Is that really Charles G. Driesell, the Lefthander himself, risen from perdition and popping up all over the basketball globe? Why, it sure is, and it's terrific to see him back, even if he isn't actually back but sort of floating around out there in a holding pattern waiting to land and start stomping out some more "Ah kin koach" vibes.
Since being forced to resign as coach at Maryland in the wake of the Len Bias tragedy, Lefty has kept a low profile on the College Park campus, where he still earns $111,000 per year as an assistant athletic director. But here he is handling the color commentary on ACC TV games. And there he is entering discussions with East Carolina about becoming that school's coach and athletic director. (ECU's offer will probably be too low for Driesell, who believes the Pirates must get out of the Colonial Athletic Association and go independent to reach the big time; bet on Auburn's Sonny Smith to wind up with that job instead.)
Lefty remains a clutter of contradictions: the corn-pone charmer who steered his scholastic ship into an unyielding glacier, the fall-guy philosopher whose every utterance seems somehow sentimental and melancholic. When a North Carolina player made a dumb foul in the N.C. State game last week, Lefty said, "Those kind of fouls drive Dean [Smith] crazy. That's what made me lose my hair."
Away from the mike, he says, "[Not coaching] hasn't been difficult at all. I'm glad to have the time off. People tell me I'm more relaxed, a different person." Who else, by his absence from the game, has made everyone grow so much fonder of him?
"I miss the guy," says Notre Dame's Digger Phelps. "[Lefty's] the guy who brought basketball to Washington. He brought it to Georgetown and to the Bullets. He went there and said people will learn to like it. There isn't much Lefty hasn't done for the game. With all the negatives.... I would love to have my first Rhodes Scholar [Tom McMillen, now a freshman congressman]. I would love to have Len Elmore [now in Harvard Law School]. There's a lot of positives. Lefty's up there with Al McGuire...one of the great personalities. He was good for the game."
Meanwhile, it seems only proper that with 15 of his former Dunbar High (of Baltimore) players currently at Division I schools, Driesell's successor, Bob Wade, should be able to watch a couple of them play. Last week he got an eyeful. First Wake Forest's Muggsy Bogues, Dunbar '83, ran to Maryland's bench during pregame introductions at Winston-Salem to hug his old coach before burying him with 15 points and eight assists in a 69-58 victory that ended Wake's 24-game conference losing streak. Two nights later the Terps, win less themselves in the ACC, were leading Clemson by a basket when the Tigers' Michael Brown, Dunbar '84, drained a three-pointer with eight seconds left to beat Maryland at Cole Field House 80-79.
"If [Wade] had been here last year, I'd definitely be at Maryland right now," Brown said.
"It's a nice homecoming for Brown," Wade said. "What was it, a 50-footer? All my youngsters are coming back to haunt me."
Remember the Archie comic strip? Archie, Betty, Veronica, Jughead, Reggie? Well, college hoops' famous West Coast Reggie—Miller of UCLA—is, in his senior season, besmirching his surpassingly elegant play with some basic Jugheadian behavior.
Spitting at opposing players, slapping away defenders' hands, disdainfully bouncing balls off their legs on in-bounds plays and gesturing at officials with rubbing fingers (the familiar sign for payola) are just a few of Miller's low-lights this season. One West Coast coach says that if a poll were taken of Pac-10 coaches, "they would vote 8-2 that Reggie's an——."
But, as Miller told Bob Keisser of the Los Angeles Herald Examiner, "I like my bad boy image. It's gotten me a lot of places.... People don't know about all the dirty stuff underneath the basket. They only see me throw an elbow back. There are two sides to every coin and everyone only sees heads. My side is tails."
ONE MOE TIME
A TV viewer didn't need a Ph.D. in lipreading to decode the message Michigan coach Bill Frieder sent to Jeff Moe after the Iowa guard made a midair arm tackle of the Wolverines' Glen Rice on a breakaway at the end of Michigan's Jan. 31 upset of the Hawks in Ann Arbor.
"Moe!" Frieder yelled. "You're a——. Moe! You're a——." Again and again and again. And TV cameras caught each blue syllable.
This week a remorseful Frieder sent letters of apology to Moe and his coach, Tom Davis. "I shouldn't have yelled at him like that," Frieder admitted. "I told him that my comments were unwarranted."
