It's not supposed
to be easy to follow a coaching legend. Just ask Gene Bartow, who replaced UCLA
Basketball Coach John Wooden, or Earle Bruce, who succeeded Ohio State Football
Coach Woody Hayes. But Jeff Sauer doesn't seem to understand that. By guiding
Wisconsin to a 6-2 win Saturday over Harvard for the NCAA title in Grand Forks,
N. Dak., he made stepping in for a legendary hockey coach, Badger Bob Johnson,
look like a snap.
now completing his first season at the helm of the Calgary Flames, won three
national titles in 15 seasons at Wisconsin. And he left behind a goodly portion
of the Badgers' 1981-82 squad, which went 35-11-1 and finished second in the
NCAAs. In sum, he bequeathed some of the best players, tradition and fans in
Sauer, who was a
Wisconsin assistant under Johnson from 1968 to 1971 before becoming head coach
at Colorado College, where from 1966 to 1968 he had also been a Johnson
assistant, quickly established his own identity at Wisconsin.
haven't worn a red jacket to a game," he says, alluding to one of Johnson's
sartorial trademarks. "And when Bob suggested I buy his house when I moved
to Madison, I said no. I felt the necessity of being myself."
By Feb. 4, Sauer
was probably wishing he were someone else. Before their game with
Minnesota-Duluth, the Badgers were 21-8-3, and fourth in the six-team Western
College Hockey Association, which they led only in penalties.
"We lost 6-3,
took 17 penalties and were an embarrassment," Sauer says. "After the
game I told them, 'O.K., we won the title for most penalties. Now let's knock
off the chippy stuff and try to be first in the standings.' "
sentiments were echoed by Assistant Coach Grant Standbrook, who wrote a poem
for the team entitled The Exhortation, which reads in part:
The March NCAA
banquet honors only elite.
We can be there; we can win it all
And have poignant memories which will withstand each fall.
We've got what it takes to be second to none.
Fans only remember a team that has won.
and Standbrook's exhortations, a suddenly well-disciplined Badger team won four
of its final five regular-season games and then the WCHA playoffs, by beating
North Dakota 6-5 in triple overtime in the semifinals and Minnesota in the
two-game final. The championship gave Wisconsin a berth in the national NCAA
tournament, where it was joined by the conference's regular-season winner,
Harvard Coach Bill Cleary had guided a quintessential Cleary-coached
team—small, skilled and blazingly fast—to victory in the ECAC playoffs, in the
process beating an explosive and more physically imposing club from