Last Thursday, the day after Miami's 79-71 win over No. 24 Georgetown, a visitor dropped in on Miami's practice at the MCI Center in Washington, D.C.: pro wrestler the Rock, who in a past life was known as Dwayne Johnson, a reserve defensive tackle on the Hurricanes' 1991 national championship football team. The Rock's message was serious, devoid of wrestling smack talk. He didn't ask the Miami players his signature question, "Can you smell what the Rock is cookin'?" nor did he bark his familiar command, "Know your role and shut your mouth!"
The Rock, who told the Hurricanes to stay in school, didn't have to give that order because coach Perry Clark's charges already knew their roles. Though lacking a star, Miami began the season with 14 straight wins, a run that was snapped last Saturday night with a 76-75 defeat at Connecticut. (It was the first loss by the Hurricanes' baseball, men's basketball or football team since May 4, 2001, a stretch of 43 games.)
Some of those roles, though, are a bit nontraditional. Two of Miami's best three-point shooters are 6'10" sophomore Darius Rice and 6'8" junior James Jones. Miami's best post-up scorer is the guy who often brings the ball up the floor, senior John Salmons, who, at 6'7", plays every position but center. "He's an old-fashioned, 1970s player," Clark says of Salmons. "He's got old-fashioned post moves, he spins you, he can do everything."
The trio of Rice, Jones and Salmons makes for matchup nightmares and gives the Hurricanes a balanced attack. Each was averaging between 13.4 and 13.6 points through Sunday, and each had been Miami's high scorer in five of the team's first 15 games. But statistically none had improved dramatically over last season, which raised a question: What business did a team that went 16-13 last year have being 14-1?
The return of senior center Elton Tyler, who sat out last season because he was academically ineligible, has helped, but not nearly as much as the fact that Clark and his players are much more comfortable with one another. After Clark took over for Leonard Hamilton in July 2000, he figured he could use the same tactics he'd employed while coaching Tulane for the previous 11 years. He installed the same trapping defense, even though Miami's players were used to Hamilton's man-to-man. After the Hurricanes started 4-3, Clark realized he would have to become more flexible.
"As I told my staff, it's easier for one to change than for 14 to change," says Clark. "Over the course of the year I integrated my philosophies into what they were doing." The lanky Hurricanes—who might lead the country in average arm length—play a lot of conventional man-to-man and rarely press or trap, but they're still on pace to set school records for steals and blocks.
As for the Miami players' shutting their mouths, it hasn't been a problem; they aren't exactly the most boisterous bunch around. Salmons is so laid-back that Jones refers to him as "the silent assassin." Rice, whose uncle is NFL star Jerry Rice, was valedictorian at Lanier High in Jackson, Miss., and twice reached the state championship game—in chess. And Jones's mother and stepfather are both corrections officers, so he knows better than to give any lip. Instead these Hurricanes let their play do the talking, and opponents are getting the message. On Saturday night UConn held a 10-point lead in its own gym with 6:47 left, but the Huskies didn't count out the Hurricanes. "I knew they were going to come back," said UConn forward Caron Butler. "They're too good not to, with those 6'9" post guys shooting threes."
Sounds as if he smells what Clark is cooking.
Abuse of Power
Kentucky's Act Is Stone Cold
It's no secret that an imbalance of power exists between college athletes and the schools they play—and generate revenue—for. A perfect example of how lopsided the relationship has become is the stance taken by Kentucky athletic director Larry Ivy in the case of Marvin Stone.