Weiss: Off the record, if Ernie Douse can remember all these dates, somebody must have fed him a lot of brain food since I talked to him last....
Shainline: Why, couldn't he remember how to add and subtract in his classes?
Gill: Never mind that. He couldn't remember our game plan. You know, the 3-2 zone. He couldn't remember that.
Shainline: Did you, Victor Weiss, let Ernie Douse have money to go home in June 1973?
Weiss: Yes.... He said that he had been dropped from school and that he had no way to get home and he needed money for a plane ticket.... So I gave Ernie the $150 and that was the last I ever saw him.
Gill: Our problem here, Vic, is that we think the NCAA in some ways has overstepped its bounds and we've just about had enough of it, but I'm not sure we're going to do anything about it.
The results of the interrogations were sent to the NCAA last August. In the ensuing weeks President Horn and his assistants jetted between cities, challenging charges and pleading for clemency before various NCAA tribunals.
Somebody listened, for when the NCAA Council opened its convention in San Francisco on Jan. 6 it softened the proposed punishment somewhat, most notably by dropping a penalty that prohibited the coaches from leaving the campus to recruit. The NCAA also inserted into the announcement of penalties a line that noted "a mitigating circumstance," namely that the "vast majority of violations were considered to be the responsibility of the previous executive and athletic administration."
But nothing mitigated the shock waves that struck Long Beach. Among the hardest hit was Lute Olson, the coach named as Tarkanian's successor partly because, some say, of his contrasting saintly mien. Given the distasteful duty of having to break the bad news to his team, he called the players into an empty classroom after practice and began in a halting voice, "I have something very difficult to tell you." Clifton Pondexter, 6'8", 230 pounds and the nation's top freshman, wept.
Upon returning to the gym, Olson noticed for the first time a banner urging ALL THE WAY TO THE NCAA. His team's record was 10 and 1; an NCAA championship had not been an impossible dream. He ordered the banner removed. Late that night, while alone in his bedroom, he read aloud the framed copy of the Optimist Creed he keeps on his dresser: "Promise yourself to be so strong that nothing can disturb your peace of mind...."