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Hardy projects a complex image, but his bark may be worse than his bite. The San Francisco papers regularly use a dour picture of him that belongs on a Most Wanted flyer. Considering his 6'9" size and his nickname, the bravest people in town may be the burglars who broke into his apartment and stole a stereo and television set. He rarely smiles, yet cheers for the USF women's volleyball team in his role as its mascot. He dabbles in drama and art, had a 3.4 grade average last semester, is considering law school and says, "Any city is bad for you. I'd rather live in a treehouse in Alabama. Sometimes basketball injuries scare me. I could wind up playing Lieutenant Ironside."
Hardy is the equivalent of a child prodigy bored with the rudiments of education. Slowdown games, he says, "make me sick." As for guards, "I don't give them any respect." What gets his attention is the dunk, his spectacular speciality. One variation is the "squeak dunk," in which he rubs the ball against the glass backboard before slamming it home. He had six stuffs against Cal Poly-Pomona. "It makes you want to hold onto the rim, stay up there with your adrenaline flowing," he says. "You want to run, to jump. You can't wait until the next one."
Hardy has an affinity for the bizarre. In a high school scrimmage, one of his tip-ins was ruled an illegal dunk. A few plays later, with Gaillard sitting wide-eyed in the stands, he bulled his way to the basket, sprang high, double pumped and ferociously slammed the ball through the quivering basket. Then he yelled to the official, "That's a dunk." This year against Arizona State, he was undercut while driving to the basket. He went to the foul line to shoot and motioned the opponents lining the lane to come closer, then told them bitterly, "Don't any of you guys come down the middle." They didn't.
Most coaches wouldn't put up with that kind of mouthing, but as Gaillard says, "This is not a military site." USF has no curfew, does not look at films, practices loosely, disdains calisthenics and running drills, has no playbooks, uses less chalk than any team in the nation and fails to close the locker room door for postgame meetings. "They wouldn't pay attention anyway," says the coach. "They're worried about what they got going on the outside. All the guys who didn't play are mad, and the others are figuring out how I messed up."
"You never know what our guys are going to do," says Assistant Coach Gillman. They still quarrel among themselves, grouse when they are taken out, and hunch up at the far end of the bench, casting ominous looks. During halftime one night all the players except Redmond were gathered around a disgruntled teammate who said he had "heard voices" in the first half telling him not to shoot. Redmond just shook his head.
"Lots of young boys in here," he said. Gaillard, meanwhile, is worried about coaches who drill their players while making them carry bricks in each hand, wondering about the wisdom of allowing potentially dangerous weapons in the gym.
Many theories have been advanced as to why the Dons are so improved. Hardy may have summed it up best when he said, "We are we." That means talented. And last year Gaillard used a free substitution system—if no one was kneeling at the scorer's table, it must have been halftime. Now he has settled on a seven-man rotation.
But the major change is in Cartwright. He was a sensational high school player in the rural California community of Elk Grove, scoring 66 points in one game, but he was not strong enough for college and spent his first year doing "the hesitation step." During the summer he worked with weights and now is a different player. He leads the team in scoring, is second in rebounding, broke a school record (held by Gaillard) when he poured in 43 points against Florida State, is shooting .564 and is All-Nice. "I never claimed to be that good," Cartwright says.
For his part, Gaillard is All-Cool, an unconventional man who showed up for a recent writers' luncheon wearing jeans, sneakers and tennis sweater. His penchant for honesty leaves his tracks uncovered and bridges burning behind him. He has the gall to term the basic fan racially prejudiced, admits he got into coaching because of a sickly fear of "wearing wing tips in the financial district" and snorts that "recruiting is 80% of coaching. If a player makes a free throw, I'm smart. If not, does that make me stupid?"
Gaillard started what he calls "brainwashing" Cartwright as a sophomore in high school, making perhaps 100 trips to see him, speaking at Elk Grove school banquets and scheduling the school in preliminary games at USF. He gave Hardy advice on his girl friend, attended his sister's wedding and wound up helping to cook dinner in the family's Long Beach, Calif. home. Boynes is from Oklahoma City and was one of the nation's most recruited players. Gillman wore out a checkerboard playing games with Boynes' family, but it seemed that every time the prep star was about to sign with USF, Louisville Coach Denny Crum would show up and take him on a long automobile ride, leaving Gaillard with poised pen on the porch, talking to Boynes' mother. That was Crum's mistake. "We have recruited a lot of mothers at USF," says Gaillard. "We have an All-America mother team."