, Driesell took the Terrapins to the Elite Eight of the NCAA tournament with a team led by Tom McMillen, Jim O'Brien, John Lucas and Len Elmore. Two years later it was a repeat performance, spearheaded by Lucas. The 1978-79 season started a string of eight consecutive postseason appearances, including three NCAA Sweet 16 appearances, led by such players as Albert King, Buck Williams, Adrian Branch and Len Bias 1986-87 9-17 record Worst season since 1968-69 (8-18) WHAT HAPPENED Things began to unravel after the 1985-86 season when Bias died of a cocaine overdose days after being selected by the Boston Celtics as the No. 2 pick in the NBA draft. Driesell, who had completed his 17th season, was forced to resign, leaving Maryland in the hands of overmatched and inexperienced Bob Wade, who came from Baltimore Dunbar High. The Terrapins fell fast and lost all 14 of their Atlantic Coast Conference games in 1986-87 THE AFTERMATH Wade was fired after three seasons, leaving the Terrapins on NCAA probation for two years because of recruiting violations. Gary Williams returned to his alma mater in 1989-90 and jumped out with a 19-14 record in his first season. After a few dips, Williams slowly brought the Terrapins to the top of the mountain with their first national championship in 2002 1987-present * One NCAA championship. * Two Final Four appearances. * Four Sweet 16 appearances. * 290-149 record, .661 percentage

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*--* MICHIGAN THE CREDENTIALS Ohio State was the Big Ten bully when the Cazzie Russell show hit Ann Arbor in 1963-64, and the Wolverines became the new kids on the block. Michigan won three consecutive Big Ten championships and advanced deep into the NCAA tournament, losing to UCLA in the 1965 championship game between appearances in the Final Four and Elite Eight. This led to the construction of what was the Taj Mahal of college basketball facilities at the time, Crisler Arena, or "the House That Cazzie Built." Michigan often battled tooth and nail with the Bob Knight-coached teams of the mid-1970s and mid-1980s before finally breaking through for its first NCAA championship in 1989 under bizarre circumstances. Two days before the start of the NCAA tournament, Wolverine Coach Bill Frieder said he was going to take the Arizona State job, prompting Athletic Director Bo Schembechler to replace him with assistant Steve Fisher, explaining, "I want a Michigan man." The Chris Webber-led "Fab Five" were the darlings of college basketball and reached the NCAA championship game in 1992 and 1993, but never got to the NCAA mountaintop. Out of the Blue and Maize came the firing of Fisher for arranging for complimentary tickets and other special treatment for booster Ed Martin, and Brian Ellerbe, an assistant for six months, was suddenly the Michigan man. The Ellerbe era started with a 25-9 record, then came: 1998-99 12-19 record Averaged 24 wins a season from 1987-98 WHAT HAPPENED After Michigan initially sidestepped punishment following one of the NCAA's most intense investigations (Martin admitted to federal prosecutors before his death in February this year that he had taken illegal gambling money and given Michigan players and recruits hundreds of thousands of dollars, cars and other gifts), the heat was turned up on Ellerbe, who couldn't steer an out-of-control team back on the road to success THE AFTERMATH Michigan barely squeezed into the NIT in Ellerbe's third season, but his coaching fate was sealed when the Wolverines suffered an embarrassing 97-90 loss to Oakland of Rochester, Mich., in their 2000-01 opener. Ellerbe was fired after the season and Michigan decided to come clean with Tom Amaker, who played and started his coaching career under Mike Krzyzewski at Duke 1999-present * 25-32 under Ellerbe (1999-2001). * 28-31 since under Amaker, but showing signs of a comeback this season with a 13-game win streak (Michigan's longest since 1987-88) that followed an 0-6 start

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*--* N. CAROLINA THE CREDENTIALS Frank McGuire took North Carolina to its first NCAA championship in 1957, but it was Dean Smith who launched the Tar Heels into the college basketball stratosphere. After Smith's 36 seasons were finished in 1997, North Carolina had won 879 games under his guidance, the all-time record for coaches. Smith won two national championships, one in 1982, led by James Worthy, Sam Perkins and Michael Jordan, and the other in 1993, featuring a relatively pedestrian crew led by George Lynch and Eric Montross. The Tar Heels also advanced to the NCAA championship game three other times. Each season from 1970 to 2001, North Carolina won at least 21 games and won more than 30 four times (1981-82, 1986-87, 1992-93 and 1997-98). Among the other Tar Heel alumni are Hall of Famers Billy Cunningham and Bob McAdoo and more recent difference-makers Jerry Stackhouse, Rasheed Wallace, Antawn Jamison and Vince Carter 2001-02 8-20 record Tied 1961-62 season for fewest victories since 1919-20 WHAT HAPPENED A 107-76 exhibition loss to EA Sports should have alerted the Carolina faithful that this would be a woeful season. The sophomore jinx seemed to hit Coach Matt Doherty all at once and by the time it was over, the Tar Heels' string of 27 consecutive NCAA tournament appearances was finished. Among the early-season debacles were home losses to Hampton and Davidson. Later, the Tar Heels suffered a 33-point loss to Maryland and a 32-point loss to Connecticut THE AFTERMATH One of the nation's youngest teams took the court with reckless abandon and parlayed its early-season energy into winning the Preseason NIT. Included in the run were impressive victories over Kansas and Stanford, inspiring some along Tobacco Road to declare that the Tar Heels were back. Some forgot that it was only November. An emphatic 92-65 loss at Illinois on Dec. 3 shocked the Tar Heels into reality and they leveled off from there for a 17-14 season 2002-03 * Sixth-place finish in the ACC. * Five-game winning streak to start season. * Five-game losing streak during conference play

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