Musselman bore his burden well late last season, holding on at a time when his wife Chris confesses to "lying on the kitchen floor for three days and wanting to just give up." For the two players involved the experience was worse. Taylor did not eat for two weeks. Behagen, to whom basketball was the only salvation after a checkered career as a youth in the ghettos of New York, at first was lost. Then he started reading law, took up the piano and found love and guidance from a beautiful former stewardess.
"You figure out priorities after something like that," Behagen said last week. "This game was everything for me, but mostly fun. Now I know it's a lot more serious. I know it can be taken away from me at any time. I hope I don't have to start all over, having to prove myself, but maybe I do. I try to avoid talking about the incident. I can't explain it, and I don't want to try."
Musselman has warned the players, indeed his entire team, that they are being watched. In his first team meeting he told them, "Nobody leaves the bench. Hands go straight up on fouls. Nobody questions the referees. Everything is 'Yes, sir,' 'No, sir.' "
"I've done a lot of thinking," says Behagen. "I know Corky and I are going to hear things, harassment and stuff. But I'm ready for it. I've been up against adversity all my life. It's nothing new. It just has to be overcome. It's up to me. I have to watch myself and do well, and then maybe people will forget."
With Jim Brewer, the Big Ten's MVP last season, remaining a tower on defense, and with sophomore Greg Olson and veterans Keith Young and Dave Winfield able to operate at better advantage in Musselman's new wide-open game, the Gophers seem an awesome collection to reckon with in the future.
For now they must continue to weather the bad moments. Such as the other day when a small boy, a visitor to practice and surely unaware of the connotations, laughingly shouted out, "Hey Ron, Ron Behagen, wild man."
As the words hung there, the tall player could only wince and bow his head. When he slumped away, he must have understood that even as he watches himself and does well, it may take more time before people will forget.