We Won the Tournament!
Cal fans learn that a basketball championship by any name smells
This is an article from the April 5, 1999 issue
The clock ticked down, the ball went flying, and suddenly we
were airborne, too, collapsing into a barbarian pile under a
beer-drenched table. We were a mass of coats and ties and cell
phones and designer glasses, but in our hearts it was 15 years
ago and we were freshmen on a rampage. Deep in the heart of
March Madness, we gathered last Thursday night in a bar in
downtown San Francisco and, against our better judgment, went
bonkers as our alma mater, California, won the National
Invitational Tournament by beating Clemson 61-60.
When Cal missed making the 64-team NCAA tournament field,
Golden Bears backers weren't doing chest bumps over the
consolation prize. Getting an NIT berth is like an actor's
getting a prime table at Spago at 7 p.m.--on Oscar night. During
the regular season Cal had been a most maddening team (beating
North Carolina one night, looking clueless and dispirited the
next), and we fans had half hoped we'd be put out of our misery.
Slowly, improbably, the NIT grew on us. As the Bears dug out of
12- and 17-point holes to beat Fresno State and DePaul,
respectively, and then blew a 22-point lead before surviving
against Colorado State, E-mail and phone calls flew between San
Francisco and Hong Kong, West L.A. and Chapel Hill. Cal fans,
some of the proudest and hardiest on earth, debated the issues:
Would winning the NIT beat losing in the first round of the
NCAAs? (Definitely.) How much would a title boost the program? (A
tad.) How excited should we be? (Uncertain.)
In the semifinal Cal played its best game of the season, blowing
out Oregon, which had killed the Bears' NCAA hopes in the final
game of the regular season. That had hurt at the time but was
just as well. The NIT gave Cal fans an opportunity rare in sports
these days: to see a team work through its weaknesses, bond out
of necessity and develop a championship spirit.
As the tight title game unfolded, it became clear how much
winning mattered. With five minutes to go, my buddy Greg flashed
a complex look, equal parts horror and black humor. "You
realize," he said, "that Geno is going to have to win it for
us." So it went: With 10 seconds left and the Bears down by two,
the ball is in the hands of senior guard Geno Carlisle, Cal's
best and worst player, who has hit just 3 of 16 attempts. He
forces up a wild shot. Blocked. After a scramble, he gets the
ball back. A double-pump floater in the lane...money, and one!
Geno nails the free throw, Clemson misses, we detonate.
Call us crazy, but as we slithered across the sticky floor
screaming our lungs out, we felt like champions. --Mike Silver
As NATO warplanes roared over Serbia and Kosovo, the shock waves
reached nearby Bosnia and Herzegovina. Tuesday was to have marked
the rebirth of Sarajevo's Zetra arena, site of the figure skating
and hockey competitions at the 1984 Winter Olympics, with a
skating event featuring Olympic champions Katarina Witt and
Alexei Urmanov. NATO's bombing of targets in Yugoslavia put on
hold not only Zetra's reopening but also Sarajevo's announcement
of its bid for the 2010 Winter Games.
Sarajevans had hoped the reconstruction of Zetra would be another
step in their reentry into the international sports community.
The IOC contributed $11.5 million to the rebuilding of the arena,
which sustained heavy damage from Bosnian Serb shelling in the
'92 to '95 war. During that conflict, Zetra was used by the U.N.
and relief agencies to store food and medicine, and the adjacent
soccer field became a cemetery. Other '84 Olympic venues are in
various states of disrepair and under the control of rival ethnic
and political groups.
On the site of the 1984 Nordic skiing events, Mount Igman, which
Serbian troops turned into an artillery position, signs warn
skiers that lift stops may be surrounded by mines. The bobsled
run on Mount Trebevic starts in Serb-controlled territory but
finishes on land that was ceded to Bosnian Muslim-Croat factions
as part of the 1995 Dayton peace accord. The run is pocked with
mortar craters and littered with pieces of destroyed cable cars.
Only the site of women's Alpine skiing, Jahorina, now controlled
by Serbs, was relatively untouched. Some entrepreneurs have tried
to reopen Jahorina as a public ski area, but most skiers from the
valley below are Croats and Muslims, and they have stayed away
because Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic lives nearby, and
his army chief, Gen. Ratko Mladic, is known to ski there with
teams of ill-tempered bodyguards.
