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Darkness was rapidly closing in on the Los Angeles suburb of Palos Verdes, and at 2901 Covecrest two old friends took a last look at the ocean and then carried their drinks into the dinette to discuss business. The host was Los Angeles Laker General Manager Fred Schaus, and his guest was George King, the Purdue basketball coach and athletic director. You can guess the business. The pair had just returned from the 1972 NCAA finals at the Sports Arena, and as they sat down King surprised Schaus with a job offer.
"Have you ever thought about getting back into college coaching?" King said. "And would you be interested in coming to Purdue? I can't do justice to both my jobs." Schaus was interested but unwilling to make a commitment until after the NBA playoffs.
"That was the 33-in-a-row Laker team," said Schaus recently, fingering his NBA championship ring. "When we beat the Knicks, it made the Purdue decision easier. The Lakers will always be "my team,' but my contract had just run out and everything fell into place at Purdue. I love L.A., but it is a rat race these days and our new home here is probably a little nicer than the one we left behind. George King lives practically next door, Ross-Ade Stadium is across the street and my office is only 880 yards away. You better believe I let my good friends out on the freeways hear about that!"
Purdue people do not seem to mind that their coach goes around referring to another team with the personal pronoun "we"; the constant reminders that Schaus was associated with a big winner in the pros only enhances his image among Boilermaker fans. And the NIT championship his team brought back to Indiana last spring boosted Schaus' stock even higher on a football-oriented campus that has had nothing to cheer about except basketball since the 1968-69 season. That was also Purdue's most recent NCAA tournament year, but surely not its last. Schaus' present team seems certain to get a bid.
The Big Ten's revised 18-game round-robin eliminates schedule inequities that hurt Purdue last year, such as playing league-favorite Indiana only once—on the road. And the NCAA's expanded, 32-team tournament allows more than one school per conference to compete. That means the Boilermakers need not win the Big Ten to reach the NCAAs, but they just might do it anyhow.
Purdue's starters would not beat a lot of teams five-on-five, but Schaus' first eight or nine are a tenacious lot who play sticky defense. The only constants in the lineup are 6'11" senior Center John Garrett, a 60% shooter who should increase his 21-point scoring average considerably this year, and 6'2" Bruce Parkinson, a finely polished quarterback with the knack for delivering the ball to the right man at the right time.
Schaus has a flock of talented forwards to help Garrett rebound and two of them—look-alike freshmen Wayne Walls and Walter Jordan—are dangerous at both ends of the floor. If freshman Guard Eugene Parker can crack the starting lineup by the time the Big Ten season opens, the Boilermakers will be much tougher, and Schaus may even begin addressing them as "we."
10 SOUTHERN CAL.
A few years ago Bob Boyd could have had the Portland Trailblazers' coaching job for the asking. This season he could have moved to Duke. Instead, Boyd signed with Southern Cal for another five years, figuring if he was going to beat his head against a wall, it might as well be a Wooden one. Either Boyd is a blockhead or he's onto something.
What the 6'6" coach knows is that last year USC won 24 games, came within one horrible half of upsetting UCLA for the Pacific Eight title and another bewildering half from winning the Conference Commissioners runner-up bowl. He knows that this year's Trojans have 10 men from that team plus some outstanding freshmen. And he knows—or he thinks he knows—that this is the year the Bruins can be had. "Washington could do it," he says. "Oregon, Oregon State or us. I like us."