UMass is 3rd seed, sent to Worcester
By Joe Burris, Boston Globe Staff, 3/16/1992
AMHERST – If the saying, “To the victor goes the spoils,” is true, the Massachusetts basketball team must have felt spoiled rotten yesterday.
Few pegged the 28-4 Minutemen among college basketball's elite, even though UMass finished in the Top 25, tied with Duke for the most wins in Division 1, scored impressive wins over Oklahoma and Iowa State and won its conference championship.
But the NCAA selection committee, which noted that UMass hovered around the top of a few power ratings throughout the season, was impressed. Thus it gave the Minutemen the third seed in the NCAA Tournament's East Regional.
What's more, the third seed put UMass in Worcester for its first-round game. Lastly, the Minutemen will play on Friday against Patriot League champion Fordham – a team they beat in the National Invitation Tournament last year.
The Minutemen witnessed the televised NCAA Tournament selection show at UMass coach John Calipari's home in Shutesbury. When the words “Massachusetts“ and “Fordham” flashed up on the screen, the players and coaches screamed and hugged as if they'd won Mass Millions. But was difficult to determine what made the team and coaches most jubilant – that they were the No. 3 seed, that they were playing in Worcester or that they were playing Fordham (18-12).
“I am shocked that they gave us a No. 3 seed,” said Calipari, “but not because I don't think we deserve it. I think that with 12 wins in a row and 28 wins, I think we deserve it. It's great, now we have to go out there and get things done.” Three of the four teams that handed UMass defeats this season are in the NCAA Tournament.
Leading up to last Thursday night's Atlantic-10 championship game against West Virginia, UMass was ranked 15th in the Sagarin ratings and seventh in the RPI computer ratings. But even the players were surprised with the move to the third seed.
“I was sort of thinking that we would get maybe a fourth or fifth seed,” said UMass center Harper Williams, the Atlantic-10 player of the year. “But we beat a few good teams this year, and I think that must have impressed the selection board.”
Calipari and Co. tried to play down the Fordham matchup, but their faces told of their confidence. UMass defeated Fordham, 78-74, in the Bronx last year in the second round of the NIT, jumping out to a 64-50 lead, then holding on for the win.
“Last year they played a good game; they're a good team,” said UMass guard Jim McCoy, who played with Fordham's two leading scorers, Fred Herzog and Jean Prioleau, on an NIT All-Star team that toured Europe in the summer. “We're confident because we have everyone coming back.”
Fordham, on the other hand, is without last year's leader Damon Lopez (although he scored just 9 points against UMass last year).
URI coach Al Skinner, whose team awaited an NIT bid last night, has coached against both Fordham and UMass this season, beating Fordham, and losing to UMass three times. “Fordham is a team that likes to press, but if they continue to press against UMass the way they did against us, UMass won't have trouble beating them,” he said.
Skinner was perhaps one of few who wasn't surprised UMass received the high seed. In fact, he went so far as to say the Minutemen didn't get their due this season. “The only thing disapointing in terms of UMass is that I think they're a top 10-15 club,” he said. “For them not to be ranked in the Top 25 all year, I don't know what the problem was. If A-10 members Temple or West Virginia were in the same situation, they would have been ranked in the top 10.”
But yesterday was undoubtedly a day of vindication for the Minutemen, who not only got chosen to a regional in their backyard but were more than pleased with the field. Should UMass win against Fordham Friday, it would play the winner of the Princeton-Syracuse game Sunday. Syracuse captured the Big East title with a win over Georgetown Sunday. Princeton will try in what has become an annual attempt to get beyond scaring a highly touted team in the first round.
In three previous NCAA Tournaments (against Georgetown, Arkansas and Villanova) Princeton led at halftime only to take a close defeat. The Tigers, winners of the Ivy League title and one of the first teams to make the field of 64, were defeated earlier this season by New Jersey state rival Rutgers, a team UMass defeated three times.
Also in the Worcester regional will be two other teams the Minutemen faced this year. Iowa State, which came on strongly toward the end of the season in the tough Big Eight Conference, lost to UMass, 73-53, in the championship game of the Hall of Fame Classic in Springfield. Iowa State will meet tough North Carolina-Charlotte in the first round.
Then there's the University of Kentucky, which gave the Minutemen their first loss of the season, a 90-69 drubbing that came less than two days after UMass captured the Great Alaska Shootout by claiming three victories at midnight. Kentucky, winners of the Southeastern Conference, will meet Old Dominion in the first round. The game will also mark a homecoming of sorts for Kentucky coach Rick Pitino, formerly the head man at Boston University and Providence.
SIDEBAR - OPENING ACT
The game: UMass (28-4) will take on Fordham (18-12) Friday at the Centrum in Worcester in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
Of note: Both teams are playing well, UMass having won 12 straight, Fordham taking 12 of its last 14 . . . UMass won both the regular season and tournament championship of the Atlantic 10, a first in that conference since Temple turned the trick in 1988 . . . Fordham beat Bucknell in the Patriot League championship.
Common foes: Each team played Rhode Island, St. Joseph's, Holy Cross, Xavier and Siena. Against those clubs, UMass was 8-0 (3-0 vs. URI), while Fordham was 3-3.
Last meeting: UMass beat Fordham, 78-74, in the second round of the NIT a year ago.