Moe hadn't heard (or seen) Frieder's comments. "It probably wasn't something very nice," he said. "But I'd rather have some guy shooting two free throws than slam-dunking on me."
As the electronic scoreboard in Carver-Hawkeye Arena often puts it: WHO NEEDS CURLY? WHO NEEDS LARRY? WE'VE GOT...
WHO WAS THAT MASKED MASS?
Tark the Shark 10,000 times over. When UNLV played at Utah State, the Aggie fans had a surprise ready for Rebels coach Jerry Tarkanian: a full color Tark the Shark mask for virtually everyone in Logan's sold-out 10,270-seat Spectrum. The fans were supposed to hold up the masks when Tark was introduced, when he stood up and when Vegas shot a free throw. Of course, the shock value had been lost the day before the game, when Tarkanian boarded the team bus and saw all his guys wearing the masks. Anyway, the nation's No. 1 unmasked the host team 113-78, after which Tark was seen holding a mask of Aggie coach Rod Tueller. Heigh-ho, Paddio, away.
Speaking of all-American boys, why do seasoned observers keep saying 1987 is a down year in the player-personnel ranks? Even beyond the consensus list of excellent players—David Robinson, Dennis Hopson, Ken Norman, Steve Alford, Kenny Smith, Reggie Williams and Danny Manning (the only underclassman in the group)—there remains a bunch of other seniors who should no longer go unrecognized. Namely:
•UNLV's Armon Gilliam, the baleful, slashing Hammer who, more than Tarkanian, treys or the Rebels' terrorist running game, has made his team a legitimate No. 1.
•DePaul's Dallas Comegys, the enigmatic senior center who has stormed back from three seasons spent mostly visiting dreamland to lead the Blue Demons to their stunning 20-1 record.
•St. John's Mark Jackson, who—shades of Walt Frazier—is the personification of tough, one-on-one street ball. In his spectacular 34-point Garden party against Georgetown on Feb. 2 Jackson demonstrated that he has no peer as a take-charge leader.
•Tennessee's Tony White, who is skinny and fragile and was barely recruited out of Charlotte, N.C., now leads the SEC with a 22.6-points-per-game scoring average and has single-handedly saved the job of Don DeVoe, the coach of the pathetic (10-11) Vols.
Add to the above Temple's Nate Blackwell. Washington's Christian Welp and Butler's Darrin Fitzgerald, he of the four necklaces with the legends SILK, 21 (his number), FITZ and DAMN, I'M GOOD. Fitzgerald looks like Redd Foxx and always has the green light. He has led the country in three-pointers practically all season. Currently he's 115 for 256 in treys and averaging 24.9 points per game.
So, vis-à-vis this crowd: Nobody's a stranger to anybody any more.
Ivy willed all over the Northeast as forward JIM BARTON of Dartmouth and forward PATRICK LYNCH of Brown scored 48 and 42 points, respectively, in the Bruins' 98-96 victory in Providence. Forward SHELWYN KLUTZ bagged 20 points as Mars Hill (N.C.) beat Lenoir-Rhyne 83-54.
SI TOP 20
The video rage in Las Vegas, Walk Like a Tarkanian, a takeoff on the Bangles' hit, Walk Like an Egyptian, is already obsolete now that mask mania (see below) has made it possible for fans to look like a Tarkanian. If this trend continues, the Final Four could end up being a gag costume designer's paradise. The Dean Smith nose? The Bob Knight red V-necked sweater? The Lou Henson hairpiece?
1. UNLV (23-1)
2. N.CAROLINA (20-2)
3. TEMPLE (23-2)
4. OKLAHOMA (19-3)
5. INDIANA (19-2)
6. IOWA (21-2)
7. PURDUE (18-3)
8. DEPAUL (20-1)
9. PITTSBURGH (19-4)
10. KANSAS (18-5)
11. G'TOWN (16-4)
12. ILLINOIS (18-5)
13. ALABAMA (17-4)
14. SYRACUSE (19-3)
15. DUKE (19-4)
16. TCU (19-4)
17. CLEMSON (21-2)
18. FLORIDA (18-5)
19. ST. JOHN'S (16-4)
19.9 N.C. ST. * (12-10)
*The Wolfpack is baying at the moon from way back: They've been 0-6 and outscored by 70 points since beating Duke on Jan. 21. "We may get uninvited to the ACC tournament," says coach Jim Valvano.