The magic face is new, fresh, glowing and so wide open that it has sophomore written all over it, shining out like a beacon. Alternately unassuming then self-assured, naive then cocky, diffident then arrogant, wondering then knowing, thoughtful then putting on the world—the face keeps popping up in all the proper scenes during this college year.
Here it is at a levee party down the river from the Louisiana State campus, or straightening up in front of speech class, or bent parallel to the desk over an econ problem. Here, on the beach at Lauderdale for spring vacation, or at Pat O'Brien's in New Orleans on a weekend. And here, back in Baton Rouge, at the Piccadilly Cafeteria out at Bon Marché, or over at the SAE fraternity house to listen to John Fred and His Playboy Band, who, after all, are the hottest thing around and, my gosh, John Fred is from Baton Rouge, a local boy. The magic face, like all the other SAEs, knows John Fred personally.
Now at another time, the basketball game over, the face comes up slowly from a circle of children who have searched it out, seeking an autograph and thrusting pencils forward, and it surveys the area, looking for the girls. There are two of them nearby, sweet little LSU coeds with long brown hair and pussycat eyes, and they are quietly singing:
Pete Maravich, Pete Maravich. Pistol Pete. Pistol Pete. Everybody in the world knows Pistol Pete. Sure is lucky success doesn't go to some heads. Sure is, sure is. But Pistol Pete is so cute. Sure is, sure is.
The girls' banter is sarcasm, envy and fascination all in two dishes, and if the song is not entirely accurate, it does reflect a certain measure of the boy. For though it has not happened yet, as soon as Pete Maravich can get his magic face, his long, lean, macaroni body, his moves of velvet and his shots of satin into all of the basketball arenas of this country that are waiting for him, he will surely become America's Sweetheart, Every Mother's Son, the Teeny Boppers' Top Cat. And the girls will be right. Everybody in the world, the world that really counts, will know Pistol Pete Maravich. He will make a million dollars playing the game of basketball.
Here he comes now, Maravich bringing the ball up against Kentucky. The first defensive man slows him at the top of the zone, but Maravich goes right and is immediately swarmed over and double-teamed. He jumps, gliding forward through the air, and either hits the open man in the corner or puts the ball up to the basket himself. The next minute he dribbles by the first man, but he is hit by three defenders at the foul line and throws a hook pass to his blind side or slams the ball behind his back, a bounce pass to the corner again. He comes up once more and takes the shot himself, sliding through the zone and hooking from the corner on the run, or driving under and, with his back to the basket, flipping the ball in with a lefthanded, underhand double-pump shot.
After a timeout Maravich looks his man in the eye and fires a push shot from 40 feet or gives him the head fake for the push shot and then is quickly on the move with a crossover dribble between his legs, around the man, to the left and up for his jump shot. If it misses, he is following, leaping, crashing over bigger and stronger players to tap the ball into the basket.
The LSU offense is Pete Maravich with the ball. Marvelous Pete Maravich. Dribbling, shooting, passing, rebounding. He can go left or right with equal facility, he has every shot known to man, with both hands, but, amazingly, the strongest part of his game is his deft passing.
The opponent changes from Kentucky to Vanderbilt, from Florida to Tennessee, from Wisconsin to Tulane. But the zone defense is still there. Always a zone. And Pete Maravich is still there, firing away against it. In a basketball season loaded with the usual vicissitude and inconstancy, one unassailable certainty is that Pete Maravich of LSU will be down there in Baton Rouge firing away against the zone every time out. This is, in fact, what seems to disturb his faithful supporters the most. For even when opponents disdain the zone as a form of resistance against him, their next line of defense is some variation of a gang-attack man-to-man that concentrates only on Maravich.
"Just one time I would love to see somebody play him honest," says Joe Dean, an LSU star of the early '50s who watches the Pistol in cumulative awe with every passing game. "They've all got to do what's best to win, but just once it would be beautiful to see a team play this guy honest with just one man on him. Pistol Pete would be so great that night, he'd scare people."