About the Rams: Fordham is an up tempo team that likes to press. Forward Fred Herzog averages 17.9 points and 6.3 rebounds per game, while guard Jean Prioleau averages 13.2 points. Says URI coach Al Skinner: “Herzog is a great scorer, very explosive. Prioleau is a great guard who did a good job handling the offense. They're an experienced team, so they won't be intimidated by UMass.
About the Minutemen: Guard Jim McCoy (16.3 points per game) is the school's career leader in points, but he gets plenty of offensive help from center Harper Williams (14.1 points, 7.4 rebounds), the Atlantic 10 Player of the Year. The team is 4-0 in national televised games this season.
Duke stands tall, UMass stays near
By Mark Blaudschun, Boston Globe Staff, 3/16/1992
THE EAST / NCAA
The outlook: Who wants to play Duke? No one, really. But the Campbell University Fighting Camels of Buies Creek, N.C., receive the first door prize. The Blue Devils should breeze to Philadelphia before they face a potential ACC-Big East challenge against Seton Hall. If they are going to stumble, that's the place it will happen.
Seton Hall stumbled against Syracuse in the Big East tournament, but the Pirates have the kind of team that is built for tournament play and will relish a break from the rigors of Big East play. If they can get past pesky La Salle, they should be solid for awhile. The good news for the Pirates is that they stay in the East for the first time in four years. The bad news is that they are in the same region as the top-seeded team for the fourth straight year.
The other half of the draw looks like a Massachusetts road show. The Minutemen should be able to survive their games in Worcester and make it to the regionals, where they could face a rematch with Kentucky.
The Wildcats won that encounter, but UMass was coming off a long road trip following a trip to the Great Alaska Shootout. The Minutemen should be fresher and wiser this time. And Kentucky, when it's not hitting those 3-point bombs, can lose to anybody. Of course, when the Wildcats are making those shots, they can blow a lot of teams off the court.
After blitzing to the Southeastern Conference championship, the Wildcats look as if they are back on track, and Rick Pitino is one of the better game coaches in the business.
If the Minutemen get that far, then comes Duke or a team like Seton Hall, and the party could end quickly. But in a year when UMass is seeded higher than any Big East team, who knows what might happen?
Teams heading to Philadelphia: UMass, Kentucky, Duke, Seton Hall.
Upset special: Missouri is always a good bet to get upset in the first round of any tournament game. If Princeton, which has lost its last three first-round games by a total of 7 points, beats Syracuse, will anyone be surprised?
Teams to watch: Princeton, UMass
Regional champion: Duke.
He's UMass' centerpiece
By Joe Burris, Boston Globe Staff, 3/17/1992
NCAA BASKETBALL TOURNAMENTS
AMHERST – Harper Williams learned he was named Atlantic 10 Conference Player of the Year hours before the official announcement was made at the tournament awards banquet. You would think the University of Massachusetts center would have spent those few hours preparing an acceptance speech, writing down a list of persons to thank.
Instead, Williams focused his attention elsewhere. He thought about teammate Jim McCoy, the other finalist for the award and the player who this season drew double-teams the way an ice cream truck draws kids with loose change. He considered forwards Tony Barbee and Will Herndon, and guard Anton Brown, starters who helped lead the Minutemen to their best record in school history but were left off the All-Atlantic 10 team. Then he considered Rutgers, UMass' first-round opponent in the conference tournament the following day. He could see UMass losing to the Scarlet Knights if it entered the game disheartened over being snubbed at the awards banquet.
Thus, the junior from Bridgeport, Conn., used the ceremony as a chance to mend any broken spirits. In an emotional speech, Williams thanked those who voted for him, but said that the awards “should go to the senior player who brought us where we are, and that player is Jim McCoy.” Williams added that because McCoy was double-teamed so often this season, it freed up Williams to post some impressive numbers. Then he called the forward up to the podium, and the two embraced.
That was all UMass needed to get ready for Rutgers. The Minutemen jumped to a 13-point halftime lead and went on to defeat the Scarlet Knights, 106-94, tallying the most points ever in an Atlantic 10 tournament game. Leading the way for UMass? Williams, who had 19 points, a season-high 16 rebounds, 4 steals and 2 blocked shots.
That stat line typifies Williams' play since he arrived in Amherst. The 6- foot-7-inch, 230-pound center (one of the smallest centers in the league) didn't lead the conference in either scoring or rebounding, but those who have seen him play are well aware there are few better team players. Any time UMass needs a rebound, a tip-in, a block or a turnover, he is among the first to step up.
That was the case in the Atlantic 10 semifinal against Rhode Island. With UMass ahead by 1 with 7:19 to go, Williams came off the bench after a one- minute breather and led the Minutemen the rest of the way with 7 points, two rebounds and an assist. “I can't help my team much on the bench,” he said after the game.
It's the team concept that has made UMass one of the surprise teams this season. The Minutemen, seeded third in the East Regional of the NCAA Tournament, will meet 14th-seeded Fordham Friday at 7:40 p.m. in the first round of the tourney at the Centrum in Worcester. In other games at the Centrum, Kentucky will play Old Dominion at 12:30 p.m., and Iowa State will meet UNC-Charlotte 30 minutes after the end of the Wildcats game. Princeton and Syracuse will meet 30 minutes following the UMass-Fordham game.
After the Rutgers game, UMass coach John Calipari thanked the media for leaving a few Minutemen off the all-conference team because it helped to inspire them. But he later said Williams' gesture also gave the team a lift. “He does something like that, and the other players feel maybe they shouldn't be so sore for being left off,” he said.
