It is time for the NCAA to extend a lifetime automatic bid to
Homer Drew. That way the Valparaiso coach with the pressed white
shirt and the beatific smile will be around every March to
den-mother us through the tournament, pointing out the potholes
and steering us gently to the sunny side of the street. For no
matter how many smiley-face story lines emerged after last
week's first two rounds--you gotta love a Sweet 16 that includes
five double-digit seeds (the most ever), Bing Crosby's alma
mater, a father-son coaching team right out of Hoosiers, a
wondrous Wally and a concoction from an Alaskan medicine
man--harsh reality nibbled away a bit at the tournament's sweet
There was the suspension, just hours before Minnesota's
first-round game against Gonzaga, of four Gophers players
(including starters Kevin Clark and Miles Tarver) for alleged
academic fraud. There was the death of Kentucky recruit John
Stewart, an 18-year-old seven-footer, during a high school
playoff game in Indiana last Friday night, a tragedy that left
the Wildcats stunned even as they played their way into the
Sweet 16. There was the uncomfortable sight of Ron Abegglen
coaching Weber State to a stunning 76-74 first-round upset of
North Carolina (and a near second-round defeat of Florida, which
finally prevailed 82-74) even as the clock on his seven-year
career at Weber wound down; Abegglen, the subject of a
domestic-abuse restraining order obtained by his wife, Nedra,
had already agreed to resign at the end of the season.
And there was the bittersweet image of another lame duck, Iowa's
Tom Davis, leading his surprising team into the Sweet 16 with a
scintillating 82-72 second-round win over Arkansas. Davis, you
might recall, isn't a good enough coach to satisfy his athletic
director, Bob Bowlsby, who announced after last season that he
wouldn't renew the coach's contract after this year. Should Dr.
Tom find a way to upset Connecticut in the West Regional in
Phoenix on Thursday, we suspect journalists will need the help
of the FBI to locate Bowlsby for a comment.
All things considered, though, the tournament's first two rounds
produced more than their share of Homeric moments ... as well as
a few Homer moments, which we'll tell you about later. Duke did
nothing to sully its reputation by winning its first two games,
over Florida A&M (page 46) and Tulsa, by 41 points each, even as
the hearties on the nation's No. 1 team ignored the odor
emanating from guard Trajan Langdon's strained left foot. Well,
not from his foot exactly. Langdon has been applying a
reddish-brown, oozy salve made from spruce pine and a plant
known as devil's club. It was sent by a Tlingit medicine man
from Langdon's home state of Alaska. "I have no idea how it
works," says Langdon, who scored 12 points against Tulsa after
sitting out the first-round game, "but right now I'll try
anything to get this thing better."
March 22, 1999
Langdon's father, Steve, a professor at Alaska-Anchorage who is
on research leave and is teaching a class at Duke this semester,
says the salve has spiritual powers. If that's true, future
opponents might consider pilfering it from the Blue Devils'
locker room, because going through normal channels (shooting,
passing, dribbling, etc.) won't get it done against Duke,
especially now that a potential stumbling block in the East,
Cincinnati--the team that put the lone blemish on the Blue
Devils' 29-1 regular season--was eliminated by Temple in the
second round. Duke's most serious opponent, in fact, might be
its own coach. After finding out last week that his oldest
daughter, Debbie, and her husband were expecting their first
child, Mike Krzyzewski gave his team the following warning: "If
any of you guys call me Grandpa, I'm gonna kick you in the nuts."
If Coach K is looking for grandfatherly tips, he might consult
an assistant coach on the staff of his next opponent,
12th-seeded Southwest Missouri State. Sam Alford is not only son
Steve's top assistant but also his first-line babysitter. Last
Thursday, as the staff prepared to discuss the following day's
first-round game against Wisconsin, the senior Alford got his
assignment: Watch the kids. Steve's wife, Tanya, was sick, and
someone had to care for Bryce, 6, Kory, 3, and Kayla, 1.
