UMass won't be out of its league against Syracuse
By Joe Burris, Boston Globe Staff, 3/22/1992
UMass, champion of the Atlantic 10, squares off against Syracuse, champion of the Big East, in the second round of the NCAA East Regional at the Centrum. It is a rare meeting of the strongest conference in the Northeast and the league that has perennially been its B.F. Goodrich. But Calipari says neither he nor his team will place special emphasis on facing a Big East member.
“Our league does have a problem, with their television coverage and our lack of television coverage,” said Calipari, who added that there “might be a few people in our conference who will be excited” if UMass walks away with a win.
Calipari did say that because of Syracuse's tradition, a UMass win would be a mild upset – despite the fact that the Minutemen are ranked 17th in the nation and seeded third in the East Regional while the Orangemen are ranked 21st and seeded sixth.
“You're talking about tournament teams; Syracuse is a regular and UMass is in for the first time in 30 years,” said Calipari.
But undoubtedly, a UMass win would be a big shot in the arm for the Atlantic 10, which had perhaps its best season ever – it went 3-1 against the Big 8 (best among all conferences) and placed three teams in the NCAA field of 64 for the second consecutive season.
The game marks the second time a Big East champion has met an Atlantic 10 champion in the NCAA Tournament. In 1985, Temple lost to Georgetown, 63-46, in the second round in Hartford. It also marks the second time an Atlantic 10 team has been seeded highest among the conferences' entries. In 1988, Temple, then the No. 1 team in the nation, received the top seed in the East. The highest-seeded Big East team that year was Pittsburgh, which was No. 2 in the Midwest.
Both Syracuse and UMass are pleased that their styles of play are similar – attack the basket, defend every pass and shot, take advantage of transition opportunities.
“We're pleased to be playing Syracuse,” said UMass forward Jim McCoy. “They play like an A-10 team.“
“We both have tough matchups,” said Calipari. “I expect them to play a lot of zone. I expect them to leave Will Herndon uncovered, play off of him. We'll see who has the worse time matching up. Hopefully, we'll know by halftime.”
“UMass is very physical, they rebound well and they play very big,” said Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim, who also commented on the Minutemen playing in Worcester – less than an hour away from their campus: “Sometimes it's unavoidable, but I think it could have been avoided. But it's something that happens. We just have to adjust to it and be prepared for the crowd to be behind them.”
In all, the Big East and the Atlantic 10 have met seven times in the NCAA tourney, with the Big East holding a 4-3 edge. UMass has a 1-2 mark against Big East foes under Calipari, two losses to Connecticut (104-75 in 1989, 94-75 in 1990) and a win over Boston College last year. The second UConn defeat marks the last time UMass lost to a New England school. This season, the Big East finished 5-3 against the Atlantic 10 (UMass did not play a Big East team; Syracuse defeated St. Joseph's, 72-70).
In most years, the Atlantic 10's best team cannot stay with the best of the Big East. As Calipari noted, the Atlantic 10 is primarily a league of players who can do one or two things well, or misfit types who excel when they outhustle and outscrap you. The most successful Atlantic 10 teams are those whose players have a few seasons under their belt together – such as Temple and Rhode Island of 1988 and this year's UMass team.
“A lot of guys in the Atlantic 10 have a clunk in their armor,” said Calipari. “We do well when we play well as a team and everyone knows their roles.”
Boeheim has seen UMass play only a few times this season, but says it looks worthy of the No. 3 seed.
“UMass beat some good teams, and they beat them badly,” he said. “They've just dominated people, and you have to give them more credit than if they just beat them. They deserve to get the seed they did. I just wish they were seeded third in another region.”
Minutemen's man of the hour
Herndon a prime time player
By Bob Ryan, Boston Globe Staff, 3/22/1992
WORCESTER – What you do in sports, see, is when a new guy comes along and you want to describe him to your fellow game-crazed nutcake who has never seen the player in question perform, you give him/her a plays-like or reminds-me-of comparison to establish a frame of reference.
When the subject is William Herndon, No Can Do. Ain't none of us ever seen a William Herndon before.
William Herndon is a senior forward at the University of Massachusetts. He'll be wearing No. 34 when the Minutemen take on Syracuse this afternoon in an NCAA East Regional second-round game at the Centrum. If William Herndon is playing his game, I gar-on-tee you will come away slightly stunned.
“They've got a lot of great players,” said Fordham coach Nick Macarchuk. “Jim McCoy. Tony Barbee. Anton Brown. Harper Williams. Louis Roe. But William Herndon is as good as any of them. I have never seen a power forward play the way he does.“
“William Herndon,” begins UMass coach John Calipari, “is a 6-foot-3 power forward. He brings it up against the press and he is the point man on our press. We can put him on whoever is the best offensive player on the other team, and it doesn't matter if that happens to be a center or a point guard.”
