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Like coaches who hold their national convention in conjunction with the finals every year, publicity men are a dime a dozen at this event. But Grogan, who became a prophet with honor by constructing a season-long publicity campaign around the theme "Meet me in St. Louis, Wooden," was of another species. His prediction fulfilled, the P.R. man came equipped with shopping bags, buttons, press releases, pictures, articles, six boxes of assorted material on "Tigerball" and a bizarre dictionary of 156 words "associated" with the team ("xyloid," "whoopee," "quitclaim" and "gobbledygook" were included).
"I said we'd meet the Wizard here, and now we're here," Grogan reminded everyone. "If we beat Providence, 50,000 Memphians goin' serenade Wooden at his hotel. You think he won't want us bad after that. Damn!"
Wooden couldn't have cared less. UCLA has been to the finals so often now that he is well acquainted with any bric-a-brac that may fly his way. Ignoring nonsense, the UCLA Wizard channels his energy to polish the ritual of Being There.
This was the tournament where Wooden finally reached super-celebrity status. He was forever instructing media lingerers, greeting old ladies and small children, autographing his book They Call Me Coach (there are other names his rivals call him), being reintroduced to young assistant coaches ("You don't remember me, sir. It was in Loretto, Pa.") and conducting on-the-spot clinics in everything from "face guarding" to "weak-side pressure" to "three-two, two-three, low-high, high-low" to how does your garden grow?
He was Fred Astaire at a dance seminar; John Ford at a cinema exhibition; Maharishi Mahesh Yogi on the mount, accepting hosannahs, dispensing advice, suffering fools gently. The Wizard of Westwood, yeah.
The coach of UCLA's semifinal opponent, Indiana, did not have similar memories of the Final Four, in which he had appeared some years earlier as an Ohio State substitute. Now he was back and everyone was wondering would Bobby Knight try any of the things he had done in his flamboyant past? Would he throw a player into the stands? Would he tell the crowd to "Get off your dead rear ends"? Would he snap at journalists, "That's a dumb question"? Would he maybe punch Wooden in the heart? Would he kick Walton in the knee? Would Knight be errant?
Well, no. Anybody from Orrville, Ohio, the home of Smucker's jelly, must have a touch of sweetness somewhere, and Bobby did. Also, he pulled off another fine coaching job, obtaining a terrific second-half effort from the Hoosiers that only stalled when their husky center, Steve Downing, fouled out with 7:57 remaining in the game.
In truth, Indiana looks like a bunch of muscle-toned guys who would have trouble beating your local dorm rats, and they got out of the first half against UCLA simply on guts alone. They were behind 40-22.
Earlier, Indiana had used its deliberate style to forge a 20-17 lead but after Tommy Curtis and Dave Meyers came off the bench to wake the Bruins—and after Walton, angered by a foul call against him, had thrown a towel to the bench that whapped into Wooden's face—UCLA ran off 18 straight points to put the game away by intermission.