By then jolly old Ray Meyer should have victory No. 500 tucked safely away in a knapsack of his own.
14 MEMPHIS STATE
Memphis is a city famous for good music. It began with jazz down on now-faded and tacky Beale Street and continues today with recording stars like Isaac Hayes and Al Green. But the sweetest sounds this winter could be the rhythmic swish of basketballs dropping through the nets as Memphis State drums opponents into the floor and heads for a lofty spot on the charts. In fact, MSU is so heavily laden with talent that new Coach Wayne Yates may have trouble persuading his players that the best way to the top is through teamwork.
After five years as an assistant coach, Yates took over when Gene Bartow left last spring for Illinois. He quickly signed up a flock of players who jump so high that they need clearance to land. The group includes junior college transfers Marion (Elevator) Hillard, David Brown and John Tunstall, plus widely-sought freshman John Gunn. The newcomers join the nucleus of last year's team that played like a band of squabbling gypsies on the road and lost nine times away from home. Still, the Tigers were good enough at home for a 19-11 record and a trip to the NIT.
Point Guard Bill Laurie is one of three key players missing from that club. He likely will be replaced by flashy Dexter Reed, a star as a freshman when he led MSU in scoring; he is so good that he still should get plenty of points even while filling the role of playmaker.
The Tigers expect even better things from 6'5" Bill Cook, a sure all-star pick in the Weight Watchers league. Cook puffed to 215 pounds last year, was hampered by injuries and still averaged 16 points. This season his weight is down 30 pounds after two months on a simple diet: he ate practically nothing. "It was amazing, I thought I was going to starve," he says.
Memphis State has a host of fierce rebounders. Hillard and Gunn, both 6'9", seem to have the inside track on the double post positions, although 6'10" letterman John Washington might disagree. "Gunn dominates practice," Yates says. "And he picks on the seniors."
The Tigers lacked cohesion last year and the rate at which they conserved energy on defense made them a model for these days of shortage. Ensuring that everyone hustles this season will be Yates' toughest task.
All of MSU's home games last year, including the two losses, were played before vociferous sellout crowds. This year's record should be even better, since the schedule is as soft as a senior citizen's diet. Memphis State plays 18 games in the Mid-South Coliseum, and some of the opponents are Montclair State, Wisconsin at Green Bay and Missouri at St. Louis. Even the most rabid MSU fans should have heard enough sweet sounds to be ready to go home by halftime.
The real test will come during the postseason tournament. If Yates can convince his players to hold out their hands on defense instead of on offense, the Tigers could be a jazzy band. Otherwise, they'll be playing the blues.