Most discussions concerning this intriguing player begin and end with one simple facet – his extraordinary leaping ability. Granted, we are in an age of leapers and have been for at least 30 years. Who doesn't have a favorite leaping folk hero? Herndon belongs right in the middle of the discussion. In one dunking contest, he jumped over a Ford Escort. That puts him fairly close to the head of the class.
His individual offense generally consists of dunks and follow-ups. He is so efficiently selective that he goes into today's game with a 73 percent shooting average. His output during Friday's 85-58 destruction of Fordham was fairly typical. He brought the crowd out of its seats with a one-hand rebound dunk. He dunked an alley-oop from Brown (“My favorite play,” said the point guard). Stuffed a feed from Roe. Guided in a reverse alley-oop with a neat wrist twist. Converted a fast-break layup. Jammed a sneakaway and, for a nice theatrical touch, caught the ball as it passed through the net.
He claims to have a jump shot, and the stat sheet confirms he was 1 for 2 on 3-pointers this season, but few people have ever seen said maneuver in competition. He is the walking definition of a team player, since his entire objective is to parlay his skills into a victory for UMass.
Macarchuk speculates that Herndon must have occasional yearnings to pull the trigger from 15 feet. Says he wouldn't be human if he didn't.
“I can shoot from farther out if I want to,” Herndon insisted. “I don't have any warning buzzer going off in my head telling me not to shoot. I just go out and play William Herndon basketball and do what I can to help us win. Besides, I think you should leave the shooting to the shooters.”
What separates Herndon from the long list of one-dimensional leapers who came before is his ball-handling skill and his basketball brain. Herndon is no one-dribble guy. He has excellent ball-handling skills. He sees the floor and is as capable of delivering a no-look pass as anyone on the club. When you watch UMass for a while, you soon note that he is the clearinghouse of basketball information, the central tower through which the team energy flows. Part of that is his physical skill, and part of that is his powerful senior personality.
Herndon says he always played this way, that what you see now is what the fans at Pittsburgh's Allderdice High School saw. He was a first-team All-City and second-team All-State selection who enrolled at Richmond. He transferred to UMass after seven games of his freshman season.
“I liked their up-and-down style of play,” he explained.
Those seven games became the subject of a major bureaucratic hassle. There was great controversy entering this season concerning his eligibility, and it wasn't until the 11th hour that the matter was resolved and Herndon was granted a final year. It is difficult and uncomfortable to envision this Minuteman team without him.
Herndon just does what comes natural to him, leaving the analysis to others. Is he, for example, an inspiration to others on the squad with his selfless style? “If they want to look up to me, I'm happy,” he shrugged. “I'm just trying to play the game the way I know how.” Has the extent of the UMass success (29-4 and counting) surprised him? “I knew if we went out to play basketball as a team and not look to one person to score, we could go far,” he pointed out.
Now and forever, it is the William Herndons who distinguish college basketball from the NBA variety and give it a special flavor. He will find it exceedingly difficult to take his act to the next level (although Calipari is lobbying hard to get him a Portsmouth invitation), but that is of zero import in the context of this NCAA quest. The itty-bitty point guards, the porky centers who really know how to play their position, the step-slows, the tweeners and the assorted mismatched parts who will all be spit out by the NBA computer can find a home in college basketball if they've got a heart and a brain.
If you assembled the best of this lovable collection for 1992, William Herndon would be the team captain.
Boeheim: Orangemen not selfish
Compiled by Joe Burris, Michael Vega, and Mark Blaudschun, Boston Globe, 3/22/1992
NCAA REGIONALS / TOURNAMENT NOTEBOOK
“People make comments about Syracuse that are absolutely ridiculous because they either don't like Syracuse or they don't like me,” said Boeheim. “And I'm fed up with it. I'm sick and tired of people saying we're a selfish team. We play together all the time and that's why we're successful.“
BLACK TIE OPTIONAL
University of Massachusetts coach John Calipari issued a dress code for Minutemen fans attending today's game. Coach Cal wants fans to come with painted faces and carved-out basketballs on their heads. “I thought the Worcester crowd Friday was a good crowd, but for us to win today they will have to be a Curry Hicks Cage crowd,” said Calipari. “Friday night, I didn't see everyone standing or anyone with basketballs on their heads. I want to see a couple of bankers with basketballs on their heads. It would be nice in Worcester if they had a nutty crowd.” . . . Calipari again urged the Boston media to give his team more coverage. “We're the state university, not Boston College, not Boston University, not Harvard,” he said. “And 60 percent of our alumni live in the Boston area. I think people want to know about how UMass is doing. Some people still have the perception that we wake up milking cows before we go to practice.” . . . Calipari said he is not looking to leave Amherst. “I don't have a resume,” he said. “I haven't applied for any job since I've been here.” But he added, jokingly, “Now, if the Lakers offered me $2.5 million, I'm gone.” Guard Jim McCoy, seated next to Calipari, chimed in, “Me too.”