Bosnian Olympic Committee president Bogic Bogicevic says the
Olympic facilities haven't been affected by the fighting in
Kosovo and Serbia and that Bosnia will announce its candidacy for
2010 when Zetra finally does reopen after tensions subside. "This
will not last long," says Bogicevic of the current crisis. "We
have 11 years to prepare for the Games. The Olympics bring people
together. Giving Sarajevo a chance to organize the Games would
contribute greatly to the stabilization of this country and the
whole region." Adds BOC general secretary Sijdalinja Mustafic,
"The dream is the last thing to die. Our dream lives."
RUMBLE IN BLOOMINGTON
On Sunday, Indiana junior cornerback Curtis Randle El showed up
at the second day of the Hoosiers' spring football practice.
Hardly remarkable--except that six days earlier he had been
standing outside an off-campus apartment house with his guts
spilling out of his stomach. Randle El, an Indiana starter and
older brother of Hoosiers quarterback Antwaan Randle El, had been
stabbed in the abdomen during a brawl between several members of
the football team and a group of fraternity brothers.
According to Bloomington police, the March 22 incident--which
may have been brewing since a hotly contested basketball game
several weeks before--began when Phi Beta Sigma fraternity
member Dante Wilson struck wide receiver Tyrone Browning in the
head during an argument. Shortly afterward Browning and his
roommate, wideout Levron Williams, along with another
unidentified football player, went to the apartment building
where Wilson and some other members of his fraternity live. The
three scuffled with Phi Beta Sigma member Richard Gilliam, who
struck Browning on the head with a baseball bat. The players
left, but minutes later defensive tackle Damian Gregory showed
up wearing a football helmet and making threats. That evening,
outside the same building, as many as two dozen combatants from
the football team and the fraternity brawled in front of 200
Curtis Randle El says he was on his way home from studying when
he saw the unruly crowd, stopped his car and tried unsuccessfully
to calm things down. Police say that during the ensuing melee
Gilliam, brandishing a knife with a six-inch-long blade and brass
knuckles for a handle, stabbed Randle El in the abdomen, opening
a gash through which his intestines began to spill. "It happened
real fast--just boom, boom, boom, and everyone was running,"
Randle El says. Gilliam told police that Randle El had come at
him in an aggressive manner. A friend rushed Randle El to
Bloomington Hospital, where his gallbladder was removed.
On Monday, Gilliam was charged with felony battery, Wilson with
disorderly conduct Gregory with criminal trespass and disorderly
conduct and Hoosiers safety Kyle Moffat with disorderly conduct
and false reporting. None had filed pleas as of Monday night.
Indiana indefinitely suspended three unnamed players from the
team. Hoosiers coach Cam Cameron said, "The challenge now is to
make sure that this never happens again."
Randle El, who was released from the hospital on Saturday, is
expected to recover fully, and he hopes to play next season. Of
his meeting with the team at Sunday's practice, he says, "We were
all in tears. I'm supposed to be out there with them instead of
something stupid like this."
On March 22 former Naval Academy quarterback Jim Kubiak finally
got what he wanted: a release from active duty in the Navy so he
could pursue his dream of playing in the NFL (SCORECARD, March
15). The Navy previously released Kubiak in March 1998 to let him
try out with the Indianapolis Colts. When he failed to make the
'98 roster, he was recalled for the remaining 17 months of his
five-year obligation. In January, Kubiak got a restraining order
against the recall. Under the terms of last week's settlement
Kubiak will put in three years in the active reserves and two
more in the inactive reserves.
Now Kubiak is focused on football. On April 5 he and his wife,
Jennifer, will head to Spain, where he will play for the
Barcelona Dragons of NFL Europe. When he returns to the U.S. in
late June, he'll try once again to catch on with the Colts, as a
backup to Peyton Manning. "I hope to turn around what wasn't a
very positive situation," says Kubiak, who may do recruiting work
during his time in the reserves. He calls his split with the Navy
"the hardest thing I've ever had to do."
