For most of itsfirst season in the big east. Miami has felt a bit like a fraternity pledgegoing through hazing—so elated at being allowed into the club that it has takenpaddlings from the brothers almost gladly. Whack! Syracuse 73, Miami 57. Whack!George-tow 60, Miami 40. Thank you, sir, may I please have another?
Besides, theblows to the Hurricanes weren't nearly as severe as had been predicted. Miamihas been beaten convincingly, but it hasn't suffered the kind of complete,pull-out-the-record-book blowouts that many observers thought it would endure.Even more surprising, on Jan. 14 the Hurricanes shocked then 17th-ranked St.John's by winning 45-42 at Miami Arena for their first conference victory. Andthey scared the daylights out of Boston College last week before bowing 51-50."I don't quite seethe light yet," says Hurricane assistant coach GaryTuell, "but at least we're in the tunnel."
It wouldn't havesurprised anyone if Miami (6-12 overall) had gone winless in the conference,which is why, after the Hurricanes' victory over the Redmen, coach LeonardHamilton was accepting congratulatory phone calls into the wee hours of themorning.
Hamilton, whocoached Oklahoma State from 1986-87 to '89-90 and recruited most of the playersresponsible for the Cowboys' current No. 3 ranking—including Player of the Yearcandidate Byron Houston—knows it will be quite awhile before the Hurricanes caneven think of such a lofty perch. He arrived in Miami with a reputation as acoach who could sell a program to talented prospects, but he's just asconcerned with selling the Hurricanes to the city; the University of Miami hasnot drawn well since basketball was revived there in 1985, after a 14-yearabsence. The crowd of 4,843 at the game against St. John's was more than twicethe size of last season's average attendance. Four nights later, aschool-record 10,231 fans attended a game against No. 8 Connecticut.
"I hope fanswill have the vision to see what happened at schools like Georgia Tech,Pittsburgh, Seton Hall and Connecticut, and get in on the ground floorhere," Hamilton says. "We need people to adopt us. Maybe that's what weneed to do, start issuing adoption papers."
First, Hamiltonwill probably have to discard the deliberate style he has adopted. The slowerpace has helped the Hurricanes keep scores down and games relatively close—thewin over St. John's (at halftime it was 14-12, Redmen) was the lowest-scoringgame in Big East history—but few South Floridians are going to bring theirsailboats in oft' Biscayne Bay to watch the Hurricanes amble upcourt.
Miami doesn'tfigure to pick up the pace until Hamilton picks up a few more talented players;he may have one in a new recruit, 7-foot center William Davis. While theHurricanes worry about becoming more competitive, Big East coaches areconcerned about their players becoming too preoccupied with the sun and seawhen they visit Miami, the only stop on the conference tour where players canwear shorts outside the arena, too. "There's a problem getting kids tocatch the ball when they have sand on their hands," says Connecticut coachJim Calhoun.
Then there's St.John's coach Lou Carnesecca, who's still searching for the right sun block forthe trips to Miami. "This skin hasn't been touched by sun in 30 years,"he says.
Hamilton and theHurricanes are looking forward to the day when Big East teams, on venturing toMiami, will worry about getting burned indoors as well as out.