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Hey, Ma, come see this. Nostalgia Theatre is on again. It's your old sentimental-journey favorite, the Coach, Ray Meyer. Here he comes one more time, with another enigmatic DePaul team. Same kind of bunch, chopping up the celebrity teams, barely escaping the puffballs. Beat St. Mary's, whoever she is, by two. And look at this. The old man's running out UCLA. Typical Blue Demons. Hold it! Is that a lavender shirt and white sports coat Coach has on? Does Coach look skinny to you, Ma? Who does he think he is, Richard Gere? Old Ray looks like he's been studying up on his GQs or sleeping in a cholesterol-deprivation tank or something. Must want to look good at the retirement party. And who are these players? Corbin? Patterson? Dallas Comegys? Who's he—America's Center? Yuk, yuk. Where's George Mikan? Where's Mark Aguirre? Wait a minute! If old Ray says this team, his last team—his very last team, for sure, promise—might be the most cohesive, unselfish, quickest and best team he's ever had, and they're undefeated and ranked No. 2 in the polls, and he's worried again about all the attention and the pressure, how come nobody ever heard of any of these guys? This is amazing, Ma.
Not really. If a 70-year-old man can ride his stationary bike half an hour each day, cut out between-meal snacks and lose 41 pounds inside of four months, he surely can teach a basketball team with no stars to win 16 games in a row. If this ancient mariner is ancient enough to predate television time-outs and magazine polls—not to mention television and magazines—he should be allowed to moan and groan about a No. 2 ranking. And if the same vibrant fellow can remain the same vibrant coach at the same school for 42 years, he sure ought to know how to lead his team into hostile territory, beat the stuffing out of the opposition and flat embarrass them in front of their loved ones, and lovely Veronica Hamel as well, and then turn on the gap-toothed charm and be as gracious as can be.
That is approximately what grand old Ray Meyer and his brand-new DePaul Blue Demons did to none other than UCLA last Saturday afternoon, as they came roaring out of anonymity to hand the Bruins their second-worst defeat ever in Pauley Pavilion, 84-68. "This is a fine UCLA team. The Bruins are in Pac-10 play now, and the game probably didn't mean as much to them," Meyer had the nerve to say. Uhhuh. In your fifth coaching decade, Ray, and you're still trying to con the public.
No amount of Meyer solicitousness could lessen the harshness of the reality DePaul exposed in L.A.: UCLA is now a mediocre team in a mediocre league and a mere skeleton of aggression past. Led by no-hustle forward Kenny Fields, who missed 10 of 15 field-goal attempts, gazed on oodles of loose balls and somehow gathered in all of two rebounds, the Bruins played as if they'd invented the fashionable sports disease, burnout.
Moreover, after the devastation, in which the Blue Demons outmuscled and outquicked their once-proud rivals and shot 60% from the floor while seldom being guarded, Meyer can no longer conceal the myriad skills of Kenny Patterson, DePaul's New York-bred, maturing junior point guard who scored 14 points, passed off for eight other baskets and consistently penetrated the UCLA defense to get the ball inside to forwards Tyrone Corbin and Kevin Holmes—two more previously hidden talents—who combined for 14 baskets and 13 rebounds. UCLA can be forgiven for overlooking co-captain Corbin, solid, smart, oh-so-precise and elegant in his movements. He was, says Meyer, "an afterthought" recruit out of Columbia, S.C. and unexpectedly has turned out to be an indispensable team leader in points, rebounds and class. But in the other corner the Bruins might have recognized Holmes, an Angeleno, as a bouncer who worked the rock concerts at the Forum in L.A. last summer: The Police et al. That is, they might have recognized him if he'd stopped bouncing all over UCLA's Gary Maloncon for easy buckets long enough for the Bruins to get a good look at him. Holmes was the King of Pain to UCLA, scoring 17 points, nearly twice his average.
And it was another Californian, San Francisco's Tony Jackson, who came out of a slump and off the bench to ignite De-Paul's 17-6 surge midway through the second half. Two Jackson climbing-and-gliding-in-air baskets helped turn a 50-46 contest into a 67-52 rout and moved his fiancée, Allison McCovey (daughter of Willie), to take an exuberant seventh-inning stretch.
"We can't keep winning without help from Jackson," Meyer had said earlier of the graceful 6'5" swingman who had lost his starting position to co-captain Jerry McMillan and had scored only 25 points in DePaul's last five games. Jackson had 11 Saturday and didn't miss a shot.
"We were four-point underdogs," Holmes said. "Can you imagine that? Number Two and they had us underdogs."
Remember, too, DePaul did all this without much help from its future bellwether, the freshman Comegys (COMMA-geez), who was named for one city, grew up in another (Philadelphia), matriculated in a third (Chicago) and has now bombed in a fourth (L.A.: five points, four rebounds). Meyer will typically bring on the 6'9" Comegys, usually a deadly shooter and shot-blocker, after starting center Marty Embry has dismembered the opposition with his musculature. Amid some of his already legendary sleepathons, Comegys found time to collect 27 points and 19 rebounds in DePaul's previous two most impressive victories, 63-61 over Georgetown and 98-63 over Alabama-Birmingham. In the midst of the Demons' 15-point comeback against the Hoyas, Patrick Ewing rejected one of Comegys' shots and then sent some verbal trash his way. On the next play Comegys drilled a turnaround jumper in Ewing's face. Reverse news-break: DALLAS FINALLY NAILS EWING. "We knew we had a player right then," says DePaul assistant coach Joey Meyer.
DePaul's ferocity last Saturday may have emanated in part from the Demons' feeling they weren't getting a whole lot of respect—the UCLA announcer introduced them as "the Blue Devils," and the fans in Pauley shouted "High school!" at the DePaul cheerleaders. Perhaps the Bruins are now, as one DePaul man put it, "too California cool" to back up such taunts, much less the great UCLA tradition, with hard play. Surely the Demons were aided by a brilliant and decisive scouting report by Meyer fils, who refers to himself as "the error apparent," which means he's the next coach. More important, DePaul was motivated to extend its streak by a desire to give its wizened mentor a memorable last hurrah.