A TIGER'S TALE: 0 FOR 4
For Princeton senior guard Sean Jackson, Friday night's 51-43 loss to Syracuse in the first round ended his fourth and last season as a Tiger. Princeton's three previous NCAA Tournament losses were by an average margin of 2.3 points. “I've been here three times and you take 'em one at a time,” he said, “but I was really disappointed. This was definitely a winnable game. We made far more mistakes than in any other game.” . . . Jackson, who led the Tigers with 13 points before he fouled out, will not be easily forgotten by Syracuse's Mike Hopkins. “Guarding him was hell,” said Hopkins. “He came off a hundred picks and he never stopped moving. Of all the players I've faced in the Big East, he was easily the toughest I've ever guarded.”
A STATE OF MIND
When Lawrence Moten was asked if UMass would enjoy a home-court advantage at the Worcester Centrum, the Syracuse freshman reared back and cocked an eyebrow. “No question,” he said. “Worcester, Mass., and UMass sounds a little alike to me. It just gives you a little more lift to know they're going to come ready to play.” . . . Iowa State coach Johnny Orr, who coached at UMass from 1962-65, had some fond recollections of his days at Curry Hicks Cage. “Our locker room was a classroom, and one time we went into halftime and the hockey team walked in on us,” said Orr. “Every time the janitor would leave at 5 o'clock, he'd turn off the heat and the place would get really cold. When it rained or snowed, it leaked. That gave us an advantage because we knew where the slick spots were. But can you imagine they played the Atlantic 10 championship there? In the Cage?”
From the UMass Basketball 1992-93 Media Guide, published by UMass Athletics
Harper Williams' second 3-point basket of the season with one second on the shot clock and 30.2 seconds on the game clock gave the Minutemen a four point advantage in overtime (75-71) and a resulting trip to the “Sweet Sixteen.”
The game was billed as the Big East Champions versus the Atlantic 10 Champions. And the Minutemen held the A-10 banner high as they outrebounded the Orangemen 19-10 on the offensive boards and dished out eight more assists.
UMass trailed 32-30 at the half, yet fought back to take a 56-50 lead, its biggest of the game, with 8:12 to play in a second half which featured five ties. Syracuse scored four points and shut out UMass in the final 1:23 to tie the score at 64 and force the overtime.
Jim McCoy led UMass with 24 points, eight in the second half, and hit 6 of 6 from the line in overtime. Williams added 18, including 14 after intermission and a game-high 15 rebounds, 12 in the second half. UMass joined Duke as the only teams in the country with 30 victories.
UMass takes another step
Minutemen defeat Syracuse in overtime
By Joe Burris, Boston Globe Staff, 3/23/1992
WORCESTER - You know what you must do to compete with these guys? Attack every rebound as if your afterlife depended on it. Guard the opposing rim like a pit bull. Put extra English on every shot. Concentrate. Claw. Scrap. Deny. Keep saying to yourself, “It's not the size of the man in the fight; it's the size of the fight in the man.” Over and over. And again.
That's the only way you're going to keep up with the gutty University of Massachusetts basketball team. And then you have to hope that Destiny doesn't cheer for the other guy.
Yesterday against Syracuse in the NCAA East Regional second round, fate smiled on UMass. It enabled center Harper Williams to hit only his second 3-point basket of the year - a top-of-the-key trey with 30.2 seconds on the game clock and one second on the shot clock. That gave the Minutemen a 4-point lead in overtime, and guard Jim McCoy, who committed a turnover and missed the potential winning shot in the last minute of regulation, hit two free throws to give UMass a thrilling 77-71 win over the Orangemen before a 13,514 at the Centrum.
The victory improves UMass to 30-4 on the year (tied for Duke for the most wins in Division 1), increases its winning streak to 14 straight and most importantly puts it in the Sweet 16. The Minutemen will meet Kentucky Thursday night in Philadelphia. The Wildcats gave UMass their first loss of the season in a 90-69 setback in Lexington.
Syracuse, which led, 45-37, with 16:52 to go in regulation but never led in overtime, closed its season at 22-10.
Leading, 72-71 with 35 seconds to go on the game clock and six seconds on the shot clock, UMass got possession after a scramble. Forward Will Herndon took the pass near the left hash mark, but apparently didn't realize how much time was left on the shot clock. Williams began screaming for the ball and Herndon obliged. Williams squared up at the left side of the 3-point arc and let the ball fly. Good!
“I was hoping it was off, but from the looks of it, it looked good coming out of his hands,” said Syracuse forward Dave Johnson, who led the Orangemen with 25 points. “I watched it leave his hands and then I looked at the net, and that's where the ball fell.”
“Time was running out and I had to shoot the ball,” said Williams (18 points, 15 rebounds), whose only other 3-point basket this season was against Xavier Dec. 7. He was 0 for 3 entering this season.
