Jamaal Tinsley has Iowa State off to the best start in
Iowa State point guard Jamaal Tinsley isn't the type to launch
hundreds of jump shots late into the night, nor will anyone
accuse him of overdoing his conditioning. Yet no other player in
the country may be better at taking over a game at an opportune
time, an attribute Cyclones coach Larry Eustachy ascribes to an
age-old precept: You can take the baller out of the playground,
but you can't take the playground out of the baller. "In the
parks you have to win to keep the court," Eustachy says. "You can
start slowly in the morning, but later in the day, when a lot of
guys show up, you better win or you won't get to play again."
Tinsley and Iowa State started slowly last Saturday, trailing by
eight points at the half of their Big 12 opener, against No. 15
Oklahoma. When the day was done, however, there was no doubt who
was king of the court. Tinsley, a 6'3" senior who had made only 8
of 27 three-point attempts coming into the game, had nailed three
trifectas in the first 2:31 of the second half to propel the
Cyclones (13-1 and ranked 18th as of Monday) to a 100-80 win.
After his display of sharpshooting, Tinsley settled back into his
role of distributor and finished with 17 points (including 5 of 7
from behind the arc), eight assists, five rebounds and three
steals in 29 minutes. "If Tinsley makes four or five threes every
game, I'm not sure anyone can guard him," Sooners coach Kelvin
Sampson said after the game.
Tinsley attended Tilden High in Brooklyn, but because of his
truancy he never played basketball there. The only rigorous team
structure he experienced before he got to Iowa State came during
his two years at Mt. San Jacinto College, a community college in
San Jacinto, Calif. Eustachy, whose Cyclones are off to the best
start in school history, still delights in describing Tinsley's
first conditioning workout in Ames, which featured so much
running that Tinsley complained to an assistant coach, "I didn't
come here on a f------ track scholarship." After spearheading the
Cyclones' run to the Elite Eight last March, Tinsley was invited
to join the squad of collegians who acted as exhibition-game foes
for the U.S. Olympic team on Sept. 2. His lackluster
performance--no points in nine minutes--was officially attributed
to a bad knee, but Tinsley concedes he was out of shape. "When I
was growing up, I never had anybody tell me what to do when it
came to basketball," he says. "It was just me playing playground
ball and having freedom."
At some point Tinsley will have to learn to push himself if he
wants to continue to improve, but he already has the killer
instinct of a winner. Sitting in the bleachers of Hilton Coliseum
after Iowa State had dispatched Oklahoma, Tinsley was told that
the Sooners' game plan was to play off him in the belief that he
couldn't beat them with his outside shot. "I like that," he
replied with a smile. "Every team that backs off me this year is
going to regret it." As he looked across the near-empty arena,
Tinsley all but asked aloud the obvious question: Who's got next?
CENTER OF CONTROVERSY
It's Still Hard To Be Goliath
On Jan. 2 North Carolina senior center Brendan Haywood was held
scoreless in an 84-70 Tar Heels victory at Georgia Tech. Three
days later, when Haywood got a haircut, his barber derisively
called him Doughnut. In North Carolina's next game, last Saturday
night in Chapel Hill, Haywood tied his season high with 24
points, including the winning bucket with 3.3 seconds left, as
the 13th-ranked Tar Heels handed No. 4 Wake Forest its first loss
of the season, 70-69, and improved to 11-2 on the season. One of
the first questions Haywood fielded afterward was, "Why can't you
play like that in every game?"
Those back-to-back performances and the subsequent question
provide a snapshot of Haywood's career. There are games when
Haywood looks like the most dominant of college players. In other
games he makes it seem as if a 7-footer can be invisible. "For
four years I've been hearing that I'm inconsistent," Haywood
says. "I'm not playing for stats or TV cameras or NBA draft
status. I'm just trying to win games, and people don't always
Haywood's enormous potential coupled with his willingness to
defer to teammates during games has led to criticism as vehement
as any ever leveled against a player at North Carolina. Former
Tar Heels point guard Ed Cota summed it up best when he said last
year, "Brendan's the kind of guy people notice only when they
don't notice him."
Haywood is still defending his one-point, zero-rebound showing in
Carolina's first-round loss to Weber State in the 1999 NCAA
tournament. Last season enemy fans played on his reputation as a
soft center with heckling chants of "Bren-da!" Even as Haywood
led the NCAA with an ACC-record field goal percentage of 69.7% a
year ago, his detractors pointed out that he averaged fewer than
eight shots per game, and many of those were dunks.
