Off a Roll
The UNLV basketball team wound up its regular season last week with an 11-15 record, the sorriest in its history. Worse, the Stumblin' Rebels lost their coach, Tim Grgurich, the former associate of Jerry Tarkanian who had temporarily raised spirits in the desert when the season began. Donations to the athletic scholarship fund more than doubled last fall after Grgurich agreed to replace the discredited and unpopular Rollie Massimino. But Grgurich couldn't scale back his Type-A excesses. "Tim's drug of choice was work," his wife, Kathy, said last week. And bitterness from Tarkanian's battles with the school administration and the NCAA lingered, leaving Grgurich paranoid even after he gave up the coaching reins on Jan. 6 to recuperate from exhaustion. Afraid that his encounters with his boss, athletic director Jim Weaver, would be secretly recorded, Grgurich insisted on meeting with Weaver at a park five miles from campus. And last week, after UNLV suspended two players, Kebu Stewart and the inappropriately nicknamed Jermaine (Sunshine) Smith, for accepting sneakers from an unidentified representative for a sports agent, Grgurich called it quits.
At a news conference he pointed to several new signees to support his contention that the Rebels aren't through. "When we recruit, we don't sell the coach," he said. "We sell what we have here, the community and the tradition." But it will take a showman to lure the crowds back to the campus just off the Strip. Interim president Kenny Guinn said last week that the $1.8 million buyout paid to Massimino leaves the university without the means to pursue a pricey, high-profile new coach, and that doesn't bode well for a school whose mystique was built around the towel-teething Tarkanian and the stars he—not the university—could attract, package and sell as entertainment to a demanding public. Right now the program appears to have been little more than a house of face cards.
For some elusive reason Golf Digest has given Dick Vitale, the adenoidal basketball commentator, space in its March issue to rate the golfing skills of college coaches. Among Dick's picks as the profession's top golfers: Jim Boeheim of Syracuse, who once took only two shots to reach the green of the 498-yard 17th hole at Scotland's Turnberry Golf Links, and Arkansas's Nolan Richardson, who showcases his seven handicap at an annual charity golf tournament bearing his name. We're not sure we would want to defer to the golf expertise of someone who once whiffed so badly with his driver that he broke his wrist, as Vitale did. On the other hand, it might be fun to see the broadcast booth at the Masters occupied by someone who would make Tom Watson long for Gary McCord.
A Fine Mess
After former All-Pro linebacker Lawrence Taylor, who last week announced he will take part in a World Wrestling Federation "bout" against Bam Bam Bigelow, fulfills that commitment, he might consider hockey, whose pooh-bahs still wink at cartoonlike violence only slightly less often than their counterparts on the grunt-and-grin circuit do. Unfortunately the NHL has few options for dealing with miscreants like Toronto Maple Leaf forward Warren Rychel, who last week was suspended for only two games without pay and fined a scant $500 for brutally spearing Denis Chasse of the St. Louis Blues on Feb. 27; or Pittsburgh Penguin forward Luc Robitaille, who was assessed the same punishment for taking a Ruthian cut at New Jersey Devil defenseman Bruce Driver on Feb. 5. Under its new collective bargaining agreement with the players' union, the NHL can't fine its handsomely paid athletes more than $500. Curiously the league office didn't push hard for greater latitude in levying fines when it was negotiating a new agreement during the recent 103-day lockout. Thus the lords of the rinks are left with only one real deterrent to on-ice violence: lengthy suspensions. Given the league's limited options, future offenders should be facing pine time measured in weeks, not days.
Like many stories set in the state of Indiana, this one begins on the hardwood. Marian College of Indianapolis completed its season two weeks ago, thus ending the 15-year basketball partnership between Jason Lucas and Jason Patterson. Since the two started playing as seven-year-olds on the same peewee team in Brownsburg, Ind., Lucas and Patterson have been virtually inseparable. They played on the same AAU team as preteens, played together for four years at Brownsburg High and then went on to Marian, an NAIA Division II school, where they formed one of the most formidable scorer-playmaker combinations in the Mid-Central Conference. This season Lucas, a forward who averaged 22 points, was named the league's MVP; Patterson, a point guard, averaged 4.3 assists, 75% of which went to his longtime chum. "All those years of playing together and you really learn to think and play alike," says Lucas, who drives a red convertible, just like Patterson. "People at school think we're brothers."
The Jasons' playing careers may be over, but their joint efforts may not be. Last week both began stints as student teachers on the same day, a development that was surprising only in that they did so at different Indianapolis-area schools. But the separation is only temporary, say the two, who both hope to return to Brownsburg High someday. Says Patterson, "Maybe we can work out some kind of co-coaching deal."
In media guides and on the backs of baseball cards, hitters are classified in one of three categories: L (left), R (right) or B (both). Recently, however, Pittsburgh Pirate minor league utilityman Jeff Richardson, a career .176 hitter in the majors, suggested to the club's media relations staff that it place the letter D next to his name. "As in doesn't," he explained.