The story here is supposed to be DePaul's transition from coach Ray Meyer, retired after 42 years and 724 wins, to Joey Meyer, 35, for 11 years his father's top assistant.
But that isn't the story.
"Oh, Joey is very quiet, and I was very loud," says Ray, who now watches Blue Demon workouts from the balcony of Alumni Hall. "Maybe they'll be happy to have some quiet practices." Matters of temperament aside, the key fact is that Joey has spent his entire life in the shadow of the Fullerton Street El station. The changes he's making in DePaul's game—more passing, a more aggressive man-to-man defense—are mostly refinements of Ray's system. Says Joey, "I get nervous about pointing out the new things because it looks like I'm saying that my way's better. But I really don't think the outside world will notice much difference."
With four starters and eight of the top nine scorers back from last year's 27-3 team, the Blue Demons would have to come out in funny noses and glasses to look much different. Senior co-captain Tyrone Corbin, who was MVP of six nationally televised games last year, is one of the country's best small forwards, while co-captain and point guard Kenny Patterson will be only the third DePaul player—George Mikan and Dave Corzine were the others—to start for four seasons. Junior center Marty Embry, known as the Galloping Gourmet for his culinary skills, provides the muscle at center, with 6'11" Lemone Lampley in the wings as a shot blocker and scorer. Kevin Holmes, another strongman, averaged 10.1 points and 5.4 rebounds last year at strong forward. Predicts Ray, "There will be a different high scorer every night."
That is, unless 6'9" sophomore Dallas Comegys is high man every night. Comegys (COMMA-geez), he of the 42-inch sleeves, didn't start a game as a freshman, but he was DePaul's second-leading scorer and rebounder and set a school record with 79 blocked shots. He also set records for upset stomachs, listless practices and falling asleep at inappropriate times. CBS-TV commentator Billy Packer, watching Comegys practice before a game against Louisville, told Ray he should award the freshman a gold brick. Packer took it back on game day when Comegys blocked six shots, smashed rebounds back through the hoop, displayed an unstoppable baseline jumper and scored 17 points.
But there were many times when Comegys lay gasping on the gym floor after workouts, nights when, as Ray says, "He should have paid his way in." The problem, first diagnosed as a lack of intestinal fortitude, turned out to be intestinal, period. Comegys suffers from Irritable Colon Syndrome, a stress-induced digestive ailment characterized by nausea and cramps. It's now presumably been brought under control by, among other things, a special high-fiber diet. Comegys, though, may still come off the bench this year.
The indispensable Blue Demon, then, is not the electrifying Comegys, but Patterson, the explosively quick point guard. "He's the best ball handler I've seen," junior guard Tony Jackson says of Patterson. "I think he compares favorably with Isiah Thomas." Patterson is also durable; he has started 85 straight games and last year went 40 minutes 10 times. If Patterson is the irreplaceable man, Jackson is the player who must replace departed shooting guard Jerry McMillan. But Jackson isn't without experience; as a sophomore he averaged 8.5 points a game.
DePaul bills itself as America's Winningest Team (180-30 over the last seven years), but the Blue Demons are unlikely to match last season's record, not with road games against Georgetown, Notre Dame, Louisville and St. John's. "Those are some hostile places," admits Joey. On the other hand, those are also the games in which he expects Comegys to play his best. "You know he's going to be productive in the national TV games," Joey says with a smile. Adds Patterson, "He's all high fives and hyped up." For DePaul, the link between high fiber and high fives may prove decisive.