Things were different under Olson, who distanced himself from his players and tried using the media to motivate them. "Sometimes I'd pick up the paper and read ' Stokes isn't intense enough' and crawl into my shell," says Stokes, who leads the team with 15.0 points and 10.6 rebounds a game. " Coach Raveling lets you know when you're not doing well, too—but in practice. I like that."
Still, something about Olson's style galvanized the state. "The image he portrayed wasn't a portrayal," says Rosborough. "That's the way he was." Raveling himself has called Olson "so square, if he received an invitation to a pot party, he'd bring Tupperware." And: "Lute's an ail-American type, the kind of guy everyone wants to move next door. When I move in, FOR SALE signs start going up around the neighborhood."
To Raveling, race isn't a grave issue. He's as amused as anyone that a Des Moines Register editorial hailing his hiring inadvertently ran just above a filler item about a watermelon theft. "One of the most important things to learn is the ability to laugh at yourself and not take life too seriously," he says. "Thus far people in Iowa have accepted me strictly as a person." When he heard that 7-foot backup Center Brad Lohaus, an Arizonan, was considering following Olson to Tucson—and that Lohaus had heard scuttlebutt that the new coach might favor Payne and Stokes for racial reasons—Raveling stepped in and sold him on staying. "I spent a summer of misery trying to make up my mind," says Lohaus, called Q-Tip since having his blond hair permed. "But his reputation with big men swayed me."
Raveling has written two books on rebounding and was quite a player himself. Sent from his home in Washington, D.C. to a Catholic boarding school near Scranton, Pa. after his father died and his mother suffered a nervous breakdown, he earned a scholarship to Villanova and All-America honors there in 1960 as a 6'5" forward. A short time later he joined Villanova Coach Jack Kraft as an assistant, setting up the "Underground Railroad" that brought black stars like Howard Porter, Johnny Jones and Sammy Sims to Villanova from the Deep South.
He read a lot of newspapers to keep up on high school prospects, and he still gets up at 5:30 each morning to plow through some of the 150 publications he subscribes to. "Back then there were no sophisticated scouting services," he says. "I'd go to this out-of-town newsstand in Philly and sometimes meet with Coach either in Manhattan or Philadelphia, whichever was convenient. We'd go through the papers till 2 or 3 a.m." "Coach" was Indiana's Bobby Knight, a friend of Raveling's and then an assistant at Army. (Knight has chosen Raveling to be his assistant with next summer's Olympic team.)
By the early '70s Raveling had a nationwide reputation as a top recruiter and had joined Lefty Driesell at Maryland. There he conceived the notorious WE WANT YOU ad in The Washington Post, in which Uncle Sam appealed to the five high school All-Americas in the D.C. area to stay at home and play for the Terps. Only one of them did. But usually recruiting came easily for Raveling: It was social, and required salesmanship and street sense. "You establish who's making the decision and don't waste time with people on the periphery," he says. "Eight out of 10 times it's the mother." But the flip side—that he could charm but not coach—followed him when he took the Washington State job in 1973. He still thinks the recruiter tag is a backhanded compliment with racial implications. "I started to overcoach," he says, "just to prove to people that I could do the job."
Al McGuire calls Pullman the place where "elephants go to die." But during Raveling's 11 seasons there, he learned how to bring the home crowd to life by gesturing with his arms. He screened the movie Patton in the locker room before one game and dunked in the warmup line before another. He had run his record to 167-136 by last March and taken the Cougars to a surprise berth in the NCAA tournament, when Iowa Athletic Director Bump Elliott phoned him in Albuquerque. Olson had just walked out on a $57,500 salary, a summer camp, a TV show, a $200,000 home, an interest in an Iowa City bar and a brand-new $17.5 million arena built expressly to keep him from leaving. Did Raveling want the job?
He flew to Denver to meet with Elliott. "We agreed to agree," says Raveling. "But then, on the plane back to Albuquerque, I thought, something's wrong. If this job's so good, why would Lute leave it?"
He now has an idea. "Can you be you coaching here?" Raveling says. "Or do you have to be someone else? To survive you almost have to isolate yourself from people, and I can't do that. I'm a people person. Maybe I'll burn myself out."
Rosborough says Olson wanted to escape the expectations of a state in which better than 50% of the population watches games on TV and a person has to give $2,500 to the athletic department just to be eligible to buy a season ticket. Olson's wife, Bobbi, once called the program her husband created "a monster." Olson has said the press was unduly "negative." His parting radio call-in show, done long distance from Tucson, included a half-hour tirade against the Register.