"I coached Don in an all-star summer game after the sixth grade," says Harrick. "He was thin and frail, but they couldn't intimidate him. He'd fight back. He'd lip off to players and refs. As he developed that shot, though, no coach asked him to pass. I wouldn't have either."
There is talk and there is attitude. MacLean's perpetual on-court insolence stemmed from more than mere frustration at officials' calls. When he was in the seventh grade, his parents' stormy marriage fell apart and his father, James, a 6'8" telecommunications worker who dabbled in tennis officiating—he has worked the lines at the U.S. Open—walked out, never to return. Devastated, Don remains angry and bitter.
"Sure, that's had its effects on my attitude," he says. "We don't talk. But in a way it's worked out for the best. I had to grow up alone, make some decisions by myself. I became a rough kid sometimes. Bitched a lot, on and off the court. Maybe if a dad was around, he would have slapped me into shape. But the fact it was just my mom helping me...O.K.... I'm kind of proud that I'm standing here read) to graduate this summer."
Had the rough-edged Walt Hazzard not been fired as coach by UCLA in March 1988, MacLean, who maintains a 3.0 GPA as a psychology major, would probably be graduating from Georgia Tech. In the book Raw Recruits, by Armen Keteyian and SI's Alexander Wolff, one former UCLA assistant under Hazzard is quoted as calling MacLean "an 18-year-old punk dictating the [recruiting process]." MacLean, in turn, had publicly stated that Hazzard couldn't coach.
Much more damning was an assertion in the book that Harrick had visited MacLean's home during the so-called "dead" period when such recruiting visits are not allowed under NCAA regulations. The book asserts that MacLean's mother, Pat, confirmed the visit. If this had been found to be true, the NCAA could have declared MacLean ineligible and forced UCLA to pay back three years of tournament receipts. But last summer the NCAA quietly absolved Harrick of any wrongdoing; last month Harrick. MacLean and his mother all denied to SI that there had been any such visit. "Coach Harrick's been to our house only once," says Pat. "But that was four months earlier, when he was still the coach at Pepperdine. I think somebody got mixed up."
MacLean eschews the bustle of city life and retains as best friends a couple of former high school classmates; often he steals away from UCLA to drive back to Simi Valley over Highway 118, where he stops his car on a hill just above the valley. "I just sit there, hanging out, relaxing, gathering thoughts," he says. "It's peaceful, serene. I need that to regroup."
Or to come down from practicing karate, which MacLean took up last summer, he says, "as a mental aid more than anything." But then he adds, "It never hurts to be able to hurt somebody yourself."
Say what? Rod McKuen goes ballistic? It's a little late for MacLean to turn into a fighter, inasmuch as it was two summers ago at the Goodwill Games tryouts that Colorado's Shawn Vandiver, whom he had elbowed in a scrimmage, dropped MacLean with a sucker punch in the locker room, fracturing his cheekbone.
But it's obviously not too late for MacLean to lead UCLA all the way back to the Final Four. California coach Lou Campanelli, a past critic, calls MacLean "far more stable" this year. USC coach George Raveling says, "UCLA's on a mission to get to the Metrodome [in Minneapolis, site of the Final Four] and prove they're not just a bunch of spoiled stars. That begins and ends with MacLean."
Most significantly, after all those points and all those records, MacLean still knows that his legacy is yet to be determined. "I've said all along that to be remembered as a player at UCLA, you have to make it as a team; you have to do something as a team in the NCAA tournament," he says. "O.K., that's fair. If I'm such a great player, I should be able to lead this team to the Final Four."