“Sometimes not getting awards you think you deserve can mess you up mentally and emotionally,” said Williams. “I just wanted to keep our team together. Jimmy took all the pressure off of me with being double-teamed, so I felt I should give it to him.”
McCoy still gets a little choked up when asked to reflect on the moment. “Oh man, it's hard to describe what I felt then,“ he said. “I don't think anyone expected it. It touched everyone in the building.
“And it shows how tight we are as a team. Usually someone would just become selfish and take the award. What he did was to show it was the team this year, rather than one person.”
Incidentally, McCoy gave the trophy back to Williams that night, insisting he keep it. Williams obliged, saying, “I guess McCoy figured that it has my name on it. But for me, it wasn't so much the trophy as it was just being recognized as player of the year. That's why I did what I did. It could have gone to him or anyone else on our team.”
Williams deserved the award. His stats did not diminish during the season when it was apparent he had to be held in check as well. Often guarded by defenders much taller and stronger, the center relied on his long arms, a soft touch on his jump shot and a relentless approach to the offensive and defensive glass.
“A warrior, that is the key word when describing Harper,” said Calipari. “The kid will fight like hell for you.”
“I always figure that when I go out there on that floor, I don't want to be made a fool of,” said Williams. “If you beat me, you'll beat me at my best.”
Being named Atlantic 10 Player of the Year seems fitting for Williams, who is no stranger to sharing the spotlight. He didn't begin taking basketball seriously until age 13, then excelled at the varsity level as a sophomore, starting the last seven games after a few other players were dismissed from the team because of academic reasons. But even then, his notoriety primarily came from being the cousin of Los Angeles Clippers forward Charles Smith.
Williams helped lead his Bassick (Conn.) High School to a 28-0 ranking, a state championship and a No. 8 finish in the USA Today poll. Then he was named Co-Mr. Basketball in the state, sharing the honor with teammate Jerome Johnson. The only time he was named freshman player of the week (Jan. 21) he had to share the honor with Penn State forward DeRon Hayes. Other than being named MVP in the state tournament, he hasn't received many solo honors.
Williams shares his teammates' sentiments in looking forward to playing Fordham, a team UMass beat in last year's National Invitation Tournament. “They're the type of team that plays real hard,” said Williams, “and never quits.”
UMass to get full treatment
By Jack Craig, Boston Globe Staff, 3/17/1992
University of Massachusetts faithful who regularly complain of being ignored in Boston may be amused by the fact CBS has declared this an area of “natural interest“ for the Minutemen during postseason basketball, not only assuring coverage but banning shifting to any of the other games while they are playing.
The rule will be in effect for UMass-Fordham Friday at 7:40 p.m. and Sunday at 4:30 p.m. if UMass advances to play the winner of Princeton-Syracuse.
“We never quite say never,” cautions CBS vice president Len DeLuca, architect of the television schedule. He recalled taking the New York audience from the one-sided St. John's-Texas telecast in the first round last year into two overtime games – Penn State-Eastern Michigan and Michigan State-Utah.
“Still, we will be very, very conservative with UMass in the Boston area,” said DeLuca, noting the team is seeded higher than any Big East school. DeLuca is a graduate of Boston College and aware of the sensitivity of UMass alumni. James Brown and Bill Raftery will broadcast all the action from the Centrum in Worcester.
CBS has declared this area flexible on UConn, which will play Nebraska Thursday at 10 p.m., meaning the five New England states beyond Connecticut could be switched to one of the four other games in progress.
Instant decisions on all switches will be made jointly by DeLuca, executive producer Teddy Shaker and in-studio producers Eric Mann and David Winner. There was much criticism last year, the first time CBS did not share coverage with ESPN and resorted to more frequent changes for Channel 7 viewers than in most areas of the country. DeLuca says that 43 of the 48 first- and second- round games last March were seen in part on Channel 7.
Starting times at the four sites also will be staggered by a few minutes in order to ideally provide windows for fans to see exciting finishes without missing any action.
CBS was not aware any sooner than the public, DeLuca insists, of the selection of the schools and sites of games. But the network did have an input on starting times. “The only thing we did was try to select the prime-time games,” DeLuca said. “I wish we had half the power people think we have.”
He's been real McCoy at UMass
By Joe Burris, Boston Globe Staff, 3/18/1992
AMHERST – Jim McCoy used to have a most difficult time tuning out voices around him.
Some of those voices have given him his most bitter memories – such as four years ago, as a University of Massachusetts freshman, when two senior players were charged with burglary in a residential section of Amherst.
“I can remember on several occasions going to a visiting gym and having someone yell at me, 'Hey, kid, I've got a VCR over here for sale,' ” said McCoy. “We were called the thugs of the campus.”
McCoy, a Pittsburgh native, was sold on Pitt after being recruited by former Panthers assistant John Calipari, but opted for UMass when Calipari took that job and vowed to make McCoy, a 6-foot-4-inch guard, the cornerstone in rebuilding the program. But during his freshman year, McCoy thought he had made a big mistake coming to Amherst.
“I wish I could just totally and completely forget my freshman year,” said McCoy. “There were so many ups
and downs, and it was hard being away from home.
“We had seniors on the team that we looked up to, and when they get caught doing something they shouldn't do, you look bad yourself, because people say, 'You're a thug, too.' ”
McCoy became so frustrated that he packed his bags, called his parents and told them he was coming home. But an hour before he was scheduled to leave, he changed his mind, heeding his parents' advice to hold out one more day. One day became two days, then one week, then one month. There would come more bitter voices, more bad memories, but McCoy stayed. Now, the last thing on his mind is pondering what might have happened had he left.
