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Last year with Dec—who is Dexter Westbrook—as a sensational sophomore pivotman, Providence won its first 19, finished at 24-2, and looked forward to having the whole team back. Dec, however, skipped so many classes that he finally had to skip them officially and drop out. He is unable to compete this season, but is back in school and works out diligently against the four holdovers that he was supposed to anchor: senior Forwards and Co-captains Jim Benedict and Bill Blair and junior Guards Mike Riordan and Jim Walker. To join this fine quartet in place of Dexter Westbrook, Mullaney had, riding out of Hatfield, Mass. at 6 feet 8, 210 pounds, K—Bob Kovalski in the box scores. Kovalski had started for Providence two years ago, before he became ineligible. "When we knew we weren't going to have Dec," Mullaney says, "it wasn't that bad, because we had K coming back. And then you think of K"—and Mullaney did, squinting to find him in his memory, and then smiling—"you think of the K of two years ago, and you think, well, everything will be all right. Maybe not quite so many variations of defense, maybe not quite so much speed. But if K's ready to play, ah, it will be all right."
So riding out of Hatfield, Mass. here came K: 6 feet 8, 250 pounds. Oops. Kovalski could not move or shoot. "If he remains like this, he isn't even going to play," says Mullaney. K himself is not worried. "I'm getting down there," he says. "I've been waiting a long time, a whole year, for this, and I don't want to miss it."
Waiting, however, was the trouble. During the year Kovalski never showed up to work out with the team, a fact which particularly confused the coaches, since basketball had been such a large part of his life. K says that it was just a matter of concentrating on the books, but he did find time to go courting, and he got married last summer. He admits, with a plump smile, that his bride is a very good cook. That is one thing there is no dispute about in Providence.
More and more, coaching is a game for young men, and Joe Stowell is one of them. There are four such rookies in the Missouri Valley alone this year. For the most part, these Young Turks are a humorless and technical lot, dedicated to detail, discipline and diagnosis, and Stowell is no exception. His first season has not yet begun, and already people at Bradley are concerned for his health. "I don't know how many times I've played this season over already," he says. "All summer, over and over."
Stowell had been an assistant at Bradley for nine years under Chuck Ors-born, who moved up to athletic director after compiling an amazing 195-56 record in nine years. Orsborn is only 48, just nine years older than Stowell, but they are a generation removed in basketball. The new A.D. came to the field house the other day to watch his old assistant run his own practice. Stowell had players stationed all over the court, passing balls to another group which was dribbling and running and shooting at three baskets. "Uh-oh, Joe's been to another clinic," Orsborn said in his dry way. "If I had known all this stuff, I guess I never would have lost." Ron Harris, Stowell's own new bright-eyed assistant, was sitting next to Orsborn. "I guess you use all those medicine balls and everything with the freshmen?" Orsborn asked him.
"Of course we do," Harris said.
"Can you put those things in the basket?" Orsborn asked. Harris shook his head. "Well, why use them if you can't put them in the basket? That's still the game, isn't it?" he asked, strictly rhetorically. "You don't have to just scrimmage," Orsborn added, "but the only drill I ever had where we did not use the ball was at the start of a season. It was called Running Around the Court. I blew the whistle, and the players ran—around the court. The last five still going became my first team."
Stowell and Orsborn disagreed often when they worked together. Orsborn got so mad at Stowell once when Joe was in his class that he made him leave. But when he needed an assistant, he picked Stowell. "What did I want, a yes-man?" he asked, again rhetorically. Some differences, though, were never resolved. "He always wanted those damn high socks that I can't stand," Orsborn said. "Every year he would try to get me to order those silly things." Orsborn always said no. About the first thing Stowell did after he got the job was order high socks. Still, Orsborn says flatly, "He hasn't even coached his first college varsity game, but Joe Stowell is already one of the five best coaches in the country. I mean that."
He is also on the spot. His team is supposed to be the best in the Valley. Maybe it is—it has five starters back and two good sophs—but it lacks size. Last year's sophomore guards, Alex Mc-Nutt and Tom Campbell, came along slower than expected, only partly because the bad hands on the front line were no match for their passes. Scholastic problems threaten, too. Stowell's Braves should finish just where Orsborn usually had them—a close runner-up in the Valley, and then a real good shot in the NIT.