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Ellenberger favors turquoise rings, silver bracelets, heishi-shell necklaces and deep-decolletage gaucho shirts as game outfits. He put turquoise into the Lobo uniforms and around the court, then won the WAC last year despite internal difficulties that included one player being arrested for stealing a bicycle and another picked up for shoplifting.
"We weren't a flaky bunch," says The Hippie. "We had substance. We were winners before anything else. Nothing happened on this team that surprised us. 'Know thyself is the proper phrase.
"Look, I'm no rehabilitator, I'm just a small-town Indiana farm guy who coached in a station-wagon league before this. I thought I'd have to apply for a visa to come to New Mexico, but when I saw it I knew this was what I had been looking for all my life."
In two years Ellenberger has speeded up the Lobo offense and played tight D. His practices are efficient and tough, and he uses 10 men a game.
"First thing I told them was, 'We are going upstream and everyone better have a paddle,' " he says. "They all contribute. If they don't, they're gone.
"The WAC has no gloss to it. When we recruit, mother thinks son is going oft to the end of the world like Columbus. Nobody grows up wanting to go to New Mexico. But look at this—our last open spaces. You got to love it."
The Hippie is going home to feed the wolf. He finishes, "Where else can you find a live mascot who hates referees?"
He should know better than anyone. In El Paso.
Don Haskins of UTEP, The Bear, is a mammoth man, going to 280 pounds during the season. The Bear has been known to eat four dinners on game night. He chain-smokes on the practice floor. He plays scratch golf with Lee Trevino. He runs whole pool racks backhanded.
The Bear can explain 58 ways his team will lose its opener to Sul Ross State. He probably holds the national record for technical fouls and getting kicked out in a career, a game, a minute. WAC referees are under special orders not to let him intimidate them. Fat chance. At taking street players and molding them into workable defensive units, The Bear might be the best who ever lived.