McCoy was named Atlantic 10 Freshman of the Year in 1989. Two years later, he became the Minutemen's career leading scorer. Going into Friday's NCAA East Regional first-round game against Fordham, McCoy has 2,323 points, 605 more than Lorenzo Sutton. He is third behind Julius Erving and Sutton for points in a season (640 in 1990) and second to Dr. J in field goals in a season (239 in 1990). This year, he was named first-team All-Atlantic 10 for the third consecutive season, a first for a UMass player.
Moreover, the Cornerstone will leave UMass as the player who guided the Minutemen to more milestones than any other: First victory over Temple. First victory at West Virginia. Most victories in school history. First top 20 ranking. Not to mention the school's first NCAA Tournament bid in 30 years and only its second ever.
McCoy, the nephew of NBA Hall of Famer Connie Hawkins, also recently got an invitation to the Portsmouth (Va.) Camp, held in April for the top college players eligible for the NBA draft. Those who excel are then invited to a similar camp in Orlando and then Chicago. McCoy will attend as a shooting guard.
“Being invited to a pro camp is a positive step for me,” said McCoy, whose father played for the Pittsburgh Rens of the defunct American Basketball League. “They know how well I can shoot. If I can show them that I can stop a 6-foot-5 shooting guard, then I think I have a chance.”
McCoy's scoring has tapered off a bit, (20.7 his sophomore season, 16.2 ppg this season), as Calipari brought in more and more good players who became second and third options when McCoy was double-teamed. Though McCoy still hears voices about that dropoff, he realizes that UMass probably wouldn't have won 28 games this season without those second and third options.
Let the detractors talk, he says. What's most important is that the end of his college career is far more rewarding than the beginning was.
“The thing is, I'm happy now, I'm really happy,” said McCoy, bringing his soft voice up a few decibels. “Back then, when I was scoring a lot, I wasn't as happy as I am now; I was scoring a lot, but we weren't winning. But now, we're winning more, and the more we win, the more recognition we get, and then the more recognition I get.”
McCoy's senior season helps make up for last year, which ended with the Minutemen advancing to the National Invitation Tournament Final Four, but began with him at less than full strength. During the offseason, McCoy had suffered an allergic reaction to eye drops. He was bedridden for several weeks and lost 25 pounds.
In the first game of the season, against Purdue, he scored just 4 points – tying his career low set as a freshman and marking only the fifth time he failed to reach double figures. He followed with a 15-point night against St. Joseph's, but that didn't stop the detractors.
“Looking back at that now, I probably should have red-shirted, and I would have come back stronger,” said McCoy. “But I'm not unhappy that I opted to play.”
One of the reasons McCoy stayed at UMass was that he didn't want to return to Pittsburgh to hear detractors saying he should not have left in the first place.
“There were a lot of people in the area who were upset that I left and didn't go to West Virginia, Pitt or Duquesne,” said McCoy. “That's why one of the greatest memories I've had here was to beat West Virginia on their home floor this year. That game gave us the Atlantic 10 championship. And then to beat them at home for the tournament championship . . . it doesn't get any better than that.”
Some might think McCoy would like to erase memories of his frequent run-ins with Calipari. Each is prone to speaking his mind to the other, and because of that, says McCoy, “He'll come into the locker room at halftime and I'll jump on him and he'll scream back at me.”
In fact, at halftime of a game two years ago, they got into a verbal exchange so heated that they had to be restrained by players and assistant coaches. But while their relationship is often turbulent, they say, it is also often misunderstood.
“Jimmy knows that I love him,” said Calipari. “I just think he's capable of doing more than any other player I have. So my job is to get him to do things he doesn't want to do. I just hope one day the respect he has for what I'm doing turns to affection, so he'll know I wasn't doing this for myself, but for him.”
“People say we have a love-hate relationship: love on the court, hate off the court or love off the court, hate on the court,” said McCoy. “I say let them say whatever they want. People don't realize what he and I have gone through. I could write a book about it.”
Calipari said he yells at his players to get them to take their effort to another level. The near-altercation did spark McCoy in the second half that day, as he finished with 27 points in leading UMass to victory over the University of Rhode Island. “But I will always regret doing that,” said Calipari, “because he was so hurt that I ruined him for the next two games.” In the next outing, McCoy tallied just 11 against George Washington.
McCoy said his teammates often tease him about his relationship with Calipari.
“They say that he's my dad,” said McCoy. “But they don't realize that I've known him since my freshman or sophomore year in high school, so of course my relationship with him is going to be different than theirs. It has been like a father-son relationship, because sometimes you argue with your father but you still get along.”
McCoy said he recently spoke to Hawkins, who is working in the Phoenix Suns front office.
“He just tells me to keep up the good work,” said McCoy. “He and my dad just want me to concentrate on my senior season.”
Those are two voices McCoy has no trouble listening to.
Fordham sizes up opposition
By Joe Burris, Boston Globe Staff, 3/18/1992
Material from Associated Press was used in this report.
NCAA TOURNAMENT NOTEBOOK
Nick Macarchuk cringes when he looks at the talent and depth of the University of Massachusetts. Asked how he believes his Fordham team will fare against the Minutemen in the first round of the NCAA East Regional at the Centrum in Worcester, the fourth-year head coach said, “Has any team ever held another scoreless? I look at UMass and they look very strong. People think they're not a strong, physical team, but they are. They rebound well and defend well, which are things that require strength to do. And we're not a strong team. You look at us, and we look like a small team, and then you watch us play and we look even smaller.”
