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March 18, 2003 Conference Notes No Comments

The Morning Dish – Tuesday, March 18, 2003

by Adam Shandler

Not since the cancellation of Alice has a Lavin been this upset. (We hear Vic Tayback took it pretty hard, too.)

It was a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately kind of year for UCLA head coach Steve Lavin, and after a 10-19 season, the first losing season for the Bruins in 55 years, the seven-year coach was given the boot. Lavin joins UCLA football coach Bob Toledo as the second major-sport coach to be let go in the same season.

It may seem a little unfair. After all, the greased-back Lavin did compile a 145-78 record during his tenure, and his Bruin teams reached the Sweet 16 of the NCAAs five times in six seasons. Only Lavin and Coach K of Duke can boast that feat. But, as history has shown, UCLA is not just some school with a basketball team. Its a basketball team with a school. Losing is an anomaly in Westwood, so Lavins seat has finally collapsed in the dunk tank of his coaching career.

Lavins stint at UCLA was under a microscope ever since his hiring in 1996, a year after Jim Harrick led guys like the OBannon brothers and Tobey Bailey to the National Championship. Lavin, a Bruin assistant, wasnt even the administrations top choice for the job, but Mark Gottfried, now at Alabama and Lorenzo Romar, currently at Washington, had left for other gigs.

In six of Lavins seven seasons, the Bruins had won 20 games, but this year UCLA finished with a 10-19 mark, and finished sixth in the Pac 10 for the second straight year.

UCLA Athletic Director Bob Guerrero said, Thats not acceptable. You need to be consistent throughout the year. You need to finish at the top of your conference. We frankly were not a very solid team early in the year. UCLA fans want to see a consistent effort. Theyre very passionate.

A successor for the embattled Lavin has not been named and probably wont be appointed until after the NCAA tournament, which wraps on April 7. But some names churning through the rumor mill are Ben Howland of Pittsburgh, Mark Few of Gonzaga, Rick Majerus of Utah, and Sixers coach Larry Brown, formerly a UCLA head coach.

The Wizard of Westwood, 92-year-old John Wooden, may be consulted on the hiring decision.

Side Dishes

War is Hellon Basketball Fans: Last night President Bush offered Saddam an ultimatum to get out of Iraq within 48 hours. I believe the exact words were, Fill out your bracket and get out of Iraq. Well even supply the plane. No, we wont sabotage the flight. Honest. 48 hours, as in Wednesday night, less than 24 hours before the tourney starts. But in all seriousness, with war looming, the NCAA may decide to postpone the mens and womens NCAA tournaments until the conflict ends.

Said NCAA President Myles Brand, We have to arrive at a position that makes the most sense for the NCAA, but we dont want a tyrant to run our lives. But Brant further emphasized that while respect for our armed forces and their efforts is of the utmost concern, there is also major consideration for the well-being of the athletes and fans.

Meanwhile, the NCAA is consulting with federal authorities over every possible contingency plan, including the flexibility of rescheduling hotel reservations and regional-site arenas after the first two rounds are over.

Two Coaches Resign, One More is Fired: Not making the NIT was the last straw, so Clemson coach Larry Shyatt gave himself the heave-ho. Despite a 15-13 record, the Tigers finished dead last for the third straight year in the highly competitive ACC. In five years, Shyatt compiled a 70-84 record.

Jerry Dunn spent eight years at Penn State with few successes, so he steps down as Nittany Lions head coach. He leaves behind a legacy of 117 wins and 121 losses and a 45-87 mark in the Big Ten. This season the Lions went a dismal 7-21.

Curtis Hunter received his pink slip after a 1-26 campaign with North Carolina A%T. The Aggies first and only win came at seasons end with an upset of Norfolk State in the MEAC tournament. Tennessee State was the only Division I team this year to achieve but one victory. Hunters record in four years with the Aggies was 28-70.

Bobby, Jr?: Bobby Knights son, Pat, has applied for the head coaching job at Wright State in Fairborn, Ohio. The younger Knight, aged only 32 years, is currently an assistant with his father at Texas Tech. Pats playing career included four years under his father at Indiana (1991-1995) and short stops in the NBA, CBA and IBA.

Williams Suspended: Zach Williams, an Ohio State forward, is suspended from the teams lineup for conduct unbecoming of a Buckeye. Williams got into a shouting match with an assistant coach during Sundays Big Ten championship against Illinois, a game in which the Buckeyes lost. The suspension was decreed by coach Jim OBrien and will keep Williams from playing in the NIT.

March Mini-Madness Begins!: Iowa and Valparaiso kicked off the NCAA hoops postseason in Iowa City last night and the Hawkeyes edged the Crusaders, 62-60. Iowas Chauncy Leslie hit the game-winning bucket on a drive to the hoop with 30 seconds remaining. The Hawkeyes could move into a second-round contest with in-state rival Iowa State if the Cyclones can knock off Wichita State in their first-round game.

The Hoopville Tournament Challenge: Looking for a new pair of sneakers? Hungry for some pizza? Got a dirty, nappy head that needs washing? Sign up for the Hoopville Tournament Challenge (its free!) and earn yourself some great prizes. But do it today! This contest is one of the few that actually counts the play-in game in the tabulations.

Its already Tuesday and my bracket has more holes in it than Tony Coles report card. Start picking! Just click on the box in the upper right hand corner to get started.
Tonight’s Menu:

• For those of you who just cant wait for Thursday at noon, its the NCAA tournament play-in game. North Carolina-Asheville, the only sub-500 participant at 14-16, will face SWAC champ Texas Southern at UD Arena in Dayton, Ohio. The Bulldogs of UNCA may have a losing record, but they won the Big South tournament and faced the likes of UConn, Kansas and Oklahoma in their non-conference schedule.

• The NIT continues tonight with a full slate of games. Heres tonights schedule:

Villanova at Siena

Georgetown at Tennessee

Boston College at Fairfield

Drexel at Temple

Depaul at North Carolina

Have a good Tuesday. Enjoy the games!

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