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Practice in the decrepit barn of a gym has been going at a frenzied pace—adhesive man-to-man defense and bodies bumping violently under the backboards. Directing the fierce drills is a 56-year-old coach with graying hair and a small spare tire bulging under his sweat suit. He chides, he screams, he patiently explains techniques to the young men he calls "lads." Finally it is time for a rite of manhood, the coach's Take-the-Charge Drill. He steps into the key and stands there with his arms at his sides. One of his huskier lads dribbles full blast straight at him. Oof! Down he goes and back he slides four feet. The players explode in cheers, surround him, pull him to his feet, clap him on the back, practically smother him with affection. Then they take turns steamrolling each other.
George (Bud) Presley Jr. is in his eighth season as basketball coach at Menlo College, a small, private JC in swanky Atherton, Calif., a few miles north of Stanford University on El Camino Real. It has high entrance requirements and, unlike the 104 other California junior colleges, is expensive. Tuition and fees come to $3,810 a year, and there are no athletic scholarships.
Menlo's record in the four years before Presley arrived was 17-75. Presley's record in 7� seasons is 187-36. His teams have won one state Division II junior college championship and finished second three times. They've won five Coast Conference titles and ended up second twice. And in all likelihood they've won the national championship every year in taking charges. Points, assists and rebounds are not ignored at Menlo, but "charges taken" is the glory statistic. A few seasons ago a mild-mannered Chinese-American, Phillip Ching, drew 109 charging fouls in 25 games.
Presley travels all over the country speaking at clinics, mostly on motivation and man-to-man defense, and one of his favorite bits of theater is to invite someone in the audience to come up and flatten him with a charge. Unfortunately, he once pulled this stunt shortly after undergoing minor surgery to remove a skin cancer from his chest. The charge broke his stitches, and he finished the talk with blood all over his shirt.
Presley is fond of conducting private clinics while driving, sometimes using the car to demonstrate how to cut off an opponent at the baseline. He occasionally becomes so wrapped up in his discourse that he tries to enter a freeway via an off ramp. Nevada-Las Vegas Coach Jerry Tarkanian once spent a few days with Presley and his long-suffering wife Gloria. When it came time for Tarkanian to depart, Presley, talking basketball all the way, tried to drive him to the San Jose Airport, but ended up nine miles away in Milpitas. Tarkanian missed his plane. Perhaps because he is always busy pondering new ways to draw the charge, Presley gets lost even when he rides alone. "He can't find his way anywhere," says a friend. "He phones me and says, 'Damn it, kid, where am I? I'm out in a cornfield in Hayward.' He calls everybody kid. I say, 'How the hell did you get there?' 'Oh, I don't know. You must've given me the wrong directions.' "
The University of Portland's Jack Avina, formerly a Bay Area high school coach, recalls going home with Presley one day. "Bud couldn't find his house key," says Avina, "so he went around back where there were a number of trash barrels with a plank over them. He climbed up on the plank, opened a window and crawled in. He kept that plank there and his bed next to the window because he had to get in that way so often."
Presley stories are common wherever coaches gather in California, and none seems to be apocryphal. There's the one about how he so hates zone defenses that an ex-student assistant, five years into his own coaching career, refused to use a zone for fear Presley would find out. And the one about how, on a road trip, Presley sat up in his sleep at 3 a.m., screamed, "Defense, damn it! Defense!" and fell back on the pillow, leaving his startled assistant coach-roommate awake the rest of the night.
But tributes come just as thick and fast as accounts of his eccentricities:
?"He is a man with incredible enthusiasm, a man who has never lost his appetite for more knowledge about basketball. He is a great teacher."—Portland Trail Blazer executive Stu Inman.
?"There is no better coach anywhere in the country."—Penn State's head man, Dick Harter.