Larry vs. Magic, 1979
EIGHT MEN OUT
Twenty years ago Mike Brkovich, Greg Kelser, Ron Charles and
Terry Donnelly took on Brad Miley, Alex Gilbert, Carl Nicks and
Steve Reed in a basketball game in Salt Lake City that altered
the history of the sport. The contributions--not to mention the
names--of that octet are largely forgotten, though, because the
other two starters in the 1979 NCAA championship game were Magic
Johnson and Larry Bird. Of the other eight starters for Johnson's
Michigan State Spartans and Bird's Indiana State Sycamores, only
Magic's teammate Kelser, now a color man for the Detroit Pistons,
would play in the NBA.
The Spartans' 75-64 victory will forever be remembered as the
first time Bird and Magic went head-to-head, but those two
weren't solely responsible for the outcome. "In tournament games
the superstars tend to cancel each other out," says Donnelly, now
a paper-company executive in Houston, who hit four straight
jumpers in the second half to quell an Indiana State run. "It's
the lesser-known guys who make the difference."
O.K., so what would have happened had the Spartans and Sycamores
gone to war without their biggest guns? "We would have beaten
them," says Kelser, who played for four teams in six NBA seasons.
Sycamores sixth man Bob Heaton, now an insurance salesman in
Terre Haute, envisions a far more likely outcome. "It would have
been a boring game," he says. "And we wouldn't have had those
millions of people watching."
Rod Laver's Recovery
Rod Laver earned the nickname Rocket for his powerful tennis
shots, and now he has lived up to the billing with his turbo
recovery from a stroke suffered last July 27. At the Lipton
Championships in Key Biscayne, Fla., last week, the 60-year-old
Laver, considered by many the greatest player in tennis history,
made his first public appearance since the stroke to give a
tennis clinic to 30 inner-city children. It wasn't the first
time since his stroke that Laver had picked up a racket,
however; he has been working on his game since November. "I'm
doing my own therapy on the court," he says. "My right side was
the side affected by the stroke, so, being a lefty, I can still
get on the court and work pretty hard at my game."
The stroke forced Laver to learn to walk and talk again, yet he
worked with occupational, physical and speech therapists for
only three weeks and spent just five weeks in the hospital. "The
doctors said the fact that I was in shape and not overweight had
a lot to do with the recovery," says Laver. "They just don't
know why the stroke happened."
Laver says tennis enables him to work on his balance and his
strength, neither of which has fully returned. It has also
helped him regain sensation in the right side of his body. "It's
like having novocaine in your mouth--you feel it there, but it's
numb," says Laver of his right side. "It's steadily coming back.
My joints are starting to feel like they did in the old days.
They hurt a little bit. That's good."
--That Havana becomes the next major league expansion city.
--That we never have to play Bob and David Duval in a father-son
--That Joe D, Cal Sr. and Birdie Tebbetts had made it to one
more Opening Day.
Consecutive no-hitters thrown by Woodland (Calif.) High pitchers
on March 12, 19 and 23.
Difference, in seconds, between Stanford swimmer Dod Wales's
winning time of 45.89 in the 1999 NCAA 100-yard butterfly and the
winning time of his dad, Ross, in that event in '67.
Trail Blazers players who were other teams' lottery picks in the
Lottery picks the Blazers have made in their history.
Average monthly salary of a Baltimore Orioles player.
Approximate monthly salary of a player on the Cuban national
Players who have appeared on the Nets' roster at some point this
Fine levied against a Florida hunter convicted of possessing meat
from a doe, as determined by DNA testing, in an area where
hunting female deer is illegal.
Sets of in-line-skate wheels used by Fabrice Gropaiz of France
during a 15,000-mile around-the-world skate.
Hoist One for Peace
ON MARCH 22 Sri Chinmoy, an Indian peace leader who lives in New
York City and performs feats of strength to advance his cause,
lifted 200-pound barbells over his head with each hand. The
68-year-old, 160-pound Sri Chinmoy, who is said to have lifted
7,063 pounds at age 55 and to have used a special platform to
raise a four-ton elephant and a private jet holding 22
passengers, also hefts celebrities. Among the lifted luminaries
have been Sugar Ray Leonard, Carl Lewis and Ronnie Lott, the
presidents of Sri Lanka and Uruguay, Iceland's prime minister
and, on March 9 at the presidential residence in Pretoria,
180-pound Nelson Mandela of South Africa.