"It's tough on any 7-footer because the fans think all of them
should dominate like Shaq," says first-year Carolina coach Matt
Doherty. "In college, defenses can sag, play zone or double-team
big guys like Brendan, and that makes it difficult to get off
While it's true that Haywood is often double- and triple-teamed,
he also has a mild-mannered personality that makes him reluctant
to battle for shots. He's sometimes manhandled in the lane by
smaller post players, and he has yet to develop a reliable
scoring move with his back to the basket.
Despite his shortcomings Haywood was the most effective center in
last year's NCAA tournament, averaging 15.8 points, 9.6 rebounds
and 3.0 blocks in helping carry the Tar Heels to the Final Four.
He then turned down a chance to be a lottery pick in the NBA
draft and entered this season as a top candidate for player of
the year honors. On Dec. 4 he produced 18 points, 14 rebounds and
10 blocks against Miami, the first triple double in North
Carolina history. For the season Haywood was averaging 12.8
points and 7.8 rebounds at week's end, but in the four games
before facing the Demon Deacons he'd averaged only 5.3 shots and
5.0 points per game and gone 4 for 18 from the foul line,
prompting the usual vitriol from North Carolina fans. "People
have been hard on him," Doherty said after the Wake Forest game.
"I'm happy for Brendan because he deserves praise for coming
through in the clutch."
Haywood kept his game-winning basket against the Demon Deacons in
perspective. "Hitting a shot like that and having our fans rush
the floor is the kind of thrill you fantasize about," he said.
"But I've been here long enough to know that if I score four
points in the next game, then all of this never happened."
Taking Over For a Legend
The season isn't half over, and already an unprecedented number
of top-line coaches have turned over the reins to an assistant.
Arizona's Lute Olson, Utah's Rick Majerus, Wisconsin's Dick
Bennett, Georgia State's Lefty Driesell and Stetson's Murray
Arnold--each with more than 360 career victories--have left their
benches for various lengths of time and a variety of reasons.
That has put a special burden on the coaches who have had to
follow in their wakes.
Brad Soderberg, 38, an assistant under Bennett for six seasons
before the 57-year-old Bennett abruptly retired in November,
speaks for most of them when he says, "You can't look at this as
an audition or you'll make yourself crazy." He has followed
Bennett's defensive-minded game plan, and the Badgers were 8-1
under him through Sunday, but he remains cautious. "Any coach
needs to worry about the players' toughness slipping when you
replace a legend," says Soderberg. "The fear is that what's been
built so carefully could crumble at your feet."
A more temporary coaching change has proved to be more
problematic at Arizona. Through Sunday longtime Wildcats
assistant Jim Rosborough, 56, had lost two of the three games
he'd coached in place of the 66-year-old Olson, who's been on a
leave of absence since two days before the Jan. 1 death of his
wife, Bobbi. At Utah, Majerus, 52, has been relieved by
assistant Dick Hunsaker, 46, while Majerus rehabs from knee
surgery, an angiography and the stenting of two coronary artery
branches that may keep him out for the rest of the season. "It's
unsettling when you suddenly lose your leader, especially for
younger players," says Hunsaker, who at week's end had led the
Utes to a 7-6 record. "It's an emotional swing, not only for
your team but also for your opponents, who've been waiting for
you to become vulnerable."
When the 69-year-old Driesell left his Georgia State team for
neck surgery on Dec. 19, he was replaced by Mike Perry, 41, an
assistant who had never coached a game before the Panthers' trip
to a holiday tournament in Hawaii. Georgia State trailed in all
three of its tournament games, against Hawaii, UAB and Cal
State-Northridge, but mysteriously launched winning rallies in
each when Mike's wife, Darlene, who was in the stands, began
holding associate athletic director Carol Cohen's baby son,
Sammy. "There was a crucial moment in the Northridge game when I
started waving my arms and people thought I was calling a play,"
says Mike, who was 4-1 through Sunday in Driesell's absence. "I
was actually signaling to my wife that it was time to hold the
When Arnold, 61, who was suffering from diabetes and kidney
disease, announced his retirement for health reasons on Dec. 27,
he was replaced by 29-year-old assistant Derek Waugh, now the
youngest head coach in Division I. Four years ago, Waugh was an
Atlanta lawyer who had caught the coaching bug and joined
Arnold's staff as a restricted-earnings coach. In his Dec. 28
debut, he steered the Hatters to a stunning 80-76 victory at
Southwest Missouri State, Stetson's most impressive nonconference
win in a decade. Waugh, who went 1-2 in his next three games, is
amused that his title is not interim coach but acting coach. "My
brother is an actor in New York, and I called him for advice on
how to act like a coach," Waugh says jokingly. "First of all, I'm
thinking about growing a beard so that I'll stop getting mistaken
for the players."
