So Jankovich set up a meeting with Miami's president, an austere Yalie named Edward Foote. The president wondered whether Foster couldn't perhaps make do with a roof erected over an open-air floor. Courteously, Foster asked Foote whether any Miami professors taught in classrooms without walls. And that was that. Jankovich waved his shirt-tail in a few faces, and James L. Knight—the fellow whose name graces the downtown concert hall where Miami now plays—kicked in a million to build a practice gym and office complex on campus.
•1981—An anonymous donor offers Miami $400,000 over four years to renew basketball. There's one catch: The Hurricanes must hire one Harold Tonick, who had been the would-be sugar daddy's coach at Brooklyn College, to run the show. Miami passes on the offer.
•1984—Two weeks after his arrival on campus, Foster's Olds-mobile is stolen.
•1985—Only after forward Tim Dawson poses for a team picture does anyone realize he has been wearing No. 24, Barry's number, which has been retired. Dawson is quickly assigned No. 34.
The Hurricanes are a skinny and scrappy bunch. By beating Manhattan 79-61 in the consolation game of their Orange Bowl tournament on Saturday night, they boosted their record to 6-4. They lost 62-61 to Brown in the tourney opener, but when you haven't played for nearly a decade and a half, it's easy to forget the first rule of hosting a Christmas tournament: Always play the weakest team in the first round of your own tourney.
At 5'11", Kevin Presto was literally overlooked as a high school senior in Richland, Wash. Then he sprang for 69 points in two games at an AAU tournament in Jacksonville, and Foster couldn't shake the visions of the Muggsy Bogueses and Mark Prices and Spud Webbs who had bedeviled him in the ACC. Besides, as his assistant, Clint Bryant, pointed out, "It would sound great at the Knight Center—'Kevin Prrrrr-esto!' " So Foster offered a scholarship; in return Presto has supplied an intrepid attitude and some good outside shooting. "Ain't he cute?" Foster says. "Hey, everybody thinks we can't do it, either."
In contrast, Dennis Burns, a 6'5" forward, "doesn't have that inner-city toughness," says Bryant. "There's still a lot of suburb in him." Indeed, he was yanked early against Manhattan on Saturday for a lack of aggressiveness. But Burns, an extroverted kid from Sicklerville, N.J., leads the team in dunks with 14. And dunks, Foster will tell you, sell better than fertilizer.
As for Eric Brown, the school's first blue-chip recruit, he knew nothing of Miami other than Barry, and then only "the way he shot his free throws." (Barry shot them granny style, so this probably wasn't much of a selling point.) Eric's mom, Yvette, knew nothing of Miami other than what she saw on Miami Vice every week. (The show makes Brown's native Brooklyn look positively paradisiacal by comparison, so this probably wasn't much of a selling point, either.) Brown enrolled anyway and, at a lissome 6'6", 185, has started at power forward. "Can you believe it?" he says.
The four current walk-ons on the roster hardly can. Most were discovered in the fall of 1984, when the coaching staff stuck a couple of portable goals next to the campus pool and roped passers-by into a three-on-three tournament. The 11 standouts were invited to join Burns, Presto, Dawson and Tim Harvey, a 6'10" transfer from Georgia Tech, in practice. Foster called the squad the F Troop, after the TV show "where they line up and kind of go off in different directions."
When the F Troop wasn't mustering, Foster was out peddling his feed seed. He spoke himself hoarse on the rubber-chicken circuit during 1984-85, sometimes addressing three civic groups a day. He hosted a weekly TV show—no mean feat for a coach with no team—and he used his contacts and clout to put together an '85-86 schedule. With 18 home games, the Hurricanes play host more often than Alistair Cooke. The danger is, by breaking their maiden on the likes of UCLA, Duke and Notre Dame, they may be breaking their spirit, too. Foster isn't so sure. "Other coaches figure there's nothing nicer than going into good weather and getting a W," he says, hopeful that opponents, who tend to blow into town early to bag some time on the beach, will suit up soft.