Nothing has changed in the 10 year since the Bear won his NCAA championship. Don Haskins of the University of Texas at El Paso is still sinking putts, billiard balls and free throws to the consternation of all challengers. And when he is not doing those things, Haskins spends his time outcoaching everybody in the desert.
As usual, this year's Miners probably will not shoot 50% or score 90 points in any game, but they will play the kind of defense that rival Coach Abe Lemons once described as "biting the numbers off your uniform." In the process they will win a bunch of games (19 victories is an average Haskins season) and challenge for the WAC championship.
With only one shooter in double figures, UTEP last season scored just 64.2 points per game, finished 20-6 and led the nation in defense (57.3) for the third straight year. Those last two figures are most impressive, and nearly all of the players who helped compile them are back—notably, John Saffle, Charles Draper, Jack Poole and Gary Brewster.
"We're a good 6'5" team," Haskins says. "We can't pitch the ball up and go chase the rebounds, so we'll control the tempo, like always."
The reluctant star of this modest bunch is Brewster, a 6'8" senior who last season led the team in scoring (15.4) and rebounding (8.3). "When I lose him, I'm gonna lose my heart," Haskins says. "He's the best defender in the country. He doesn't look pretty, but when Gary's on somebody, they don't get nothing."
Because of shyness Brewster is about as tough to talk to as he is to score against. Haskins says that when he recruited Gary, he would no sooner walk in the front door than Brewster would run out the back. "Now that I've got him, I can make him turn around and face me," says Haskins. "But he still doesn't like meeting strangers. When I told him he'd have to learn to talk more after he became a pro, he said, 'Well, I just won't play pro ball.' "
Brewster may be stubborn enough not to. He cares not at all for individual awards. As a high school senior he ducked the Athlete of the Year banquet thrown in his honor. On another occasion he refused to accept a paycheck from an employer because he did not feel he had earned it.
Players like Brewster are rare, and so are teams like Texas-El Paso.
19 BOSTON COLLEGE