OK, so it wasn't a pretty, great year for basketball in Utah. But that doesn't mean nothing happened. On the contrary. The Ute crowd ate up (pardon the pun) 285-pound Walter Watts' act. BYU's Michael Smith proved to be as interesting in interviews as he was on the court. Weber's Denny Huston showed that coaching actually does have something to do with winning. And USU Coach Kohn Smith found that in college basketball you don't challenge the king your first year you're in his court.
So, without further delay, here is a look at the annual Best, Worst and the Rest of 1988-89 college hoops.GEORGE WASHINGTON HONESTY ABOVE THE CALL AWARD: This goes to longtime University of Utah professor Parry Sorensen, who discovered that BYU led the series with Utah, 100-97. It was previously thought to be tied at 90-90. Word from the U. is that next time Parry wants to do some research, he should keep it to himself.
TELEVISION CRINGER CLICHE OF THE YEAR: This to the announcer who referred to BYU's John Fish as "the young freshman." There aren't many old freshmen around, even at BYU.
DISAPPOINTMENTS OF THE YEAR: Utah State's Danny Conway and Utah's Mitch Smith. They proved the adage that you don't always get better, just older.
GRAND THEFT AUTO AWARD: To BYU Coach Ladell Andersen for piling into player Kevin Santiago's family car and driving it home before realizing his mistake.
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR AWARD: To USU Coach Smith, who insinuated something was fishy at UNLV and was chided by the Big West Conference for his remarks. Smith must not have realized he was taking on a guy the NCAA has been wanting to collar for years. He also didn't realize the Big West Conference wasn't about to let him bite the hand that feeds it.
WORST CHOKE: Utah. Next time the Utes are picked to finish No. 1, they don't want to know.
BEST COACH: Weber's Denny Huston, who took the same people who won nine games last year and won 16 this year.
WORST BROADCAST NEWS: The release of Craig Hislop from play-by-play duties at Utah State. Hislop was informed, accurate and knowledgeable. His big fault must have been that he was also objective.
MONUMENT OF THE YEAR: Utah's 285-pound Walter Watts. He gave new meaning to the phrase, "making the earth move."
NICKNAME OF THE YEAR: MegaWatts.
BEST IMITATION OF A DECADENT, CAPITALISTIC AMERICAN COACH: Yugoslavia's ZoranSlavnic, who wore jeans, wing-tips, a three-day growth of stubble and shouted "Bull----!" at the officials.
You have to give him this: The guy's a quick study.
WORST POSTURING BY A REPORTER: This goes to Sports Illustrated's John Feinstein, who stopped in front of press row to do several leg stretching exercises before settling in to cover the BYU-St. John's game.
Hey, a guy's gotta be warmed up when it's time to write.
BEST INTERVIEW: BYU's Michael Smith. Always and forever. The tape recorder was invented with Smith in mind.
ALL-ANIMAL KINGDOM TEAM: BYU, which has Mike Herring, David Wolfe and John Fish. Their roster looks like a page out of a zoology text.
CLUTCH HOOP OF THE YEAR: By Weber's Moochie Cobb, who beat the Cougars on a three-pointer in the waning seconds.
HUMBLEST OPPONENT: This goes to Long Island U., which played in the St. John's tournament along with BYU. The Blackbirds were given two subway tokens each night - one to arrive and one to return. At least nobody's going to accuse them of accepting cash and cars from boosters.
BEST CONTROVERSY: Kohn Smith's stone throwing at UNLV Coach Jerry Tarkanian. First runner-up goes to Mike Smith for shouting "Shut up!" at his coaches, in front of 12,000 fans.
EXCUUUUUUSE ME FOR ASKING AWARD: To Andersen, who, when asked if things had changed in the week following the Smith blowup, huffed, "We don't talk about last week. We aren't even worried about last week. You guys (the media) are the only ones worried about that."
WORST GUARDS: Hello, Utah. These guys make a 1-4 zone defense look reasonable.
NEWCOMER OF THE YEAR: Utah's Josh Grant.
FREQUENT FLIER TEAM OF THE YEAR: Southern Utah State, which played 18 road games this year. Runner-up goes to BYU, which hit Miami, San Diego and Hawaii in a one-week span.
SPINE CHILLIN', OPPONENT KILLIN', FAN THRILLIN', HEAVEN WILLIN' SHOT OF THE YEAR: A Smith original - throwing the ball off the glass to himself for a layup.
First runner-up goes to Grant, who can make a baseline reverse layup with one hand out and the rest of his body falling out of bounds.
BEST VISITING COACH QUOTE: Hawaii's Riley Wallace, who shouted to a Marriott Center fan: "Aw, why don't you go to church?"
BEST LADELL QUOTE (though there be few): Ladell to an official: "You gonna smile your way through another year?"
WORST UNIFORMS: BYU's shiny new clamdiggers. The good part is they were so long that Smith couldn't pull the shirt-tail out. The bad part is you could see everyone's strap line.
BEST PLAYER YOU NEVER SAW: Weber's Rico Washington.
LAID BACK PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Utah's Grant, who looks like he's one yawn away from a nap.
WORST IDEA: For SUSC to play Oklahoma, Kansas State, Baylor, Texas, Arkansas, New Orleans, Fresno State and Santa Barbara in its first Division I season.
SECOND-WORST SPENT MONEY: Air fares to Miami, San Diego State and Hawaii for BYU. They got nice tans, but no wins.
WORST SPENT MONEY: Season tickets.