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The DeBacle At DePaul

Dec. 10, 1984
Dec. 10, 1984

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Dec. 10, 1984

UCLA
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College Football

The DeBacle At DePaul

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

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.

This is an article from the Dec. 10, 1984 issue Original Layout

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.

"You're gunfighters," the coach told his players at their first practice. He had already announced his starting lineup with the opening game still six weeks away. "You're here to defend your honor. You're only as good as your last bullet." The seniors needed to know their roles. Wright had wasted away on the bench last season. Miguel had rotated between positions like a yo-yo.

"It's so different from last season under Coach Farmer," says Miguel. "I can't pinpoint it, but we lost interest. We were disenchanted with the coaches, and they were disenchanted with us. Coach Farmer tried to keep us happy, but it didn't work out." Miguel neglects to mention that Farmer himself could not possibly have been happy, what with "star" (read pooch) Kenny Fields, now a Milwaukee Buck, lying down half the time.

Curiously, while Farmer was criticized for relying too heavily on the Wooden philosophy, Hazzard has turned out to be more Woodenized than his predecessor. The Wizard's 2-2-1 zone press and storied Pyramid of Success seem to have been burned into Hazzard's brain. "Why not? The man's the encyclopedia, the genius, the best. I wish he'd sit on the bench and help me every game," says Hazzard.

Wooden came to a UCLA practice last week for the first time since he retired in 1975 and talked to the Bruins for 40 minutes. "The Wiz, right over there," said Hazzard, pointing in awe to a spot on the Pauley floor. And yet, how different the Hazzard style and atmosphere are from the Wooden program. At the top of the organization now is a kind of multinational force, Walt Mahdi Abdul-Rahman Hazzard, a Muslim, and Hirsch, a self-described "Jewish wiseass" who once told Wooden he would not eat the training table "slop." Now Hirsch is a millionaire, able to live off a family fortune derived from bowling alleys. His family is now in the pornography business. "It's infinitely cleaner than recruiting," says Hirsch. To complete his staff, Hazzard hired Kris Jason, a former Marine who is Hirsch's brother-in-law, and the introspective Andre McCarter, a former inconsistent Bruin point guard. And rounding out this murderers' row as a volunteer assistant is that legendary paragon of devotion to hard work and team values, former Bruin Sidney Wicks. "Our coaching staff would beat our team by 50 points," says Hirsch. Yes, but can the staff coach the team?

The other day, still more Hazzard friends and celebrities in their own right gathered during a UCLA practice as the earsplitting squeals of the terrific role model, Prince, blasted from courtside speakers. If a visitor took his eyes off the Bruins rehearsing foul shots—after the DePaul DeBacle they were 24 of 49 on the season—he might have spotted the former NBA great, Guy Rodgers; the former CBS near-great. Sonny Hill; and Ed Eckstine, son of the always and forever-more high-collar great, Mr. B., Billy Eckstine. In between spinning old Philly war yarns with this gang, Hazzard actually blew his whistle a couple of times.

"I'm gonna smash that sucker upside his head," Hazzard rasped about one of his error-prone Bruins. "Hey, Ed, you got my tapes?"

Were these UCLA-Santa Clara tapes? (The Bruins had been stunned 68-60 by Santa Clara at Pauley six nights earlier, following which Santa Clara lost to Weber State by 28.) DePaul scouting tapes? Pyramid of Success tapes? Adhesive? Scotch? "Naw," said Hazzard. "My Cannonball Adderley tapes."

Obviously, the newest UCLA coach intends to lend some jazz to what may be a long season in Westwood.

PHOTOANDY HAYTWright (32) was the wrong man for the job of stopping Comegys, who hit for 19 points.PHOTOANDY HAYTMiller has the distinction of being the first Bruin ever who can't outplay his sister.PHOTOHEINZ KLUETMEIERPoint guard Miguel was the UCLA standout with 21 points.PHOTOHEINZ KLUETMEIERJoey Meyer (left) is allowed to talk back to his dad as long as he remains undefeated.PHOTOANDY HAYTWalt handled the ball better than any of his Bruins.