The new Georgia coach is one of 17 children who had to compete for the affection of his parents. Now Smith is the 17th coach in Georgia basketball history, competing for the affection of the Bulldog players and fans, many of whom had grown accustomed to fired coach Hugh Durham, the winningest coach in school history. As someone who's accustomed to making do with what he has on hand, Smith thinks he can win with his current roster. "It's not so much that they're Hugh's players—they're players," Smith says. "Carlos Strong can play in any style, Shandon Anderson can play in any style."
Smith takes over an underachieving team with eight returning players, including the Super Six from an outstanding '91 recruiting class. Those guys have never produced more than 18 wins in a season and have zero wins in the postseason. They're looking forward to playing for their new coach, whose Tulsa teams were upset specialists in the NCAA tournament. "Coach Durham spoke his mind a lot, whether it was good or bad," says Anderson. "Some players can deal with that and others can't, and that's what divided our team up. Coach Smith is more honest with you but not as harsh."
Strong, a 6'8" senior forward who finished in the top 10 in the SEC in scoring, rebounding and field goal percentage last season, is the best of what's left of Durham's regime. Smith brings to Athens a new up-tempo style—pressing, running and shooting the three. There's also a new logo. New uniforms. New locker rooms. New attitude. But can he teach these old Dawgs any new tricks?
How long will it take the Tigers to get over a fateful 4.8 seconds?
That's how long it took UCLA's Tyus Edney to dash the length of the floor and score, drop-kicking Mizzou out of the NCAA tournament last season. Says coach Norm Stewart of that memory, "We beat a team and they won the game."
On the first day of school this fall, strength coach Bob Jones handed each Tiger a yellow T-shirt emblazoned with the numeral 4.8 on the back. Said Jones, "I wanted them to remember how they felt after that game."
Maybe the team officially came back from the dead on Oct. 31, Haunted House of Hoops Night, when a group of costumed Tigers rolled a coffin out to center court at Hearnes Center, and as a player emerged, the public address announcer screamed, "Returning from the basketball underworld...Kelly Thames!"
Thames, a 6'8" forward and the Big Eight Freshman of the Year in '93-94, missed all of last season with a knee injury, but he now appears to be healthy. He joins a front line featuring senior forward Julian Winfield, the best all-around player in the Big Eight, and 7-footers Simeon and Sammie Haley. But the pivotal newcomer in Columbia might be Danny Allouche, a 21-year-old freshman hardened by three years in the Israeli military. Allouche is a long-range scorer who led all of his teammates in the Halloween scrimmage with 17 points.
But has Mizzou put the UCLA debacle behind it? During the team's summer tour through Australia, Stewart was so cranky that he was twice thrown out of exhibition games. The Tigers can't let that 4.8 seconds haunt them for this entire season.