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That leaves the Irish to continue to toil in the Big East, a prospect that isn't entirely pleasing to all the members of the league. Certainly to some of them, notably the conference's six other Catholic schools, Notre Dame's four years in the league have meant increased ticket sales and the chance to rub shoulders—if not shoulder pads—with the nation's most celebrated Catholic institution. But other Big East members have learned that just because you buy a blue-chip stock doesn't mean you'll reap large dividends. The conference has had to pay out a share of its NCAA tournament earnings every year, while the Irish have brought almost nothing to the table in the key revenue sport of men's basketball. "Most people from the outside would say we got a bad deal," one top league executive says.
The Notre Dame men continue to flounder under coach John MacLeod, whose record in seven seasons at South Bend is 89-104, through last Saturday's 72-70 loss to Rutgers. The Irish were 23-43 in four seasons of Big East play and 0-3 in the conference tournament. The future, despite the rise of freshman forward Troy Murphy (18.2 points and 8.9 rebounds per game, until he sprained his left ankle on Jan. 14), isn't bright. Six players have transferred in the last three seasons, and last week two sophomores became academically ineligible. "In basketball, they haven't helped the league as many people thought they would," Boston College athletic director Gene DeFilippo says, "but the potential is there."
Boise State's Bomber
A year after Pacific center Michael Olowokandi made the jump from obscurity to the top pick in the NBA draft, another well-traveled Big West player is beckoning pro scouts westward. Having found a home at his fifth college in five years, Boise State's Roberto Bergersen, a 6'6" senior swingman, was the nations fourth-leading scorer (24.5 points a game) through Sunday and the main reason the 12-4 Broncos were in second place in the Big West's Eastern division with a 5-1 conference record. "He can really shoot, and he has good size for a guard," says Nets director of player personnel Dave Pendergraft of Bergersen, whom scouts have compared to Dale Ellis and Jeff Hornacek.
Three years ago, however, Bergersen was out of basketball. A McDonald's All-America in 1994 at Decatur High in Federal Way, Wash., he began his hoops odyssey by signing with Washington. But he left the Huskies after a freshman season in which he averaged only six minutes and 2.2 points a game and chose hanging out with his high school buddies as his main course of study. "Roberto was just too immature to say no," says Ed Boyce, Bergersen's high school coach and now an assistant at Boise State. "Instead of focusing on basketball and academics, he let a lot of other things get in the way."
The following school year Bergersen migrated from one outpost to another: Midland (Texas) College, a JC he stayed at for a month, to the College of Southern Idaho, where he played one game and dropped out, to Highline Community College near Seattle, where he didn't play but began piecing his life together, earning an associate's degree in the summer of 1996. The following fall he arrived at Boise State and was reunited with Boyce.
Boyce and Boise have turned Bergersen, 23, into a virtual Boy Scout. He has sworn off alcohol, married his girlfriend (Rhonda Klein, a former member of the Washington soccer team) and now has a 15-month-old son, Rylan. Roberto's big break came last May, when the NCAA granted him another year of eligibility, noting that he had played only one game in 1995-96. This season Bergersen has drawn the notice of scouts with big games against top teams, I scoring 32 points in a 69-61 e upset of Washington on Dec. 5 and 30 in a 90-66 loss to Indiana on Dec. 11. Yet he demurs when asked about winning the tight NCAA scoring race (currently led by Delaware junior forward Mike Pegues, who was averaging 24.9 points a game). "I'd almost rather not win it," he says. "We lost a couple of games at the beginning of the season when I was scoring too many points."
Too many points? Such talk might be heresy among prolific scorers, but as Bergersen has learned, a little maturity goes a long way.
A Real Coaches'Poll
We polled more man 100 coaches—115 to be exact, both head guys and assistants—and asked the question, If you could go to only one coaching clinic, whose would it be and why?