"Everybody was excited about the tournament," said Sam, "so it
was hard to corral them." Sam's sideline tips then helped the
Bears corral both the Badgers (43-32) and Tennessee (81-51),
putting Southwest Missouri State into the Sweet 16 for the first
The younger Alford is reportedly in line for the Iowa vacancy,
but wherever he goes, his home-state appeal will continue to
make recruiting tougher for Bob Knight, his onetime coach at
Indiana. The Hoosier state's 1996 Mr. Basketball, guard Kevin
Ault, is in Alford's starting lineup, and another former Hoosier
high school star, freshman point guard Brandon Miller, is a key
reserve. The immediate problem for Knight, whose Indiana team
was routed by St. John's 86-61 in the second round, is not
getting new players--it's keeping the ones he has. Rumors have
been flying that swingman Luke Recker, guard Dane Fife and
forward Lynn Washington are considering transfers and that
junior point guard A.J. Guyton will go pro. The first three have
pledged fealty to Knight's program, but Guyton sounded less
enthusiastic after the loss to the Red Storm. "The NBA is a
wide-open game, and I would be able to utilize my true abilities
instead of having to play under this team's system, which is
fine, too," said Guyton. Bye-bye, Bloomington.
Speaking of the NBA, at least one future pro made himself a lot
of money in the first two rounds of the Midwest Regional in New
Orleans as he carried 10th-seeded Miami of Ohio to the Sweet 16.
Senior forward Wally Szczerbiak was even more wonderful than
usual, with 43 points and 12 rebounds in a 59-58 first-round win
over Washington and 24 and seven, respectively, in the 66-58
upset of Utah that got the RedHawks to the third round. Those
enamored of Szczerbiak's all-American-boy image will be happy to
learn that he did not join roommate John Estick (18 points
against Utah) for a jaunt to Bourbon Street that included what
Estick called "the bead issue." Which is what exactly? "Well, you
give women beads [on the street], and they do this," he said,
pantomiming the lifting of the front of his shirt. At the time
Estick was beading, Szczerbiak was breaking bread with his
Gonzaga junior Matt Santangelo, a throwback guard in the sense
that he can either quarterback the Zags or keep them in the game
with jump shots, has a chance to be playing with or against
Szczerbiak in the NBA someday. Santangelo already enjoys a close
relationship with Utah Jazz guard John Stockton, Gonzaga's
second-most-distinguished alumnus, behind Der Bingle. Stockton
and Santangelo work out together regularly in the fall, and
Stockton, not the most communicative of souls, has even
telephoned Santangelo with congratulations after a game. Some of
Stockton's court-savvy game has rubbed off on Santangelo, but not
his ultraconservative look. Santangelo sported sideburns as a
freshman and a goatee as a sophomore and has a scraggly beard
going now. Told that the beard is dangerous-looking, Santangelo
responded, "Why, thank you."
More dangerous than Santangelo (who scored a total of 36 points
in Gonzaga's wins over depleted Minnesota and second-seeded
Stanford) at the West Regional was Weber State's Harold
Arceneaux, who scored 36 in a single game, the stunner against
third-seeded North Carolina. Arceneaux's arsenal includes a
high-arching jump shot and a variety of body-twisting moves
around the basket that earned him the nickname the Show.
Actually, that's not the whole story. Arceneaux is also called
Duke (for reasons he won't explain) and admits that he was known
as Turtle in high school (for his round-shouldered, no-neck
look). But he is not the kind of player to go into a shell.
"Every time I get a look," says Arceneaux, "I shoot the ball."
His performance against the Tar Heels was so electrifying that
with 4:02 left and Weber leading by 64-54, most of the crowd of
15,000 gave him a standing ovation. Make that a standing eaux.
There were several others in the tournament worthy of such an
honor, including the following.
--Florida freshman guard Teddy Dupay, who has the letters A, E
and O tattooed on his back. Does he have a thing for vowels? No,
the letters honor his sisters, Abbey, 15, Eva, 9, and Olivia, 5.
"They're the best," says Dupay, who was at his best in the
clutch during the win over Weber, sinking a baseline
three-pointer with 58.9 seconds left in regulation despite
having shot one for nine until that point.