It appears he may have learned the most important lesson of all:
A sense of humor helps in difficult times. --T.C.
The Pride of the Palestra
Balancing the Books and Mops
With so many college players ignoring the educational
opportunity that has been given to them, it's refreshing to see
someone grab his chance with gusto. That's what 57-year-old Dan
Harrell, a custodian at the Palestra on the Penn campus in West
Philadelphia, has done. He took advantage of a university
program that offers employees free part-time enrollment in the
College of General Studies. He needed 10 years, but Harrell
earned his Ivy League degree last May and is now pursuing a
masters in education.
Harrell gave college a try once before, spending one day at St.
Joseph's in 1961 after graduating from Philadelphia's West
Catholic High. "I took a class on rhetoric and had no idea what
the professor was talking about," he says. "I figured I'd better
try this later on."
He got a job as a mail clerk at General Electric and worked his
way into the company's marketing department, only to be
victimized by mass layoffs in 1980. Over the next few years he
dug ditches and tended bar before landing a custodial position at
Penn's Wharton School of Business. Two years later, in '91, he
moved to the Palestra.
Harrell has gone out of his way to forge relationships with the
Quakers who play on the court he polishes. Before a player
competes in a final home basketball game, Harrell places in his
or her locker an envelope containing a shamrock key ring and a
note wishing the player luck. Two weeks ago Penn men's coach Fran
Dunphy and his players presented Harrell a ring commemorating the
Quakers' 2000 Ivy League championship.
Harrell's appearance in the procession of graduates down Locust
Walk won't soon be forgotten. As he marched alongside his fellow
students, he clutched his dust mop. To fit the occasion, he had
decorated his mop with pictures of his parents and his late
brother, and he mounted blue and red letters on the mop head
that read PENN 2000. "A lot of the housekeepers, plumbers and
electricians I work with were there that day," Harrell says.
"That's why I took the mop with me, so people would know where I
For the latest scores and recruiting news, plus more from Seth
Davis and Grant Wahl, go to cnnsi.com/basketball/college.
The Joe College Report
Hey, Indiana, it's time to get rid of that interim tag next to
the title of coach Mike Davis after the Hoosiers' 59-58 upset of
No. 1 Michigan State on Sunday. No coach in the country has
endured more criticism than Davis, who recently stopped reading
his e-mail after receiving more than 100 negative messages--many
of them reportedly racist--from irate Indiana fans. Ask
yourself: Could Bob Knight have done any better than lead this
modestly talented team to a 10-6 record and the ending of
Michigan State's 23-game winning streak? Case closed...
Arizona's Loren Woods sure didn't help his reputation for being
mercurial when he got ejected for going after referee Charlie
Range during a game against Cal last week, but Woods's
description of his meltdown--"It felt like quicksand in there,"
he said. "I felt like I was going to die"--was one heck of an
evocative image. Arizona's professors, if not its coaches,
should be proud...
Tamir Goodman may not be the Jewish Jordan after all, but the
6'3" Orthodox Jew, who originally committed to Maryland (SI Feb.
1, 1999), is doing just fine as a freshman at Towson, where he
was averaging 4.3 points per game through Monday while starting
for the 7-8 Tigers. What's more, Towson's season-ticket sales
have gone up tenfold (to 300), thanks largely to an influx of
Jewish fans. Mazel tov!...
Has any first-year player in the country had a greater impact on
his team than Fresno State's Tito Maddox? In his seven games,
all of them wins, since joining the Bulldogs on Dec. 19 (he sat
out eight games because of an agent-related suspension, but hey,
he wouldn't be a Jerry Tarkanian player if he hadn't), he had
averaged 14.9 points and 8.3 assists while helping Fresno State
improve to 13-2.