Henry Bibby felt pretty confident recently when he made a recruiting visit to the Hacienda Heights, Calif. home of Mike Smith, a basketball star at Los Altos High. Bibby had come to sell Smith and his parents on the merits of attending Arizona State, where Bibby is an assistant coach. And there on Mike's bedroom ceiling was Bibby, ol' Henry himself, in action as a Philadelphia 76er.
"He had this collage up there, and several of the pictures were of the Sixers," says Bibby. "He said he really liked us." Included among the photos was one of Doug Collins, Bibby's former 76er teammate and now a fellow assistant at Arizona State. Sound like Smith was a lock for the Sun Devils? Sorry. Smith eventually signed with Brigham Young.
"Your name might get you in the door," says Collins, "but it won't help you beyond that. Kids today feel like, 'O.K., you could do it as a player, but what about now?' "
Yes, what about now? Are Bibby and Collins working assistants or merely big-name recruiters? And what about the Sun Devils' third former NBA star, Garfield Heard, who's an unpaid volunteer assistant? Is first-year Arizona State Coach Bob Weinhauer running a college team or an NBA wax museum? Other former pros have entered collegiate coaching, of course, but never have three so well-established stars landed on one team.
It took quite a series of coincidences to put all those star-studded fannies on Weinhauer's bench. Weinhauer was hired in April to replace Ned Wulk, who had been the Sun Devils' coach since Arizona was a territory. Collins had worked as Weinhauer's unpaid volunteer assistant at Penn last season. Bibby was living in the Phoenix area and looking for a better opportunity than the Continental Basketball Association, in which he had been an assistant for the Lancaster (Pa.) Lightning in 1981-82. And Heard, a resident of Phoenix since having been traded to the Suns in 1976, was looking to stay in basketball while keeping some time free to run a business. Voil�!
So far this production of The NBA Goes to College seems to be a hit. Arizona State, 4-1 at the end of last week, had lost only to DePaul, in a 73-72 OT heart-breaker on the road. The Sun Devils have shown an intensity that wasn't always there under Wulk, who sent 16 players to the NBA—seven are still active—but never reached the Final Four in his 25 years at the helm.
Collins and Bibby are both playing the role of novice coach, erasing blackboards, arranging the exchange of game films with other schools, making zillions of phone calls to prospects and taking recruiting trips to places where the only franchises in town have golden arches.
Collins came to last week's 83-66 win over Northern Arizona with his bags packed. His scouting-recruiting itinerary for the ensuing 10 days looked like this: Ringling, Okla.; Detroit; Grand Rapids; Columbus, Ohio; back to Phoenix for two days; Boston and Burlington, Vt. Weinhauer will try to use Collins' name to advantage in the Midwest (he played at Illinois State) and in the East, because of the 76er connection. Bibby will recruit in the West, where his fame endures from his days at UCLA. According to NCAA rules, which permit only two assistants to hit the road, Heard isn't allowed to go on recruiting trips, but he often looks out for talent at high school games in the Phoenix area. This works out well for Arizona State, too, because Heard played for the Suns for 4� years and is still a popular figure in the town, where he owns Gar Heard's Video Arcade.
"I swear, the people around here still think he aimed that damn shot," says Weinhauer, of Heard's famous 18-foot buzzer-beater that forced a third overtime in the fifth game of the Suns' 1976 NBA championship series against the Celtics.
Heard laughs softly, which is all he can do in the company of his colleagues, who hurl a constant stream of insults at each other, some of them printable. Favorite subjects include Weinhauer's bald spot, height (he's 5'9�") and age (he's all of 43, but both Collins, 31, and Bibby, 33, refer to him as "your dad"); Bibby's height (he has always been listed as being 6'1" but Weinhauer swears Bibby is barely 6 feet) and scouting reports ("My secretary usually has to write them over," says Weinhauer); and Collins' nonchalance ("He likes to pretend that nothing bothers him, but he's more sensitive than any one of us," says Weinhauer).