--Purdue sophomore forward Cameron Stephens, whose corner jump
shot with 4.8 seconds remaining broke a 54-all tie in a
first-round win over Texas. Stephens, who was averaging only 3.3
points per game, is a former blue-chip recruit whose confidence
had sunk after he'd spent a year on the sidelines because he
didn't qualify academically. "If we ran the play right, there
were five options to shoot," said Stephens of his game-winner,
"and I was the sixth." The Boilermakers beat the Miami
Hurricanes in the second round, joining Big Ten mates Iowa,
Michigan State and Ohio State in the Sweet 16.
--Kentucky's Scott Padgett, who made the game-tying
three-pointer in regulation of an eventual 92-88 overtime win
over Kansas, and who, before the game on Sunday, asked equipment
manager Bill Keightley to arrange a remembrance in honor of
Stewart, who had died on Friday. Keightley spoke to a member of
the housekeeping staff at the hotel where the Wildcats were
staying, and she provided strips of black fabric, which were
stitched onto each Wildcats jersey.
Kudos also go to St. John's coach Mike Jarvis, who turned a
pregame question from a reporter--"Coach, are you going to play
zone against Indiana?"--into a winning game plan. After hearing
the question, Jarvis said he decided not only to play mostly
zone but also to give it varied looks, a tactic that thoroughly
befuddled the Hoosiers. Lord almighty, getting beat because of a
sportswriter's tip has to be the biggest nightmare of Knight's
Let's hear it, too, for Iowa point guard Dean Oliver, who from
time to time during games pounds his chest with his fist, a
message to let his father know that he is keeping him in his
heart. "He has always been the source of my strength, my
greatest inspiration," says Oliver. His father is in prison
serving a five-year term on a drug charge. The son is in the
Sweet 16, having secured himself a featured place in this year's
highlight reel when he caught an outlet pass and simultaneously
spun 180 degrees away from an opponent and threw a
behind-the-back pass to teammate Jess Settles half a court away.
It earned a layup for Settles in the upset of Arkansas.
A tip of the hat also to Temple guard Quincy Wadley, who
severely bruised the ring finger of his left hand late in the
season but who, in the words of coach John Chaney, "dogged me to
death" to use him in the second-round game against Cincinnati.
(Wadley responded by making four of eight three-pointers as the
Owls reached the Sweet 16.) And to Oklahoma assistant coach Ray
Lopes, who, after the Sooners hit 10 three-pointers in their
61-60 first-round upset of Arizona, persuaded his wife to change
the name of their newborn son from Marcus Ray to Trey Alexander.
Lopes plans on wearing the hospital bracelet that gained him
entry into the nursery to Friday's Sweet 16 game against
While we're at it, a high five goes to Mount St. Mary's reserve
walk-on Steven Moore, who, during a 76-53 loss to Michigan
State, scored a three-pointer, then pointed to his parents, Ed
and Maryann, who had made a 17-hour drive from their home in
Cape May, N.J., to watch their son play (possibly) in the
Midwest Regional. "I wanted to pick up as many memories as I
could while I'm here," said Moore. "I got a media guide. I got
an NCAA cup. But I never expected to leave with a three-pointer."
Finally, a prolonged standing ovation goes to Valparaiso's Drew,
college basketball's love doctor, a guy who could stick his
spoon into a bowl of gruel and proclaim it caviar. After the
Crusaders' predictable 82-60 loss to Maryland, Drew complimented
one reporter for asking him why he had stayed in a zone so long,
complimented another for observing that the Terrapins' press
wore his team down and thanked a third for asking if he was a
candidate for the Notre Dame job, saying, "It's an honor to be
considered for any job."
Drew's players report that he even yells at them with a smile on
his face. We suggest a similar strategy for Duke's opponents
this week at the Meadowlands--first Southwest Missouri State and
then the winner of the Purdue-Temple game. Enjoy it even as you
take your beating, and leave with a smile on your face. That's
the way Homer would do it.
You gotta love a Sweet 16 with five double-digit seeds, Bing
Crosby's alma mater and a father-son coaching duo right out of
The first two rounds produced their share of Homeric moments,
but reality nibbled away at the tournament's sweet underbelly.