When North Carolina Coach Dean Smith was ejected with 35 seconds left against Kansas in Saturday night's first Final Four semifinal, it wasn't exactly vintage Smith. The coach, who has been at UNC for 30 years, had been ejected just twice before in his career.
"Once was at Clemson in 1971, and there was another one against Clemson in Chapel Hill," said Smith. "That's it. Until this one." The coach said he did not try to get thrown out of the game, due to his second technical foul. "I'm not Billy Tubbs," he said.A group of protesters, about 200 in number, positioned themselves across from the Hoosier Dome Saturday. Their complaints were against racism, police brutality and - in a first for Final Fours - discrimination against student-athletes."Pay Them or Educate Them" said one sign held by the protesters. "Plantation Basketball" said another.
In support of that notion, although in an unrelated move, sports writer Dave Kindred in his Saturday column in The National urged players in the Final Four to strike if the NCAA and their schools refuse to pay them.
"If they don't pay, go to a high school gym and play the game without anybody watching," Kindred wrote. "If they want amateur athletics, give it to 'em."Dick Schultz, the NCAA executive director who replaced Walter Byers three years ago, has made a studied effort to depart from Byers' reclusive nature.
Byers never met the press or conducted interview sessions while he headed the NCAA. Schultz not only convened his own press conference at the Final Four, but provided cassette tapes in the press room for any reporters who may have missed him.At the age of 31, CBS-TV's Jim Nantz becomes the youngest person to call the play-by-play of the Final Four. Nantz, who succeeds Brent Musburger in the play-by-play duties, was hired by the CBS network five years ago after working at KSL, the CBS affiliate in Salt Lake City.
For the past five Final Fours, Nantz acted as CBS's studio host. But after Musburger's dismissal - immediately following last year's Final Four - Nantz was elevated to the job.
"In terms of assignments, they don't get any better than this," said Nantz, whose color man for the telecasts is Billy Packer. Coincidentally, it was Packer who used to broadcast Atlantic Coast Conference basketball games when Nantz was growing up on the East Coast.
"As a kid, I used to go into the attic of our house and shift the antenna toward Philadelphia so I could get channel 14 that carried the ACC tournament," said Nantz. "I was hooked."This Final Four marks the 25th anniversary of Texas Western's 72-65 NCAA championship win over Kentucky in the 1966 tournament. That game is considered something of a landmark now because it was the first time a team with five black starters won the title - and they did it over a Kentucky team made up of all white players.
The game's silver anniversary has prompted a number of articles in magazines and newspapers as well as television features, while 25-year reunions were held at both Kentucky and Texas Western, now UTEP.
UTEP Coach Don Haskins, however, says his team wasn't particularly conscious of any black-white issues in 1966. "I don't think I had my head in the sand or anything," Haskins, who still coaches the Miners, told Curry Kirkpatrick of Sports Illustrated. "I just had never heard the word quota around here. So I played my best players, who happened to be black."It's been 11 years since Indianapolis held its last Final Four, and the city has changed in a decade and a year. Spurred in part by the success of that event, which was held at the 17,000-seat Market Square Arena, the city has turned into a capital for amateur sports.
A number of state-of-the-art sports facilities have been built, including the 60,000-seat Hoosier Dome, site of this year's Final Four (the Dome's capacity is 47,000 for basketball and 60,000 for football). In turn, these facilities have attracted no less than 28 NCAA championships in a variety of sports over the past decade, as well as the 1987 Pan American Games. Also, after the Hoosier Dome was completed, the Baltimore Colts NFL team relocated to Indianapolis.Indianans are using the Final Four to publicize their affection for the sport of basketball. In articles published in Saturday's editions of both Indianapolis newspapers (the Star and the News) and in the semifinal game program, it was noted that the Hoosier State:
- Has 18 of America's 20 biggest high school gyms, led by Crisler Fieldhouse in New Castle with a capacity of 9,325 seats.
- Has 30 high school gyms which seat at least 5,100.
- Has produced arguably the two greatest players in basketball history, Oscar Robertson and Larry Bird.
- Has produced arguably the greatest coach in basketball history, John Wooden.
- And is the only state in America that allows all high school teams, more than 300 of them, to compete in one state tournament - a situation that allowed the "Miracle Men of Milan" from tiny Milan High School to defeat mighty Muncie Central 32-30 for the 1954 state title, prompting the inspiration for the movie "Hoosiers."