“I didn't want to shoot the 3, but I knew I had to shoot so we could have a rebound or possibly a tip-in,” he said. “I just knew I wasn't going to let my team lost by the shot clock. I knew it was good when it left my hands.”
Williams, the Atlantic 10 Player of the Year, began the night by missing his first seven shots and finished the first half with just 4 points, yet played tough defense on Syracuse center Conrad McRae, who finished with 6 in the first half. That typified UMass' effort in the first half, the Minutemen shot 36 percent before intermission and went through a six-minute stretch midway through the half when they missed 10 consecutive shots. But UMass trailed at the half, 32-30, by holding Syracuse to 36 percent from the floor and tying it in rebounds with 22.
Things looked bleakest with 16:52 left, when the Orangemen went up by 8. But the Minutemen battled back, attacking the boards for second- and third-chance buckets and tightening the defensive pressure, and they outscored the Orangemen, 15-5, over the next eight minutes to take a 52-50 lead with 9:17 left.
“Both teams went after it pretty hard,” said Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim, who saw his team fall behind, 56-50, with 8:10 left as UMass upped its intensity and the crowd got louder. “We got beat on the boards, but we've had that problem all year long.”
But Syracuse tied it with 19.6 seconds left on a 5-foot baseline turnaround by Johnson. That came after McCoy slipped on a jump shot with 36 seconds left. McCoy took the last shot in regulation for UMass, a double-pump that was partially blocked by Johnson and Syracuse forward Adrian Autry.
“I was trying to draw a foul [with 36 seconds left],” said McCoy. “Then I was thinking to myself about the loss and the long ride home on the buss - or that they might not let me on the bus.”
But McCoy redeemed himself in overtime with 6 points, including two free throws with 4.8 seconds left to put the game out of reach.
Despite the win, UMass says it still doesn't believe it is respected. “I can guarantee you that in Philly people will say that Syracuse had an off day,” said McCoy. But no matter; two rounds have gone by in the Big Dance, and many of the big names have fallen. But the gutty, scrappy bunch from Amherst is still dancing.
Williams good to the last shot
By Jim Greenidge, Boston Globe Staff, 3/23/1992
WORCESTER - Harper Williams was in a place he hadn't spent a lot of time. The University of Massachusetts center was 23 feet away from the basket, above the key.
Then the murmur of the highly partisan Centrum crowd grew louder. The shot clock is running out, it was declaring. Everyone on the UMass bench was worried, too.
So Williams did what he had done only five times in the team's previous 32 games this season, and just eight times as a collegian. He heaved up a 3-pointer. From NBA range, too. With one second remaining on the shot clock and 29 seconds left in overtime in UMass' second-round game against Syracuse.
The trey - Williams' second successful career 3-pointer - gave the Minutemen a 75-71 lead in its 77-71 dunking of the Big East representative. It also moved the Minutemen, who had never won an NCAA Tournament game before this season, into the Sweet 16.
With UMass holding the ball under its basket - the team was hoping to get it to Jim McCoy. But Syracuse, in a 2-3 zone, had him blanketed.
“So I yelled 'Hern, Hern, give me the ball',” recalled Williams, referring to forward William Herndon, who was dribbling. “I had to shoot it. If time ran out, we would have had a turnover. So I shot it, thinking we might be able to get a rebound or a tap if I missed.”
Did Williams think it was going in? “Yes,” said Williams, who finished with 18 points. “All my shots are good when they leave my hand.”
“I think that's the play they diagrammed,” said Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim, with tongue firmly in cheek. “The last time [UMass] ended up not getting a shot,” he said of McCoy's double-pump effort at the end of regulation. “I guess they got a good shot this time.”
“He can remember it because it was his only one,” deadpanned UMass coach John Calipari.
But it was a shot Williams practices all the time. “We have a shooting drill at the start of practice that goes six minutes,” the Bridgeport, Conn., native said. “For the last minute, I shoot 3-pointers - in case I need it for an emergency.”
There's no time to relax
Compiled by Joe Burris, Michael Vega, Jim Greenidge, and Jack Craig, Boston Globe, 3/23/1992
Calipari's UMass team will meet Pitino-coached Kentucky in the NCAA East Regional semifinal in Philadelphia Thursday night. The game not only marks the second time the two have met this season (Kentucky won the first 90-69), it pits UMass grad and former Providence coach Pitino against the man he helped get hired at this alma mater.
“A lot of people will play up that stuff, but [the teams] don't play the same,” said Calipari. “You saw how he plays and how we play. It's going to be a tough matchup. We're playing a team who we've already played, but the thing is they're thinking the same thing.”
UMass forward Tony Barbee said he was more than pleased to meet Kentucky again. “We've been looking forward all season to a rematch with Kentucky,” he said. “Now all we have to do is prepare.”
