? Lavin's Debut New ESPN college basketball analyst and former UCLA hoops coach Steve Lavin is so easygoing that last year when it became obvious that he would be fired, he gave the school recommendations for a replacement. Then, when he got the ax, and former Pitt coach Ben Howland took over, Lavin went to dinner with him. Is Lavin too nice to be effective as an analyst? "I won't be afraid to say some coach is on the hot seat," says Lavin, 39, who has spent three weeks visiting schools in the Midwest, where he'll cover games as a commentator in addition to working three days a week in the studio. "There's a way to criticize that's not malicious or unfair."
Lavin, who majored in journalism and communications at Chapman University ( Calif.), is a master networker, and his friendships with coaches should help bring viewers inside the game. Last weekend, in his debut as studio host, Lavin was smooth and polished, dropping details about the Indiana and Purdue practices he had visited and petitioning for the NCAA to grant coaches access to their players in the summers.
Rush Limbaugh didn't lose any of his bite on Monday when he returned to his syndicated radio show after five weeks of what he called "intense" rehab for a painkiller addiction. While he stayed clear of rehashing his ESPN exodus, he did fire one shot at the network. Taking issue with Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy's use of the word Neanderthal to describe some of President Bush's judicial nominees, Limbaugh—who left his job at Sunday NFL Countdown on Oct. 1 amid backlash over his comments about Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb—cracked, "It's just a good thing Senator Kennedy didn't say it on ESPN, or he might have resigned."