Fordham leading scorer Fred Herzog agrees with Macarchuk on UMass. “I've seen them play twice this year, against Temple and West Virginia, and they have a lot of talent. It's not like you can concentrate on one player. If you do, you'll be out of the game before you know it.”
EXPERIENCE AT TOP
UMass doesn't have any players with NCAA tournament experience, but head coach John Calipari has. The coach was an assistant at Kansas when the Jayhawks went to two NCAA tournaments and at Pittsburgh when the Panthers went to two NCAA tourneys. “I keep trying to explain to my players the level of intensity in which people play in the tournament,” he said. “Now, it's not for funzies. The only way that we won't be shocked by it all is to play at that same intensity.”
PRINCETON MEASURES UP
Princeton may be the thinking man's team, but Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim says the Ivy League champs deserve high marks for brawn as well.
“People talk about all the physical advantages we enjoy, but if anything, they have more physical talent than we have,” said Boeheim, whose 21st-ranked Orangemen (21-9) will be meeting Princeton (22-5) Friday.
“They're as big as we are. Their front line is 6-8, 6-8, 6-6. They're bigger than us at the two forward positions and Conrad McRae, Syracuse's center might as well be 6-8,” said Boeheim, who often chastises his 6-foot- 10-inch center for not being aggressive enough on the boards. “Their backcourt is as quick or quicker than our backcourt.”
UMass being rated the overdog is just fine with Calipari
By Joe Burris and Mark Blaudschun, Boston Globe Staff, 3/19/1992
NCAA TOURNAMENT NOTEBOOK
University of Massachusetts coach John Calipari is not bothered by being a heavy favorite in tomorrow's NCAA East Regional first-round game against Fordham at the Centrum in Worcester.
“I like it,” said Calipari, whose team was listed as a 14-point favorite yesterday. “I'd rather be that than a 6-point favorite. There's no pressure on us, anyway. We haven't been in the tournament since 1962. We're supposed to fall on our face.”
Yet Calipari has defended his team's No. 3 seeding much of the week. “I keep telling people that we've been struggling to schedule games,” he said. If people don't believe we're that good, tell them to give us a call and we'll schedule them.”
Already on the 1992-93 schedule are Oklahoma, at Norman, and Siena. South Carolina and Alabama-Birmingham will play in the Abdow's Classic in Springfield.
Latest rumor to make the collegiate circles has UNLV officials asking for information about Calipari . . . Calipari's name will be mentioned when most major openings occur.
Fordham guard Jay Fazande is the cousin of highly touted high school junior guard Randy Livingston of New Orleans, who wowed spectators at last year's Boston Shootout. Livingston is considered by many to be the best junior in the country. “When he was younger, I was so much better than he was,” said Fazande, “and then he just got so much better.” . . . Leading scorer Fred Herzog chose Fordham over Princeton and Syracuse, two teams that will play in the same regional. “I think I made the right decision in choosing Fordham,” he said. “At Syracuse, I would have had to play in back of Billy Owens; I'm not too sure how successful I would have been. At Princeton, I just don't think I would have fit in, or would have wanted that kind of pressure academically. That's why I'm happy with Fordham. We play a similar style of basketball, but the academic pressures aren't as great.”
As UMass returns to the NCAA Tournament, the 1962 team recalls . . . That was the first trip to the big time
By Larry Tye, Boston Globe Staff, 3/20/1992
A lot has changed in 30 years.
In 1962, the only other year the University of Massachusetts men's basketball team was invited to the NCAA tournament, newly arriving male students wore beanies and females had to be in their rooms – in all-women's dorms – by 7 p.m.
The Amherst campus had half as many students then, a third as many teachers, and a budget one-20th as big as today's. But spending was heading up as the Sputnik launch scared America into gearing up its higher education.
Nowhere, however, was the transformation more dramatic than on the basketball court: The UMass men's team had a $200 recruiting budget then, compared to $81,500 this year. The Cage was dark and dingy, with squirrels darting through the rafters and the manager worried about keeping mud off the balls. Players back then held little hope of hitting the NBA, which had just nine teams, compared to today's 27.
And the Redmen had just one black player in 1962; today there is just one white.
“There was none of the fanfare that today's tournament has, nothing like the recognition,” recalled Mike Mole, the point guard and driving force behind the 1962 team.
Jack Leaman, the assistant coach then, said UMass also has become much more of a basketball power: “We were a New England-oriented team back then, but now all of a sudden, they're playing teams like Oklahoma and Oklahoma State.
“Today they spend more money in a week than our team spent in a year.”
That doesn't mean the players 30 years ago weren't thrilled to make the tournament. In fact, they may have been more excited, since they went so much further than anyone expected.
The '62 team's tallest player was 6 feet 8 inches. Mole, the key to success, was ineligible to play the first half of the season. Most fans assumed Connecticut, or maybe Rhode Island, would dominate the Yankee Conference the way they always had.
“UMass had never even thought about making the NCAAs,” said Dick Bresciani, vice president of the Red Sox, who back then was assistant athletic director at UMass. “They were an interesting group of people but wouldn't make it today.”
The first half of the 1961-62 season was a disaster, with the Redmen losing seven of 12 games. But Mole's return helped turn things around, lifting the team to a 15-8 record that ensured it first place in the conference and an NCAA berth.
