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April 1, 2003 Conference Notes No Comments

The Morning Dish – Tuesday, April 1, 2003

by Adam Shandler

The men’s basketball season isn’t even over yet, but so starts the carousel of possible coaching changes.

Pittsburgh’s Ben Howland, UCLA’s first interviewee and purportedly the top candidate for the Bruin head coaching job, met with officials from the Westwood school yesterday. Both parties have been mum after emerging from meetings this past weekend, although Howland has been quoted previously as saying that the UCLA gig was his “dream job.”

Howland’s departure from Pitt could be a crushing blow to the program. He and his staff resurrected Panther hoops upon Howland’s arrival in 1999. Prior to that, the Panthers had just one winning season in six. Howland, a southern Cal native, has hinted that he would bring along his entire assistant staff if he were to nab the job.

There just might be another scandal in the works here. Pitt’s interim athletic director, Marc Boehm, claimed that UCLA did not ask permission for them to speak to Howland. “Coach Howland has a contract with the University of Pittsburgh through 2009. He has consistently stated that he plans to honor that contract and he hope that will be the case,” said Boehm in a recent statement.

As is the case with all sports these days, money may be the deciding factor. UCLA ponied up 578,000 bucks a year for his services before pink-slipping him this year. Howland signed a seven-year contract extension worth 5.9 million, with that ever- clever loophole, the buyout clause. With bonus incentives and other what-not, Howland could rake in $900,000 this season.

Looks like some of us chose the wrong profession.

Side Dishes

Better Games Does Not Mean More Viewers: Blame it on the war or some really scintillating Meredith Baxter-Birney film on Lifetime, but ratings were down for the tournament for the second straight weekend. The average overnight rating between CBS’s coverage Thursday through Sunday night was a 6.1 – an 18.7 percent nosedive since last year.

Michigan State Mayhem: Following Michigan State’s 85-76 loss to Texas on Sunday night, a bunch of knuckleheads got the bright idea to go out and turn the East Lansing campus upside down. Seven people were arrested after the outlaws set fires to trash bins, overturned vending machines and turned over cars. About $40,000 was incurred to university property. People, you need to chill.

Women’s Final Four: Half of the women’s Final Four was determined last night. No. 1 seed Tennessee will head back to the Grand Dance for the 14th time after knocking off Villanova (the only squad to hand UConn a loss this year), 73-49. Gwen Jackson led the Vols with 20 points.

Pat Summitt’s club will face Duke, another number 1 seed, who bumped Texas Tech, 57-51. Duke struggled to score in the first half, but Alana Beard took over, scoring 28 points to help keep the Blue Devil win streak alive at 15 games.

There is still a very good chance that all the Regional Number Ones will be represented in the Final Four. UConn, with its intimidating 34-1 mark, must get by 29-5 Purdue. LSU, at 30-3, must handle Texas the way they did earlier in the season. The Tigers came out on top, 76-58, in a December 28 contest.

Tonight’s Menu:

• Are you ready for the Final Four! Er, the semifinals? The NIT revs back up again with a doubleheader tonight. In game one, Georgetown faces Minnesota. This is a rematch the 1993 NIT championship, won by the Golden Gophers.

• In the back-half, St. John’s has somewhat of a home game against Texas Tech. It’s Bobby Knight’s first NIT semifinal appearance in 18 years. The General brought home the title with Indiana back in 1985.

That’ll do it for Tuesday. Enjoy!

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