NO. 1 WITH THE 3
Three-point baskets at the close of a game are nothing new to UMass. Last year against Rhode Island, then senior guard Rafer Giles became a 1,000-point scorer when he drained a trey with one second left in overtime, giving UMass a 70-67 win. In the first round of last year's National Invitational Tournament against La Salle, Giles hit a 3-pointer with 1:00 left that proved to be the winner in a 93-90 triumph. And in the NIT quarter-finals against Siena, Barbee hit a trifecta at the buzzer to send the game into overtime. UMass went on to win, 82-80.
TALK SPURNED ACTION
Calipari said that because of UMass' shaky play in the first half, his halftime talk was “very, very ugly. But I've got great kids on this team, and they responded.” Will Herndon agreed. “We seemed to be out of sync in the first half, so coach told us to play UMass basketball, and that's what we did.” . . . UMass is hoping to become the first Atlantic 10 team to advance to a Final Four. Temple and Rhode Island have both made the Sweet 16. Rutgers advanced to the Final Four, but did so in 1976, one year before the league was formed.
Typo blacks out start of game
By Jack Craig, Boston Globe Staff, 3/23/1992
There was no television coverage of the first six minutes of yesterday's UMass-Syracuse game because of technical difficulties at CBS.
The telecast from the Centrum was seen from the outset only in New York City, which left CBS unaware of a problem with a satellite switcher until complaints from other parts of the East were received. The UCLA-Louisville game was automatically fed into the affected area, including Channel 7 here.
When the picture came on at 5:22 p.m., Syracuse was leading 8-6. With the full audience watching, the Minutemen went on a 13-5 run.
The miscue resulted from a typing error in the command to a computer. A similar incident occurred during the Georgetown-Florida State telecast. Otherwise, all 32 games were handled flawlessly from a technical standpoint.
“We planned an overtime to make up for the early part of the game missed in UMass territory,” network vice president Len DeLuca joked last night.
Victory couldn't have come any sweeter
By Bob Ryan, Boston Globe Staff, 3/23/1992
WORCESTER - John Calipari got what he asked for.
“It was sometime in the middle of the second half,” Calipari explained. “I hear a voice yelling, 'Cal! Cal!' I turn around and here are these two guys with basketballs on their heads and they're each wearing a sign that says 'I'm A Banker.'” (The fans had apparently read/heard how Calipari told the media “I want to see a couple of bankers with basketballs on their heads. It would be nice in Worcester if they had a nutty crowd.”)
This was maybe an hour after the fact, long after Harper Williams had thrown in a 3-pointer that future generations will be told came from downtown Uxbridge, long after UMass had simply outfought the Big East champions on a day they were a lot longer on guts than finesse. John Calipari, whose entire life has been geared to just this kind of moment, was re-living the greatest triumph of his coaching career. The University of Massachusetts had just beaten Syracuse in overtime and that means John Calipari will be taking a team to an NCAA Regional before his 33rd birthday. Alexander The Great won some biggies, but even he never made it to the Sweet 16.
This was a late afternoon and early evening contest in which supposed neutrals from Kentucky began to cheer for UMass as if Dan Issel or Rex Chapman had just slipped on a Minuteman uniform; in which Calipari needed to get verbally down and dirty at halftime in order to rouse his team; in which the UMass team proved how well it has been coached by doing things without being told to; in which every rebound and loose ball was the occasion of hand-to-hand combat; in which the vanquished actually distinguished themselves in the heart department at least as much as the winners; and in which, yes, grown men who may or may not actually have been bankers nevertheless were enthusiastic enough to put basketballs on their heads.
It was, in other words, what the NCAA tournament is supposed to be.
“There was a point,” recalled senior guard Jim McCoy, “when I went to the line with us up by a point and we needed the two free throws. I remember thinking, 'Man, this is what the NCAA Tournament is, to make the big plays, to make the big free throws.' I was thinking this could be my last game for UMass, and I didn't want that to happen.”
McCoy bricked a pair in the first half, but in the ulcer-breeding moments he swished everything he threw up there, knocking in eight vital foul shots, two late in regulation and six straight in the OT. “All season long,” Calipari said, “when we've absolutely had to make free throws, we've made them.”
As for Harper Williams and what Syracuse mentor Jim Boeheim will undoubtedly remember as The 3-Pointer From Hell, simply accept that this sort of thing in endemic to the collegiate postseason. If you saw BYU's Kevin Nixon hit the 55-foot buzzer-beater to win the WAC tourney or you saw Georgia Tech's James Forrest swish an absolute heave with no time left to knock USC out of the tournament, then what Harper Williams did was merely Chapter Three in the ongoing 1992 college basketball novel. You don't know when and where these fictional things are going to take place, but there is never any reason to doubt something bizarre will happen.