Mole was “a very, very quick guard, he could go 97 ways at once,” recalled Cliff Bullock, who also played guard. And Mole's play helped free up Pete Bernard, who “was a great jump shooter.”
Rodger Twitchell, a 6-5 forward from New Jersey, overcame his inexperience to become the region's leading scorer, averaging about 20 points a game.
The key to UMass' success, however, was its head coach: “Mad Matt” Zunic.
Zunic, who had played under Red Auerbach on the Washington Capitals, arrived at UMass in 1959 after completing a successful coaching stint at Boston University. He inherited a losing team but quickly instilled his winning ways.
One key, Zunic said, was combining zone and man-to-man defenses, a novel approach at that time. Even more important, he drilled his players again and again on pressing, stealing the ball and executing other fundamentals, much as Auerbach did.
“I was a little flamboyant, a little wild,” said Zunic, who was replaced as coach after the 1962-63 season. “I used to pick on officials and kick a water bucket to get my kids going. I had a sign in my office that read, 'Be reasonable, do it my way.' ”
Leaman, who went on to coach the team for 13 years, said Zunic's performance in 1962 “was probably the best coaching job ever.”
Charlie Fohlin, who alternated with Don Black at center, agreed: “He was a crafty, smart coach who taught us how to block out, rebound, intimidate and how to do the Chinese defense, combining man-to-man and zone.
“I didn't have any talent other than being 6 foot 7 inches, and he taught me everything I needed to know. He made a man out of me.”
That character was evident when UMass squared off against highly touted New York University in Round 1 of NCAA play at the Palestra in Philadelphia. The sellout crowd of 9,200 had expected a rout, but UMass led by 10 near the end of the first half.
NYU adjusted and walked off at halftime with a 2-point lead. UMass shooters went cold in the second half, and Fohlin, who was having a magnificent game on the boards, fouled out.
The result: NYU 70, UMass 50.
“I don't recall UMass being that much of a problem,” said Happy Hairston, who led NYU along with Barry Kramer, the nation's No. 1 scorer. Hairston went on to play with the Cincinnati Royals, Detroit Pistons and Los Angeles Lakers, while Kramer played for the San Francisco Warriors and New York Knicks.
Mole said, “We could have and would have beaten that NYU team but we missed a lot of easy shots.”
Zunic had a different explanation for the loss: “The officials favored NYU; they started picking on my big man, Charlie Fohlin. They called one foul on him when he wasn't even in the game and I started going berserk.”
Now 72, Zunic is a lot more relaxed about basketball today as he follows the game – and UMass – from his retirement home in Crystal River, Fla.
The sport he was a part of for so many years also has changed.
At UMass, the glass roof that sometimes gave players a shower has been replaced by wood; dingy walls have been painted over in white, and the dirt under the bleachers is gone, along with the squirrels. Recruitment is now the order of the day, which is one reason this year's squad is so highly rated.
The NCAA tournament also has evolved: 64 schools make it today, compared to 25 then. CBS spends $140 million a year to televise the tournament today, compared to the approximately $140,000 spent 30 years ago. Back then, there was no seeding, shot clock, ticket lottery or 3-point basket, while coaches were freer to roam the sidelines.
The players from '62 are different today, too. Fohlin has gained 60 pounds and spends most of his free time raising three daughters, although he still gets into pickup games and coaches a men's league in Bedford. Dan Laakso had a major operation to repair his damaged shoulder and now limits his playing mainly to one-on-ones with his son, who was on the Athol High School team that lost to East Boston in last weekend's state final at the Centrum.
Peter Bernard, meanwhile, has given up basketball for jogging, doing 6 miles at least five times a week.
What was it like being the only black on the '62 team, and one of the few on the UMass campus?
“It really wasn't difficult,” recalled Bernard, a physical education teacher, who, thanks to a lucky lottery draw by his son, will be at tonight's UMass-Fordham game. “The only inconvenience was things like getting your hair cut. There were no black barbers in the Amherst area.
“Matt Zunic let me borrow his car a couple times to go to Springfield to get a haircut.”
WHERE ARE THEY NOW?
Calipari is now a hot item - Coach finds job demanding
By Joe Burris, Boston Globe Staff, 3/20/1992
WORCESTER – John Calipari had been on the coaches' conference call for nearly two hours. The call had come shortly after the Massachusetts coach did his 14th radio segment in two days. His face was flushed, his voice scratchy and lightly panting. He looked as if he had run the Boston Marathon backward.
“I'm going to have to tell Bonnie Martin, UMass basketball secretary that's it, no more radio shows,” said Calipari. “I can't get any work done.”
In his fourth season at UMass, Calipari has never shied away from the media. In fact, he used to chide the Boston media for not attending more UMass home games. Now he has all the press he can handle and then some; Calipari has been one of the hottest names among college coaches as UMass enjoyed the most successful season in school history – a 28-4 record and a No. 17 national ranking – and did so by soundly defeating impressive competition. It didn't take long for his name to surface among candidates for coaching vacancies – including Wichita State, Wisconsin and UNLV.
When UMass was awarded the third seed in the NCAA East Regional at the Centrum, the media attention increased. Calipari now admits that it has been overwhelming.
“I'll tell you what it feels like,” he said while wiping his red, glassy eyes. “I don't want to say no to people, but when it gets to the point where you're at home and it's 11:30 p.m. and you still have game film to watch, you have to say no.
