nuts about the game

November 29, 1976

Observe now the college basketball coach: his eyes are glassy, his tie askew and his arms flap disjointedly at his sides. He has come to this sorry state after constant harassment by complaining alumni, demanding athletic directors, nosy NCAA investigators and inconsistent referees. He understands that inevitably he will be fired, retired or committed. He is not like you or me or even the football coach down the hall. Basketball coaches, says George Theofanis of Butler University, "are nuts."

All of them, from Missouri's low-key Norm Stewart to Indiana's stormy Bobby Knight, seek ways to be different. Not so much in strategy and playing style (they borrow techniques from each other like comedians do jokes) but in the way they throw themselves into off-court diversions. Wayne Yates of Memphis State plows fields. Bob Ortegel of Drake is a landscape architect. Dutch Belnap of Utah State restores old cars. Denny Crum of Louisville longs to raise horses. Bob Davis of Auburn hunts snakes. Paul Westhead of La Salle studies Shakespeare. Digger Phelps of Notre Dame collects stamps. Ken Hayes of New Mexico State holds a "doctorate in pinochle." John Bach of Penn State and Tex Winter of Northwestern pilot airplanes.

Coaches must do more than prepare their teams for a game; they must prepare themselves and their psyches as well. They practice more superstitious rites than a witch doctor. When driving to a home game, Michigan's Johnny Orr is careful to avoid being stopped by a particular Ann Arbor traffic light. While waiting in his motel room for a road game, Southern Illinois' Paul Lambert undresses, turns off the heat and watches television for hours under a mound of blankets. Cincinnati's Gale Catlett would rather find a penny before a game than his opponent's playbook. Marshall's Bob Daniels would put his student manager in uniform rather than dress 13 players for a game. Before daring to walk out of his dressing room, Arkansas' Eddie Sutton must first shake the hand of each assistant in a prescribed order and then drink a Coca-Cola.

And when the game begins, observe the quirks and tics: Bob Boyd of USC is pacing, Bob Davis of Auburn is tugging at his socks, Lefty Driesell of Maryland is crossing his fingers, Joe Stowell of Bradley is eating his wife's homemade candy, Burt Kahn of Quinnipiac is spitting tobacco juice into a paper cup, Guy Lewis of Houston is drinking 20 cups of water, Roy Danforth of Tulane is drinking 15 cups of coffee, Tom Young of Rutgers is clutching his towel.

Finally, the game is over. Win or lose, Lou Henson of Illinois wants to play dominoes and Ron Greene of New Orleans wants to eat Oreos. And on the chartered plane ride home Frank McGuire of South Carolina wants everyone to make sure he has the same seat he had when he left Columbia.

Two years ago Ara Parseghian (who coached freshman basketball at Miami of Ohio) said the pressures of coaching football had taken their toll and forced him to retire. In basketball, the pressures seem even more relentless. Phil Woolpert won two national championships at San Francisco in 1955 and '56, retreated to the University of San Diego and now is in quiet semi-retirement driving a school bus. Chuck Noe, formerly of South Carolina and more recently of Virginia Commonwealth, has fled coaching a second time. Last month his doctor told Ray Mears of Tennessee to let his assistant run things for a while. Riley Wallace of Centenary is looking forward to his first season as head coach and is hoping it will also be his first without a constant cough. "It got so bad last year that I thought about quitting," he says.

John Wooden survived for 29 years at Indiana State and UCLA because, in his last decade with the Bruins, he hardly ever lost. Wooden was smart enough to know when to get out, but too many others have to be told—by their athletic directors, by their doctors or by their alumni. A few years ago Michigan's Johnny Orr thought his time had come. His critics (and there were many) were pushing him into the insurance business. Then the Wolverines started winning and Orr was given a reprieve.

Orr can laugh about it now—but nervously, and never during a game.

ILLUSTRATION

TOP 20

Some coaches don't have to worry about their jobs, at least not this year—namely, the men in charge of the teams in the Top 20 and in the Best of the Rest. Scouting reports on these teams are next; for a profile on the most enigmatic coach in the game today, turn to page 94.

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)