So here was Williams, a 6-foot-7-inch center wish a slashing and savage inside game, receiving the basketball with UMass leading by a point (72-71) and the 45-second clock about to expire. The sequence had begun with an inbounds pass, and it looked as if UMass' William Herndon was going to be stuck with the basketball. “I yelled real loud, 'Hern! Hern! Give me the ball!'” said Williams, who had drifted to the top of the key, just beyond the arc.
“Time was running out,” he said. “I had to shoot the ball. That way we could get a rebound or a tip. I didn't want a turnover. I didn't want the team to lose on the shot clock.”
“I was hoping it would be off, but it looked good,” sighed Syracuse standout David Johnson. “He had good form. I was looking a the bottom of the net, and that's where the ball fell. That was our luck today.”
The Williams mortar swished cleanly with 29.2 seconds to go, giving UMass a 4-point lead. This baby was non-refundable.
Now it's on to Philadelphia and Thursday night's rematch with Kentucky. Not that any of this comes as a surprise to the UMass True Believers, kids like Scott Newman, Michael Tow, Michael Fetterer, Chuck Austin and Jeff Crofts, who had toted in a banner reading “Unquestionably Making An entrance to the Sweet Sixteen,” and whose faith was again rewarded by the best team Our State U. has ever had.
The giddiness continues. We assume the bankers know the route to Philadelphia.
UMass Minutemen show Beacon Hill what excellence is
By David Nyhan, Boston Globe Staff, 3/24/1992
Toss in more scholarships, shake-and-bake with an up-tempo offense and take-no-prisoners rebounding, put it all together in the NCAA basketball tournament, and you have the UMass Minutemen, toast of the commonwealth, the best thing to happen to the embattled university system since the boom went bust.
Sunday's gut-wrenching 77-71 dispatch of the vaunted Orangemen of Syracuse puts UMass in the final 16, the coach on the gold standard, the players on the emotional high of their young lives, and the state university on a pedestal so high it might get a nosebleed. About time.
In no other state is the public higher education system so taken for granted, so pitifully funded, so often denigrated by the shortsighted boobs who sought to save a tax dime by slashing the education dollar.
Because there are 80-odd private colleges and universities here, with lofty reputations, wealthy alumni, and well-oiled connections to Washington and the private sector, the state system of 27 campuses, which educates half the 300,000-plus college students here, is Second-hand Rose.
Runt-of-the-litter no more. The burst for excellence that marks Calipari's 30-and-4 basketball team energizes the students, heartens the university's backers on Beacon Hill, and makes the rest of the state take a fresh look at the Amherst-based flagship of the imperiled university system.
Sportscasting being what it is, hyperbole is the stock in a trade that never stops trading. “The biggest story since Paul Revere for Massachusetts,” gushed the CBS colorman after Sunday's nationally televised victory.
“They just kept throwing knockout blows, knockout blows,” marveled the gallant Jim McCoy later at the opposition. The mighty Orangemen, who play in a gym at home, the Carrier Dome, that seats four times as many people as Boston Garden, kept lobbing haymakers, and the shorter UMass squad kept throwing leather in return.
McCoy, who iced six-of-six overtime free throws, summarized the lesson in life of Sunday's exercise: “I think we learned never to give up.”
Exactly. The kids who never gave up, from the school and the system that's been hammered by budget cuts, legislative indifference, and outright gubernatorial hostility going back four years. For four years, state employees everywhere, not just at UMass, have gone without any pay raises.
Their budgets were cut. Their paychecks shrank, from inflation and from hiked medical insurance premiums. Worst of all, they were vilified by cheap-shot artists in the media and in the political game. The bottom line: If you worked for the state, if you went to a state school, you were a hack, a bum, you couldn't cut it, get lost, you loser, get a life.
“We've always had to fight harder than anybody else,” was the hoarse post-game comment of Dan Melley, a UMass vice chancellor. “That's the way it is here. After four years of losing battles, of 10 budget cuts, now the whole state is suddenly behind us. The secretaries are wearing UMass T-shirts to work. Our alumni had pride in the school but didn't have any way to express it till now. I sense that's changed.”
When UMass taps off against Kentucky Thursday night in Philadelphia, David Bartley will be there. He played on the 17-and-6 Minuteman club of 1955-56. He was the first UMass grad, “not from the hay-and-grain school,” to serve in the Legislature, rising to become speaker, before resigning to head Holyoke Community College.
“If I was running UMass, I'd get a thousand tickets for Philadelphia, invite every legislator, the governor, that damned State House press corps. I'd take 'em down to show how UMass can excel not only in basketball but in being a university.”
Bartley sees a breakthrough for the school spearheaded by Coach Calipari. Bartley introduced me to Calipari at a UMass football game when the rookie basketball mentor looked like a high school waterboy. “I was on the committee that picked him; this kid is gonna be a superstar!” Bartley gushed that day.
What Calipari has done with unheralded players he molded into a confident, swashbuckling, attacking kind of team could be done across the board in Amherst. “But we're losing our superstars,” fumed Bartley. “The engineering dean who's gone out to Michigan, the history and economic professors, the polymer-science guy who've all left because they've not been supported, the football coach who just quit.”
