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The New Wizards
Jack McCallum
April 10, 1995
There was joy again in Westwood after UCLA defeated Arkansas to win its first national championship in 20 years
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April 10, 1995

The New Wizards

There was joy again in Westwood after UCLA defeated Arkansas to win its first national championship in 20 years

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In Los Angeles, where the Bradys never die but go into syndication and finally into general release on feature-length celluloid, there's another sitcom just waiting for a good script. Call it—why not?—The Harrick Bunch. A stock cast of siblings keeps the household humming. There are a few impish and brash young ones, one of whom does a right-on imitation of dear ol' dad. There is a large, scholarly youngster, a transfer student with a weird haircut and a major league IQ who becomes part of the family. There are two older brothers, one tall, one small, who cut up from time to time but still keep the house in order. There is the beleaguered, somewhat out-of-it father, the kind of guy who burns the morning toast and pronounces INXS as "Inks," but whose loyalty to his brood is never questioned. Finally, there is the stern grandfather, the legendary head of the clan, a quiet and retiring gentleman who shows up from time to time to teach the family about class and dignity and a few lessons about history.

Once in a while things turn serious in a sitcom, and when the chips are down, the Harricks, just like the Stones and the Bradys and the Nelsons before them, pull together. That makes for a good sitcom, and on Monday night in Seattle it made for awfully good college basketball. The Harrick Bunch jumped and bumped for 40 minutes against defending national champion Arkansas, and the result was an 89-78 victory that gave UCLA its first NCAA title since 1975, back when the sainted grandfather, John Wooden, was running the show.

Somehow UCLA, a team with a 30-2 record and a pedigree like that of the New York Yankees, was seen by many as the underdog going into the final in placid, latte-sipping Seattle. After knocking oft North Carolina 75-68 in the semifinals, Arkansas seemed too strong and too focused on repeating as champion to let an imposter from that surfer-dude conference, the Pac-10, stand in its way. And that was before one of the older brothers of this bunch, guard Tyus Edney, apparently the only man in civilization who could break the Razorback press, was sidelined by the sprained right wrist he suffered in Saturday's 74-61 semifinal win over Oklahoma State. Even when it was announced that Grandfather was coming to Seattle, only his second Final Four visit in a decade, the story line seemed destined to lead to Hog Country, not L.A.

But, said Bruin backup point guard Cameron Dollar, one of the young kids, "when one of our brothers can't step up to the plate, you have to pick it up and lift your game." That's exactly what the Harrick Bunch did.

Before we go on, let's meet the rest of the clan. There's the father, Jim Harrick, who has never lost his West Virginia twang, though he drove his beat-up '60 Chevy Bel Air to Los Angeles 31 years ago and is now on top of a profession in which he was once a whipping boy. Senior Ed O'Bannon is son number one, a player of preternatural maturity who will be moving out of the house soon—he probably made himself $50 million with his 30-point, 17-rebound, three-steal performance, perhaps the best final-game individual showing since Kentucky's Jack Givens poured in 41 points in the 1978 final against Duke. Edney is son number two. Although he played only three painful minutes, he stayed active on the bench, offering encouragement and point guard perspective to the youngsters, and, when it was over, MVP O'Bannon grabbed a microphone, pulled Edney onto the platform and told the crowd, "Yo, yo, yo, that's the real MVP right there."

The middle son, forward Charles O'Bannon, really is Ed's brother, and he was a microversion of Ed on Monday night with 11 points, nine rebounds and a sensational early block on Arkansas muscleman Corliss Williamson that set the we-fear-no-one tone for the game. "Those O'Bannons," said Hog guard Alex Dillard, "are the truth." The transfer-student son is George Zidek, a 7-footer with gentle-giant charm, a brainy type who once took a law school entrance exam in his native Czechoslovakia and placed in the top 25 of 8,000. Zidek scored 14 points, two of them anachronistically by putting in what Oklahoma State coach Eddie Sutton had a few days earlier called "that, big, soft, swinging hook shot."

Then there are the young members of the bunch. Dollar, the sophomore stand-in for Edney, sounds at once like the Fresh Prince and the son of a former high school basketball coach, which he is. Two days before he was to face the daunting Arkansas pressure, Dollar proclaimed the Hogs' trapping defense to be "somewhat of a gimmick." He then went out and exposed it as such, dribbling through it with abandon, whipping lookaway passes (he had eight assists) and coaxing grimaces and grins out of his expressive face like a 6'1" version of Magic Johnson.

The other youngster is freshman guard Toby Bailey, the impressionist who does a great Harrick ("Now we just didn't get much outta that Toby Bailey. That boy just cain't guard the three") and an even better Zidek ("The game was suitable to my liking"). Early in the season Bailey became discouraged because he wasn't playing well. So former Bruin star Michael Warren (a real-life actor; you can't throw a stone in L.A. without hitting one) took him over to Wooden's house for a three-hour private counseling session with Grandfather. Wooden's sage and prescient words were these: "You'll be needed. I can't tell you exactly when, but you'll be needed." He was needed on Monday, and he came through with 26 slashing points, thanks to a remarkable knack for finding holes in the Razorback defense.

Before the game Arkansas coach Nolan Richardson talked about UCLA's penchant for making plays, a seemingly elementary observation but an accurate one. The Bruins seemed to be the only team in the tournament with the athleticism to turn the Razorbacks' 40 Minutes of Hell back on the Hogs. One example: With 1:39 left and UCLA leading 79-71, Bailey came charging down the middle. Dollar, in the right corner, shouted, "Toe-bee!" in an effort to get him to pull the ball back out. Toby may or may not have heard him, but he continued his full-tilt boogie to the basket and laid in the two points that all but spelled the end for Arkansas. They make plays.

The Bruins also had a sound game plan. On defense they used Zidek's 250-pound brawn to muscle Williamson away from the basket. That let the weakside defenders make their own decisions as to when to come for the double team. "No zero-footers" was one of the Bruins' defensive rallying cries all season, and Williamson, who made only 3 of 16 shots, will testify that the strategy worked. On offense the Bruins ran when they had the chance (or whenever Bailey had the ball) and all but eschewed the three-pointer, partly because they don't have an outside marksman but also because they didn't want to, in the words of assistant coach Steve Lavin, "settle for the three." (They made 2 of 7 treys, the Razorbacks 10 of 28.)

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