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The DeBacle At DePaul
Curry Kirkpatrick
December 10, 1984
Judging from an 80-61 loss to the Blue Demons, UCLA, with another new coach, is headed for disaster
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December 10, 1984

The Debacle At Depaul

Judging from an 80-61 loss to the Blue Demons, UCLA, with another new coach, is headed for disaster

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In college basketball's annual Biblical matchup of the Father and Son against the spiritual descendant of the Holy Ghost, it is always necessary to remember the numbers. And not just those that add up to a Trinity. DePaul beat the living bejesus out of UCLA, 80-61 last Saturday at the Horizon in Rosemont, Ill. not merely because old Blue Demon coach Ray Meyer was at courtside in his radio commentator's headset, monitoring new Blue Demon coach Joey Meyer's work, while old UCLA coach John Wooden was back home in Encino, leaving the latest in his long line of successors, new UCLA coach Walt Hazzard, to fend for himself. No. The bloodletting revealed the stark reality that while DePaul has a roster full of the runningest, jumpingest athletes this side of TAC, at UCLA the cupboard is finally bare.

As Dallas Comegys (19 points and four blocks) and Marty Embry (13 points and 11 rebounds) brutalized the fragile Bruins, it was clear which of the new men in two of the sport's most publicized and pressurized coaching jobs would have the easier time this season. The horn-rimmed young (35) Joey inherited enough personnel and common sense from Ray that he has made only a few changes in the DePaul program—a weight coach, videotaping of practices, earlier curfews. In addition, Meyer fils instituted the Comegys rule: All shoelaces must be tied by the time practice starts. Obviously, no more Pal Joey.

On Saturday, DePaul played down to UCLA's suddenly pitiful level early as the teams missed a combined 21 of their first 29 shots. But as events proved, the Blue Demons can still count on co-captains Tyrone Corbin and Kenny Patterson, (who between them had 25 points and 10 assists) a punishing front line, speed, depth, tenacity and tradition. UCLA, sadly, has nothing left but tradition.

It was impossible not to reflect on UCLA's past and wonder how things could have come to this sorry pass. Where once trod the glorious likes of Lew Alcindor, Bill Walton, Marques Johnson and even Bill Sweek, now floundered a guard named Montel Hatcher, who shot 1 for 10; a 173-pound forward named Reggie Miller, who plays second fiddle to his sister (USC's Olympian, Cheryl) and snatched two rebounds in 33 minutes; and a reserve named Chun-Hai (Tony) Wang, who received a huge ovation, possibly because he refrained from using his martial arts expertise on DePaul.

"We just don't have anybody who'll get in there and rock-'n'-roll," Hazzard said, perhaps explaining why he had inserted Bill Haley into the lineup. Who? Oh, Jack Haley. So UCLA really had come to this. The 6'10" Haley, not the original Tin Man, either, but the son of a 1959 U.S. surfing champion, is a kid who never even played high school ball. But the thing was, Jack Haley fought harder and played better than the Bruins' starting center, senior Brad (Not All) Wright, who semiterrorized DePaul with two points and three rebounds.

"I take personal responsibility for this loss," said Wright. "But we'll see DePaul later in the playoffs." Well, the Demons' Embry is an esteemed chef whose specialty is cookies. Maybe Wright meant the bake-offs.

"Sissies," Hazzard called his players at halftime, when they trailed 36-21. "I knew we were walking into Hell." Only UCLA point guard Nigel Miguel (nine baskets) acquitted himself nobly. A mini-rally from a 68-43 deficit kept UCLA from suffering its worst defeat since Wooden's earliest years. As it was, only Indiana (84-64 in 1975) and Brigham Young (78-55) in the '81 NCAAs have beaten the Bruins more savagely than DePaul, post-Wooden. Those games were Gene Bartow's first and Larry Brown's last as UCLA coach.

And things should get worse in these Hazzardous times. Four of the Bruins' next five games are against Memphis State, Brigham Young and St. John's on the road and Oral Roberts at home. "A death march," says Hazzard. By then UCLA may be beyond healing, even by Oral himself. Bottom line, which is where the Bruins may turn up in your local agate: UCLA is staring at a 2-6 start and a losing season for the first time in 37 years.

Hazzard might find solace in history. Wooden's first Bruin team in 1948-49 started out only 7-4 before finishing with a 22-7 record and a share of the conference championship. Hazzard's first UCLA team as a player, in 1961-62, lost five of its first seven games, only to wind up 18-11 and playing in the NCAA Final Four. Of course, in '48-49 the Bruins scheduled teams such as 20th Century-Fox (starring Tyrone as the original Power forward?). " Coach Wooden played all these cupcakes," says Hazzard's assistant coach, Jack Hirsch, who was also Hazzards' co-captain on Wooden's first national championship team in 1963-64. "We haven't got the bodies to play this schedule. You think the Wizard could win with this stuff?"

It is all well and good that Wooden's previous successors—Bartow, Gary Cunningham, Brown and Larry Farmer—won conference titles and turned out quality players and went to NCAA tournaments. But they, along with higher-ups in the Bruins' athletic department, must share the blame for the lack of continuity, the soiled image. The legacy of these four horsemen is apocalypse now. Farmer's first team at UCLA in 1981-82 included eight players who began this season on NBA rosters. Now the Bruin lineup is populated by future M.B.A.s. However, UCLA's enemies are advised to get in their licks while they may. Hazzard is one tough ornery dude—as all who battled him during his honored college days and 10-year pro career found out. In 1961 the Philadelphia native became Wooden's first name player from outside California. Three seasons later the Bruins went 30-0 and Hazzard was named NCAA Player of the Year. "I feel partly responsible for those," Hazzard says, gesturing at the 10 championship banners hanging in Pauley Pavilion. Now wearing his recognizable name like a badge on the sleeve of his UCLA blazer, Hazzard has quickly stepped up the Bruins' national recruiting. Already he has signed Jerome (Pooh) Richardson, the highly acclaimed Philly point guard, who will come to Westwood next year and be Hazzard's Hazzard.

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