Scoop! TAB BLACK MAN HAWKEYE MENTOR.
Who? George Raveling, ex-Washington State coach and sometime scribe.
What? Replaces Lute Olson, for nine years the revered head of hoops at Iowa.
When? Last April, after Olson stunned all by bolting for Arizona.
Where? The Hawkeye State, home to fans who phone players at 2 a.m. just to find out what the coach said in the timeout huddle.
Raveling never covered that story in his syndicated newspaper column. Others chronicled the range of emotions Iowans felt when Olson walked out on them with six years left on his contract: feelings of shock giving way to a sense of betrayal, then anger.
To be sure, Raveling has received a gracious welcome around the state, and Iowans love hearing his funny lines. But devotion to Olson, the man who took the Hawkeyes to the Final Four in 1980, was total. If To Tell the Truth had been taped in Ottumwa and God were on hand to stump the panel, Olson and Iowa Football Coach Hayden Fry might have been tapped to fidget in their chairs and feign rising. "Lute was kind of magical," says Jim Rosborough, who was Olson's top assistant. "Raveling got a great reception when he came here, but I think a lot of it was anti-Lute backlash, sort of 'How could our white knight do this?' Lute had been a totally permeating thing. He was larger than life." Lapel buttons in Iowa are like wall posters in Peking, and within a few days they went from LUTE LUTE LUTE to LOOT LOOT LOOT to LET GEORGE DO IT.
Thus far, doing it hasn't been easy. Despite the fact that the nucleus of the team that went 21-10 and reached the Sweet 16 last spring was back, including Twin Towers 6'11" Michael Payne and 6'10" Greg Stokes, the Hawkeyes were 3-2 at week's end. Two road defeats—a 79-58 wilting in the heat of Louisville's indomitable press, and a 53-48 loss in Corvallis to Oregon State and another former Iowa coach, Ralph Miller—dropped Iowa to the bottom spot in SI's Top 20. "I've said from Day One we shouldn't be ranked this early in the season," Raveling said after losing to the Beavers. "But no one listens to me."
Obviously, Raveling realized that the new offense and multiple defenses he brought to Iowa would take some getting used to. He has shuffled players around, moving senior Steve Carfino from point guard to "off" guard and letting sophomore Andre Banks run the attack. As a result, the team has occasionally looked disoriented. At one point against Louisville, Raveling yelled instructions to Carfino, who turned to listen—just as an in-bounds pass whizzed by his head and out of bounds.
But it's Raveling's informal manner that presents the sharpest contrast to his predecessor—and will be most likely to draw criticism. "I don't believe you have to have a military setting to win," he says. "The best discipline is self-discipline." He kept a promise not to look at film from last season, so as to give each player a fresh start. Every member of the team was required to come in for at least an hour-long one-on-one session, in which Raveling drew them out about their goals, in basketball and in life. Everyone periodically fills out a "How'm I doing?" questionnaire evaluating the coach and the program. Raveling even symbolically takes a seat in the middle of the bench during games.