Vitale's vitality is catching. Last season, his first at Detroit, the Titans were 17-9. Home attendance was up 60%. A cocktail party raised $5,000 to spruce up the locker room, which now has red and white cabinets and a separate dressing area that is carpeted and stereo-equipped.
This year Vitale may have a 20-game winner. The Titans lost only one regular, and their schedule is a lollipop, including UW Parkside, Hillsdale, Illinois Wesleyan, Wayne State and Grand Valley State. As if that were not enough, the freshmen forced the returning players into double overtime before losing an intrasquad game.
Detroit lacks an imposing center, but 6'8" Walter Smith and 6'9" Ron Bostick are adequate, particularly since they will be surrounded by captain Thomas, who is 6'8" and muscular, and Wilbur Ross, a 51% shooter. Riley Dotson, Laval Perry and Dennis (Shake and Bake) Boyd return at guard and are joined by Larry Russell, a junior college transfer who averaged 25 points last season. Then there are all those freshmen whom Vitale will be shoe-horning into the lineup. Long, as his practice performance indicated, can play both ends of the floor, and Anderson is a swifty who once scored 29 points against Moses Malone even though he is only 6'3". And those two are merely the best of a crew of five exceptional newcomers. No wonder Vitale's excited.
To become the North Carolina State of the East, Maryland must replace the three big men it lost to the pros—Tom McMillen, Len Elmore and Moses Malone. Elmore, the leading rebounder in Terrapin history, now toils for the Indiana Pacers, while McMillen, Maryland's highest career scorer, commutes from his Rhodes scholar's desk at Oxford to play for a team in Italy.
Malone's case was different. The million-dollar baby from Petersburg (Va.) High School was not on campus long enough to go through freshman orientation, much less commencement. He took the money and ran all the way to Utah. "If somebody had offered me a million not to go to Duke, I wouldn't have gone either," says Coach Lefty Driesell. "I just hope this doesn't set a precedent. It could ruin college basketball."
With Elmore and McMillen, the Terrapins won 81% of their games the past three years, including 23 of 28 last season. The addition of Malone and the return of three other starters would have kept Maryland on the same pace. "We were a two-man offense last year," says Driesell. "Everything was built around McMillen and John Lucas. With Moses, it would have been the same. Now we'll need more balance."
The Terrapins still possess a superior backcourt led by Lucas, the cocky, 20-point-per-game-scorer. His running mate is another junior, Mo Howard. "No question Mo is the second-best guard in the country," says Lucas, leaving little doubt as to who he feels is the best, an assessment that is probably correct. "I'd like to give him my confidence and have his jumping ability."
Howard answers philosophically, "You've got to be a seed before you can be a flower. On a team with Luke, I'm willing to be a seed. Sure, I'd like to try the last shot in a close game. But Luke says, 'I'll make the last shot.' "
Since last season Lucas has proved himself to be the best tennis player in the ACC and the outstanding basketball player in two international tournaments. The first was the world championships in Puerto Rico. The other was played in Mexico City, where the Terrapins captured the Intercontinental Cup Games over five non-U.S. professional teams.
Mexico gave Maryland a rare opportunity to test its new lineup. The best frontcourt man is 6'9" senior Owen Brown. He is joined by 6'6" Steve Sheppard, New York's top prep player two years ago who was academically ineligible last season. The center is 6'9" senior Tom Roy, foul-prone and an uncertain scorer despite a long apprenticeship.