HEAPS OF TALENT
If you had ventured last fall to tab the Duke basketball player
most likely to be a first-round draft pick, chances are you
wouldn't have chosen Jay Heaps, a 5'9", 155-pound, seldom-used
point guard who earned a spot on the Blue Devils in '95 after
catching the eye of men's assistant coach Quin Snyder while
practicing with the Duke women's team. In December, though,
Heaps, a senior, completed his degree work and became eligible
for the draft--the MLS draft. In February he was taken in the
first round by the Miami Fusion.
A midfielder-defender who scored 45 goals for the Blue Devils'
soccer team (third alltime at Duke), Heaps saw only 10 minutes
of action in four basketball games this season but worried that
his departure would leave coach Mike Krzyzewski shorthanded in
practice. Says Heaps, "Coach K said, 'If that's where your
future is, it's what you've got to do.'"
Heaps had little trouble settling into the Fusion lineup; he
scored on a spectacular diving header in the season opener
against the New York/New Jersey MetroStars on March 20. Getting
settled in his new South Florida pad in the middle of March
Madness was a little trickier. "I had to get cable, and they
told me they couldn't install it for a few weeks," he says. "I
had to yell at the cable guy to get there quicker so I could see
my guys play."
THE GORE CAMPAIGN
With Jordan, Pippen and Rodman gone, NBA teams are finally
exacting revenge on the Bulls for years of frustration. These
are some of the team marks for futility against Chicago that
have fallen or can fall this year.
Team Chicago-skewering Feat
Bucks Snapped 12-game losing streak against Bulls with 91-83
victory; won season series for first time since 1994-95
Cavaliers Snapped eight-game United Center losing streak with
Hawks Snapped seven-game United Center losing streak with
87-71 win; beat Chicago three times in a season for
first time since 1988-89
Hornets Achieved franchise bests against Bulls with 57.1%
shooting and 29-point victory margin in 110-81 win
Knicks Halted four-game losing streak to Bulls with 73-68
victory; held Chicago to its lowest score against New
York in 79-63 win
Magic Seeking first series win since 1994-95; leads 1-0 with
two games to play
Pacers Seeking first series win since 1989-90; lead 1-0 with
two games to play
Pistons Ended string of 18 straight losses in Chicago with
108-78 pounding of Bulls
Raptors Won in Chicago for first time ever
76ers Snapped 10-game losing streak in Chicago with 98-80
victory; won season series for first time since 1990-91
Sonics Won in Chicago for first time since January 1995;
clinched season series for first time since 1994-95
Spurs Ended six-game losing streak against Bulls with 89-76
Wizards Seeking first series win since 1985-86; lead 1-0 with
two games to play
This Week's Sign That the Apocalypse Is Upon Us
An on-line betting operation based in Antigua was accepting
wagers last week on whether Eugenia Williams would judge the
The Masters is sold out in advance--the waiting list for tickets
is so long that officials stopped adding names to it in
1978--network television coverage is limited to the back nine,
and the telecast of Sunday's final round doesn't start until 4
p.m. Eastern time. So head to the Web to follow the leaders.
The tournament's official site offers scores and stats, plus a
virtual tour of Augusta National's hallowed course and clubhouse.
Page through the Masters library for features on past tournaments
and champions from Slammin' Sam to the Golden Bear to Mark
The Masters's hometown paper, The Augusta Chronicle, leaves no
stone unturned or story unreported on its Web site, a joint
venture with CNN/SI. Delve into the archives, including SI's
tournament coverage back to 1955, for historical nuggets and
follow the action with up-to-the minute dispatches.
Grab a seat in the PGA Tour's cyber-clubhouse for hole-by-hole
updates. You can check out bios of every Masters entrant and see
how he has been performing going into the season's first major.
sites we'd like to see
Hershiser fans can follow the former Dodgers/Indians/Giants
righthander to New York, as he joins the Mets.
Chat room for NBA execs hoping the end of March Madness means a
boost to the league of their own.
Wizards coach, after his club dropped a 113-83 bomb on the
Cavaliers: "Sometimes you're the pigeon, and sometimes you're