“I can't imagine how some of the guys, be it a Rick Pitino of Kentucky or Larry Brown formerly of Kansas or anybody, how they find the time to do all these interviews. I can see now that in a high-profile situation how hard it is not to get distracted and carried away with yourself. This is a barrage. The last couple of days have been something I was totally unprepared for.”
Too bad. Calipari is likely to be the focal point again tonight at 7:40, when UMass takes on Fordham in a first-round game. The site is less than an hour from UMass' campus, and the Minutemen are one of only two New England teams in the tournament – Connecticut is in the Southeast Regional in Cincinnati.
Calipari said he is now reminded that Pitino warned him that the media attention would get this way when he began turning the program around. “After we beat Oklahoma this year,” said Calipari, “Rick called me and said, 'John, now your biggest job will be warding off the distractions.' I didn't understand what he meant, until after we got ranked 25th after the Oklahoma win and I began reading press clippings. My intensity level went down, and as a result, the team's intensity level went down.” UMass went on to lose to West Virginia, 76-75, its only home defeat of the year.
While repeatedly defending his team's No. 3 seeding, Calipari downplays his success. “I've just had a lot of breaks; when Larry Brown took the job at Kansas, he allowed me to stay on as an assistant. When Paul Evans took the job at Pittsburgh, he allowed me to stay on as an assistant. If that wouldn't have happened, none of this would have happened. And Pitino a longtime friend of Calipari and a UMass grad played a part in me getting this job.
“I didn't get this job because of who I am; I got it because of who I knew. I have always believed that you get in the door because of who you know but you stay there or move up because of what you know.”
By now, Calipari must know he's not likely to get much sleep until after the season. Then the questions will likely loom as to his future with the school. Calipari said those questions will be addressed at seasons's end.
“John has it going; he is building a program that could be a powerhouse in the future,” said Pitino. “As an alumnus, I can definitely say we will not let him get away.”
From the UMass Basketball 1992-93 Media Guide, published by UMass Athletics
Coach John Calipari called it “UMass basketball” - defending, guarding, rebounding and making the extra pass. The third-seeded Minutemen, enjoying a final AP national ranking of 17, did everything right and beat the 13th-seeded Rams in every aspect of the game to win the first NCAA Tournament game in the program's history in front of a partisan UMass, capacity crowd of 13,514 at the Worcester Centrum and a live CBS television audience.
Lou Roe led UMass with a career-high 19 points on 8 of 9 shooting. Will Herndon added 13 points on 6 of 8 shooting and grabbed a game-high ten rebounds. Anton Brown had seven assists and four steals.
UMass never trailed after Herndon slammed his first of four dunks at 14:50 of the first half and led 37-24 at halftime. The Minutemen forced 19 turnovers and recorded 12 steals while shooting 54 percent from the field.
UMass rolls along
Minutemen send Fordham packing
By Joe Burris, Boston Globe Staff, 3/21/1992
WORCESTER – Tuesday night at the University of Massachusetts basketball practice, coach John Calipari became angered about what he perceived as lack of intensity. At that point, he stopped everything.
Last night against Fordham in the NCAA East Regional, with the CBS eye watching and viewers wondering who in the devil they were, the Minutemen showcased their basketball program in fine fashion. The third-seeded Minutemen jumped out to a 13-point halftime lead, increased the count to 28 in the second half, then breezed to an 85-58 first-round win over 14th-seeded Fordham at the Centrum.
The win raised the No. 17 Minutemen's record to 29-4 and earned them a date with Syracuse in a second-round game tomorrow. UMass, which has won 13 consecutive games, is now 5-0 in network games, its first four coming on ESPN. Fordham dropped to 18-13 and saw its season ended by an Atlantic 10 Conference team for the third consecutive year. Rutgers defeated Fordham in the 1990 National Invitation Tournament, and UMass beat the Rams in last year's NIT.
“To me, it's obvious why they've won 28 games this season,” said Fordham coach Nick Macarchuk. “They create so many problems for you. “I saw a No. 3 seed, because of the ability all their players have.
“I thought we did good job on Jim McCoy who scored just 6 points, 10 below his average. But then you have to defend Anton Brown 11 points, 7 assists, Harper Williams 11 points, 8 rebounds and Will Herndon 13 points, 10 boards. But the thing they do best is defend.”
Anyone who doubted the Minutemen deserved such a high seed kept silent. With a partisan crowd backing it, UMass used an irritating man-to-man defense that forced 19 turnovers and limited the Rams to 36 percent shooting. Offensively, the Minutemen used a balanced attack to render Fordham's 2-3 zone defense null and void. UMass shot 59 percent from the floor in the first half, then scored the first 5 points after intermission for a 42-24 lead with 18:18 left. Fordham cut the lead to 46-36 with 11:50 to go, then UMass went on a 22-5 tear to make it 68-41 with 4:51 left.
“I think that was a pretty good game for us,” said Calipari, who added that some of his players suffered from “CBS-itis” early with sluggish play. Once the Minutemen got going, Fordham played catch-up the rest of the way.
“We played what I call UMass basketball,” said Calipari. “We guarded well, we attacked the basket and we made the extra pass. That's what we have to do to get it done.
“Jimmy McCoy defended as well as he ever has. I asked him to guard Fordham guard Jean Prioleau, and he sacrificed his scoring game, which means much to me as a coach.”
A couple of other UMass players not only took up the scoring slack but dazzled the crowd (and undoubtedly their TV audience) with their exploits. Herndon, the explosive leaper who continues to repeal laws of gravity, polished off a few possessions with alley-oop slams and tip-ins.
