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From then on the two exchanged quips and gifts like Mr. and Mrs. Hart—flowers, candy, a dictionary, clacking plastic teeth and, on gold medal night, champagne and a stuffed puppy. The writers sat back on their, uh, duffs and ate it up, some humming the theme from the French film A Man and A Woman whenever the two shared the podium.
If Knight, as is his wont, overshadowed the play and all his players, including the spectacular Jordan, he couldn't diminish the vibrant glow of the one outstanding individual basketball star of these Olympics, Cheryl Miller. Though the 6'3" Miller is from just across the freeways in Riverside and attends Southern Cal, she approaches the game from an entirely different place: planet show biz. To put it mildly, this chick can dance. She's cast in the image of Michael all right, but more Jackson than Jordan, and she alone lit up the Forum on those rare occasions when the spectators put aside their Old Glories to watch the action.
The American women could boast of Janice Lawrence's inside work—Lawrence was rumored to be carrying on a Village romance with one of Knight's guys whose identity will go unrevealed here. Also, there was Lynette Woodard's defense and selflessness and Kim Mulkey's sassy braids and breakaways. But Miller led her team in points per game (16.5), total rebounds (42), free throws (25), assists (25), steals (19) and shimmies. By the time the U.S. reached the final—another rematch, against South Korea—she had commanded the court as no other woman ever had, and all that remained was to guess who of the enemy's triple-names might stop her: Park Chan-Sook, Lee Mi-Ja or Kim Hwa-Soon—as in hwa soon will this 85-55 embarrassment end? Miller had 16 points, 11 rebounds, five assists and two steals in 23 minutes, a performance that nearly transcended the event and placed her in the Lewis-Louganis league of domination in her sport.
Obviously, the American men had their division dominated even before it started; one shudders to envision the carnage had Knight bothered to fire the majority of his weapons. Jordan (17.1 ppg) was unleashed for only brief spasms; Patrick Ewing was subdued throughout, possibly because of his excess of pine time; Chris Mullin and Alvin Robertson were never allowed enough minutes to go on their characteristic shooting and stealing streaks; and Tisdale, who'll score, oh, maybe 12 zillion points once he gets to the pros, became a robot pick-and-screener. We're talking future immortals here, but to the boss they were mere spokes in a wheel. Knight did single out as the "most cognizant" Olympian, the wondrously steady Sam Perkins.
That is precisely what Knight had contrived for the entire Games. Before Friday's final, Spain's coach, Antonio Diaz-Miguel, who spends a week every winter studying under the master at Indiana, asked "my good friend, Bob, if he want my whole team in trade for Pat Ewing and Michael Jordan. He no want."
Maybe that would have made it a game. As it was, the Americans rolled to a 52-29 halftime lead and then to 77-44 with 11 minutes to go. Then Juan Antonio (Syllables) San Epifanio, the best foreign player in the field, fouled out with only two baskets. Even as the champs romped home 96-65, Knight verbally ripped into his pet flunkies, Leon Wood and Tisdale. "Fussin' at us right to the end," Tisdale said.
But when it was over the players, all of them, Wood and Tisdale too, draped the net around Knight's neck and carried him off on their shoulders. And as he was swept through the singing, flag-waving masses. Knight looked up and waved and for just an instant his eyes brimmed with tears. Overkill or not, Soviets or no, boredom be damned—he had won the Olympics the only way he knew how. It sure looked worth the effort now.