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At LSU, Scales was more than an enigma—monstrous dunk artist to disruptive force in record time. His changing moods and unsettling influence—"He didn't deliberately try to hurt us, but it turned out that way," Macklin says—so unnerved Brown that Scales might as well have been the male Sybil. Brown restructured all the team rules.
Brown vowed it would stop, which is probably why Scales had no choice but to go hardship. This year, free of the weight of Scales, Brown warned the team there would be no flexibility, saying, "If you don't perform, the guillotine comes down." Brown actually talks like this.
"We had to build a tradition here," says Brown, who is in the process of improving the LSU record for the sixth year in a row. "But now that's done. We're taking no more gambles, no academic risks, no personality problems."
The implications are obvious. LSU's reputation as black-hatted renegade—"For four years we were hated everywhere we went," says Assistant Coach and former player Jordy Hultberg—stems from a proliferation of characters whom, his enemies like to think, Brown recruited off post-office walls. These were bizarre citizens whose mere physical appearance seemed to make them notorious.
Brown's first "name" player at LSU was Kenny Higgs, an epileptic with a goatee and a permanently surly expression. "We'd rather have a leper here than an epileptic," a sweet Kentucky fan shouted at Higgs. Such things precede riots. The Tigers also employed nomads playing on their fourth college team, fellows with bald heads and no eyebrows, 'bow specialists (skilled in the elbow-to-the-chops move), an assistant coach who looked for all the world like Elvis Presley wailing in King Creole, and, of course, Scales, who was out of either Dallas or Uranus for all anybody could figure out.
Cook is very much a part of that tradition. A 6'9", 226-pounder from Roselle, N.J., Cook has been described as a "thug" in more ways than Sylvester Stallone ever dreamed imaginable. Authorities have exonerated him of accusations of fighting campus police and theft in the dormitory. "Where's your stripes, Cookieman?" the folks at Vanderbilt still scream. After Cook lit a fire in a dormitory wastebasket this season ("A silly prank by Cookie," Brown said), the coach drew the line. No more earrings. No more matching hat-and-sunglasses ensembles. No stereo boxes. And Cook was suspended before the team's season-opening trip to Alaska.
"People think if you wear an earring you're a gangster," says Cookieman. "I just like diamonds. It must be the way I look. I don't smile on the court. I mean I could be a gangster if I wanted and, you know, go out and take care of business. But I don't let it get me down. I just chill it."
That night—or was it day?—Brown's vision of another championship contender was considerably blurred when the Hogs oinked ahead by 18 points. So the coach risked all. He benched the seniors, played the kids and watched as LSU scrambled back to within three points. His assistants urged Brown to get Macklin and Ethan Martin, et al. back in to go for victory, but Brown refused. "God Almighty could have been by my side advising that," Brown says, "but they weren't going back."