If the state gets behind UMass again, “we'd be in the Final Four for polymer science, the Final Two for economic development, and given the resources, we'd be No. 1 in brainpower,” with 180,000 students churning through the public system.
He spoke for all the UMass kids who landed a degree from the Rodney Dangerfield colossus of Amherst: “If it weren't for UMass, I'd be running a machine on the third floor of a factory in Holyoke, or I'd be on unemployment.” Not now. Not ever.
And this week, UMass and season-ticket-holder Bartley are going to The Show.
UMass has them hooping it up in Amherst
By Joe Burris, Boston Globe Staff, 3/24/1992
AMHERST – University of Massachusetts coach John Calipari had received many congratulatory phone calls since the Minutemen's victory over Syracuse in Sunday's NCAA East Regional. But the one that elated him most came yesterday morning, when Sen. Edward Kennedy called the basketball office on his car phone.
“I said to myself, 'Oh my God,' ” said Calipari. ” 'Four years ago, I had holes in my tennis shoes, and now Ted Kennedy's calling me.' I was on the edge of my seat. I couldn't believe it.
“When his brother John was campaigning for the presidency, he came to Pittsburgh and my father worked at the airport at the time. He went past all the dignitaries and bigwigs and went over to the workers and shook my father's hand. I told Sen. Kennedy that ever since then, we've had pictures of his family all over my home, and how fond I was of his family.”
A lot of folks in this area are fond of Calipari and the Minutemen right now. There were congratulatory signs in the Amherst area, including one that said, “Bring On Kentucky,” displayed on a movie theater marquee.
Students didn't litter the campus with signs, however. Yesterday was the first day of school following spring break, and many didn't return until the early morning hours because of Sunday's snow.
But guard Anton Brown said there was a crowd to greet the team bus when it arrived. Calipari said he stopped in Twister's Tavern in Amherst Sunday night and “the place just went crazy.” Calipari also said Gov. Weld sent a telegram “wishing the kids luck.”
But there were some long faces on campus yesterday, and they weren't necessarily prompted by school reconvening.
“Many people are cursing themselves because they didn't wake up early enough to get these,” said UMass student Jason Erdos of Lexington, reaching into his wallet and pulling out two tickets to Thursday's game against Kentucky in Philadelphia. “Basically, people who are ecstatic are those who have tickets.”
As for many other UMass games this year, tickets went on sale at 8:30 a.m. And as with the other games, they were gone at about noon. Each school still alive in the tournament received 1,000 tickets, which cost $56 for a set of two and include Thursday's and Saturday's games.
“I got mine at about 11:50,” said Erdos, who was the Minutemen's mascot during the regular season. “It was basically a word-of-mouth thing; there wasn't anything in The Collegian (the student newspaper).”
Most fans were pleased that the Kentucky game is slated to start at 7:40 p.m. But there were some such as sophomore Jason Gavostes of Woburn, who have a two-hour test in a 7 p.m. class.
“I was hoping it would be the late game,” said Gavostes. “I'm not going to be able to go now.”
Like other fans, Gavostes was also upset when the first few minutes of Sunday's game were not aired locally because of a network error.
“I called CBS Sports in New York and the line was busy, so then I called Boston affiliate WHDH,” he said. “They didn't even ask me what the call was about; they must have received a lot of calls.”
One of the more boisterous crowds in the area Sunday night was said to be at Rafter's Sports Bar on the outskirts of the campus. Erdos, who works at the bar but was a spectator Sunday, said the atmosphere was similar to that of UMass' Curry Hicks Cage.
“In the first half, it was more subdued,” he said, “but in the second half, after it became apparent that it was going to be close until the end, people began getting more and more into it.
“When Coach Cal got up and began waving his arms for people to cheer, it was just like the Cage. People kept chanting, 'Defense,' each time Syracuse had the ball, as if we were there.”
And when UMass center Harper Williams hit a 3-point basket with 30 seconds left to all but seal the win?
“People almost hit their heads on the ceilings,” he said, “and everyone was high-fiving.”
“I couldn't believe it,” said Gavostes, who watched the game at home with his family. “I kept jumping up and down. My family said I was crazy.”
Many fans went out yesterday and bought up newspapers, particularly those that had UMass photos on the cover (like the New York Post). Others bought up T-shirts. Some who wore those T-shirts on campus yesterday were greeted with cheers or raised fists. Some heard that Calipari was conducting a 6 p.m. broadcast at Rafter's and arrived as early as 4 p.m. to get a good seat.
There were no pep rallies or bonfires, but senior Joe Donovan of Randolph said, “It was like the day after Christmas at class. I may not have said anything, but you could tell what I was thinking about.”