“Herndon just takes 100 percent shots from the field,” said Macarchuk. “He never misses a shot because all his shots are dunks and layups.”
Freshman Lou Roe, who never met a hot camera bulb he didn't like, led all Minutemen with 19 points on 8-for-9 shooting in a mere 17 minutes. Roe capped off a UMass fast break with a two-handed slam to make the crowd wild and the score 76-48 with 2:40 left. Roe's exploits followed a breakaway dunk by Herndon.
“When Lou Roe plays on TV, he is averaging 16 a game overall; he's averaging 8 a game on non-televised games,” said Calipari. “I was glad this game was on TV; 19 points for a freshman, in his first NCAA game, is quite an accomplishment.”
As was the Minutemen's showing in their second NCAA tournament appearance since the Kennedy Administration. Tuesday night, they began practice as a tired, lethargic bunch. Last night they were ready-for-prime-time players.
Minutemen are playing like a Husky bunch
By Bob Ryan, Boston Globe Staff, 3/21/1992
WORCESTER – If the question before us is, “When was the last time a New England team played at such a high level with the passionate joie de vivre of this suddenly beloved State U of ours?” the answer happens to be the storied Connecticut team of two years ago.
That, in case you're new to this college stuff, is exquisite praise. It's like saying some young lass with a spatula might be the next Julia Child. The 1989-90 Huskies came within one dropped steal out of bounds and a miracle leaner by Christian Laettner of going to the Final Four.
I'm not guaranteeing a Final Four, Eight or even 16 for the University of Massachusetts, but I am telling you that in terms of talent, expenditure of energy and basketball savvy, this UMass club is every bit as potent as that UConn team. (Somebody throw it into a computer. I smell double OT.) Last night's 85-58 slap-around of Fordham was the Minutemen's 13th victory in succession and 29th of the season, and it settled all doubts concerning UMass' worthiness to be a No. 3 seed in the NCAA tournament.
“We wanted to play well tonight,” said Fordham's Jean Prioleau. “But they are just a phenomenal team.”
“I was asked yesterday if UMass had any weaknesses,” said Rams coach Nick Macarchuk. “I said, 'Not against us they don't.' They beat us in every phase of the game.”
Some good teams grind away at you. Some explode in your face. UMass does it both ways. Though not big, as in tall (no regular over 6 feet 7 inches), they play big. Harper Williams is 6-7 going on 7 feet. Louis Roe is about the same. And William Herndon is from a faraway galaxy, since he is 6-3 going on Manute Bol. And they are physically powerful, no matter what the body configuration.
They gang-tackle the boards and they are never satisfied the rebound isn't theirs until the rival has obtained the ball and advanced it past midcourt. They run guys in and out, so they always have a fresh supply of warriors. They do an awful number on the other guys' minds.
“They are definitely a physical team,” said Fordham's Fred Herzog. “I thought we handled it early. Over the course of the game, they wore us down.”
The spread went from plus 10 (46-36) with 12:18 left to plus 27 (68-41) less than eight minutes later. And please understand that Fordham is not some psuedo-Ivy collection of bookworms. Macarchuk's kids can play the game in the air, too.
“Fordham has good athletes,” marveled Holy Cross coach George Blaney during intermission. “And they never got one loose ball in the first half. UMass can play with anybody. To go deep in the tournament, you simply must have talent, and they have talent. They may not necessarily beat anybody, but they can definitely play with anybody.”
I'll tell you this much: they can definitely substitute with anybody. By the time the early score reached UMass 24, Fordham 18, eight UMass players had scored. Eight! “We went nine deep tonight,” said coach John Calipari, “and they all contributed.”
The scoring balance was so exemplary that no Minuteman even reached double figures until freshman sensation Roe, the best player ever to come out of Atlantic City (sorry, Chris Ford), laid one in to make it 46-34.
Calipari being a classic coach, defense and teamwork were uppermost in his mind. “We played what I like to call UMass basketball,” he declared. “We really guarded. We really rebounded. We made the extra pass. That's the way we must play if we're going to advance in this tournament.”
Two recurrent Calipari themes this season have been that his team plays best when in a healthy fear of the opponent and that his team is effective only to the extent that it is willing to share the rock.
The halftime spread was a respectable 13 (37-24), but the club wasn't humming the way Calipari thinks it can, and should. “I said at halftime we had a couple of guys with CBS-itis,” he said.
UMass burst out of the blocks to grab an 18-point (42-24) lead. “That's when we sometimes say, 'Now it's time to get mine,' ” Calipari explained. “The lead went back to 10. We got serious again and it was back to 18. That's been our pattern: Get 'em. Let 'em back in. Then get 'em again.”
That, however, is life with a truly talented team. All five UMass starters average double figures, and three – Jim McCoy, Harper Williams and Tony Barbee – could go off for 30 any 'ol night. Young Mr. Roe is a megatalent who next year will embarrass anybody. For point guard Anton Brown, it's like having Daddy Calipari hand him the keys to the Maserati. Convincing players of this caliber to be continually selfless is a very big task for any coach.
This game being on CBS and all, the word will be out, once and for all. This UMass team must be for real.
“We're not going to sneak up on anybody,” said Calipari. “We won 29 games. We're a good ball club.”
And an eminently worthy No. 3 seed.
|Points off turnovers||4|
|Points off turnovers||?|
|Score by Periods||1st||2nd||OT1||OT2||OT3||Final|
|Officials||Norm Borucki, Mike Tanco, Gary Marcum|