SI Vault
Curry Kirkpatrick
November 28, 1994
This 1968 SI Classic profiles Pete Maravich, college basketball's top scorer and a hit among the ladies of LSU
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
November 28, 1994

The Coed Boppers' Top Cat

This 1968 SI Classic profiles Pete Maravich, college basketball's top scorer and a hit among the ladies of LSU

View CoverRead All Articles View This Issue
1 2 3

But it is, above all, his enchanting face that makes Pete Maravich something special. Extra large and long, it is split by a narrow ski-trail nose that winds into a natural ramp and sprawls into a circular bulb at the end. The nose is his father's, but the rest of the face is clearly from Mom. It seems to explode into the sky out of a long, angular neck, and the top half is covered by a great bush of thick hair swept left to right. The eyes, though, are what distinguish him from others. The sockets are deep, dark wells. The brown pupils are tiny and, like those of small furry animals, they say (ask any mother or daughter who has seen Pete), "Take me home."

From a distance, Maravich on the court often gives an impression of complete nonchalance. But close up, his face reveals him for the player that he is. His expressions are forever contorted and wrenched into horrible forms of pain, cruelty and even torture. He bares his teeth a lot, and his tongue hangs out of the corner of his mouth when he is acting really tough. Sometimes he takes on the look of a man being pumped full of bullets. "I don't know what the big thing is about my face," says Maravich. "But my hair is a lot different from what it was in high school. I had a burr head then. I was so uncool in high school, I can't believe it. But I'm O.K. now. I like my hair real long. But Dad makes me cut it during the season now."

Maravich's conversation is almost always ingenuous. His direct, open style and his easygoing, unaffected nature are perhaps the major factors responsible for the close camaraderie existing between the star and his supporting players. It is almost inconceivable that frustration and jealousy would not exist on the team when one man takes 40 shots a game and scores more than half the points, but this appears to be the case at LSU. "We each have a job to do on this team," says Jeff Tribbett, another sophomore, who used to feed Rick Mount in high school and is now feeding, and rooming with, Maravich. "It's very simple. Pete has to shoot 40 times a game in order for us to win. He just has to."

Maravich himself seems surprised that the subject would come up. "There might be some dissension if we were losing," he says, "but we've been doing some winning. I'm conscious of what people say about my shooting so much, but there's a lot of difference between shooting 40 times a game and being able to shoot 40 times. I can get open that many times, I don't care who's playing. Some other people would have to start throwing over their heads to get it up there 40 times."

Maravich and Tribbett live in the LSU athletic dormitory in a sparsely decorated room that is dominated by a large poster of Lyndon Johnson dressed as a Hell's Angel on the seat of a "Harley Bird" motorcycle. Maravich dates frequently and avidly, getting around Baton Rouge in a tan Volkswagen that showed its stamina on his cross-country trip to California last summer. He also has a passion for brutal, bloodbath movies. But even he cringed openly at a recent Italian western in which Eli Wallach, after being interrupted in his bath by an outlaw, drills the man with a gun hidden in the soap suds. "When you have to shoot," Eli tells the dead man, "you don't talk, you just shoot."

Pete did a creditable job on his exams last month, though there is nothing he really enjoys about his studies. His one bad grade, a D in economics, was awarded by a Professor Casey who couldn't pronounce Maravich. "He kept calling me 'Maverick,' " says Pete. "I said, 'Sir, it's not Maverick. That's a cow. My name is Maravich.' He never did get it right."

Academically more inspired during the first semester was a research paper discussing Huckleberry Finn's deprecatory attitude toward Jim. "He was always sarcastic to Jim, putting him down and telling him he was dreaming all the time when things were happening. I really got to dislike Huck," Maravich says. "He was so unfair, taking advantage of an illiterate like that. Finally he realized the guy was a human being. I don't know—I thought Huck Finn was pretty much of a JD in his time."

Unlike Huckleberry Finn, who may have indeed been a juvenile delinquent, Pete Maravich keeps in close touch with the affairs of his family. He seems truly devoted to his 23-year-old brother, Ronnie, who is a marine in Vietnam, and to his three-year-old sister, Diana Marie, whom the elder Maraviches adopted. Her crib at home overflows with stuffed toys her brother has won for her by shooting basketballs at state fairs all over the South. Helen Maravich has been ill recently and does not get to see her son play often, but she is unsparing in her attempts to soften the pressures building up on her family. "We're just plain Mommy and plain Daddy," she says. "When Daddy is on the court, he isn't Daddy anymore, he's Coach. But Pete better still be Pete, and Mommy better stay Mommy. She is proud of them both."

Despite a high regard for the coaching abilities of his father, Pete cannot always control the sophomore in him. He readily confesses to this, admitting that there are times when he will give Press some son-to-father trouble, forgetting that his old man is also his coach. Pete is constantly flippant with his father in practice, sometimes to the point of being unconsciously discourteous by back talk or foolish gestures, by debating strategy and suggesting that some move would be better done Pete's way. Press usually allows his son this latitude, but in a recent practice the two came to a point of no return, and Press let Pete have it. "Dammit!" he shouted. "I'm the coach here. I'll say who shoots, who passes and who rebounds. I don't need you to tell me what to do."

It was one occasion when Pete's flip manner had worn thin. Though the tension was short-lived, it will probably return from time to time. The feeling in the air would be different if the coach was not the father and the star was not the son. But when you're going for 45 a game and a place in the rainbow, who really worries about a little family bickering?

1 2 3