CBS a winner
Pluses outweigh minuses in NCAA coverage
By Jack Craig, Boston Globe Staff, 3/24/1992
Except for the snafu that blacked out the first six minutes of the UMass-Syracuse game on Channel 7 Sunday, there were no major mistakes in CBS' coverage of the first four days and nights of NCAA postseason basketball.
The network could not order up close games, or provide for better-known schools to advance, or create marquee players, although on the last point, studio co-analysts Billy Packer and Mike Francesa went to the edge a few times.
CBS' switching between games escaped the condemnation of last season, its first of exclusive coverage. This time, switches were eased into by anchors updating action about to be joined. Also, some were accomplished via split screen, although the device often seemed to render two games unwatchable at once.
“It's an issue you can't win on,” Sandy Genelius of CBS said. But the network knew that when it usurped ESPN's shared coverage and tried to finesse 32 games into 15 telecasts over the four days and nights. It will continue the effort on a lesser scale Thursday and Friday, when eight games are divided into four time periods via doubleheaders both nights.
The conflict should be eased by spreading out tapoffs. UMass-Kentucky will begin Thursday at 7:41 p.m., and the Florida State-Indiana first game in Albuquerque will not start until 8:03. Second games should enjoy similar spacing, starting a half-hour after the first ones at the sites end.
But slight time differentials were sacrificed over the weekend by the anchormen talking on, cutting into the audience's view of the action. Commercials added to viewers' impatience. The former 1 1/2-minute breaks on ESPN are stretched to two minutes on CBS.
UConn fans had special reason to complain. Both of their team's games were picked up after they started in Hartford. Also, that city's CBS station, the affiliate for western Massachusetts, was pulled away late in the UMass-Fordham game and never returned.
CBS has clearly advanced this year in one area. It is providing scores from other sites every five minutes, twice as frequently as last year. That's progress.
DUKE IS ON DECK
After Channel 7 carries UMass-Kentucky Thursday night, it will pick up Seton Hall-Duke. Verne Lundquist and Len Elmore will broadcast both games, with Lesley Visser the reporter on the scene . . . Ann Meyers may have made a breakthrough as a female analyst while working with Brad Dressler in Tempe. Mimi Griffin, who covers women's basketball on CBS, has done men's games in the past without distinction . . . WEEI was trapped into carrying the one-sided UCLA-Louisville game Sunday while the UMass-Syracuse thriller was playing out. But the station had no control in the selection, which belonged to CBS Radio. The latter was guilty of shoddy journalism by lingering for a postgame wrapup of the UCLA victory and not shifting to the Centrum until halfway through overtime. CBS Radio will not decide until today what games it will broadcast Thursday night.
UMass reaps no harvest for success
By Mark Blaudschun, Boston Globe Staff, 3/24/1992
NCAA BASKETBALL TOURNAMENT / NOTEBOOK
Two years ago, the University of Massachusetts would have earned more than a half-million dollars for reaching the NCAA Regional semifinals and nearly $1.5 million if it reached the NCAA championship game.
But under a profit-sharing system instituted in 1991 and based on the overall success of the conferences, the Minutemen have earned only $140,000 thus far and can make only an additional $80,000 even if they win the NCAA championship.
Under the old system, the NCAA paid its tournament teams $300,000 for each round they reached. UMass, which is part of the Atlantic 10, would have had to share that money – 50 percent in the first round, 40 percent in the second and 25 percent in every other round – with the rest of the league. Still, reaching the third round would have earned the Minutemen $555,000.
But after the 1990 season, the NCAA decided to do away with that system, feeling that too much pressure was put on individual schools and players. The NCAA wanted to eliminate what it called the “$300,000 free throw.”
Instead, it devised a system based on tournament appearances and success by the entire league over a six-year period. A formula of units was devised, with the more prominent, so-called “power leagues” getting more units.
Each unit is worth $42,857 and is divided among an entire league. The leagues determine how to divide shares among tournament and nontournament teams. The units are determined before the tournament begins. Teams competing in this year's tournament are earning shares for next year's tournament.
The Atlantic 10 this year has been awarded 26 units for a total of $1,114,282, which will be divided among the nine schools.
As regular-season champion, UMass earned a $50,000 bonus. For making the tournament, UMass received another $40,000. For winning its first-round game, it received $30,000. The Minutemen received $20,000 for beating Syracuse in a second-round game, and will receive $20,000 for each remaining win.
The benefit for UMass and the Atlantic 10 is that this year's success will translate into more dollars in future years. But for now, UMass, a school that desperately needs funds, will not reap the financial rewards it could have.
|Second half + Overtime||16||34||.471||2||9||.222||5||7||.714||39|
|Points off turnovers||18|
|Second half + Overtime||15||34||.441||2||7||.286||15||21||.714||47|
|Points off turnovers||12|
|Score by Periods||1st||2nd||OT1||OT2||OT3||Final|
|Officials||Ron Zetcher, Gary Marcum, Mike Tanco|