March 27, 1979

" . . . and then they partied into the wee morning hours."

It was plain to see late Monday and early Tuesday in downtown Salt Lake City that fans were celebrating their team's respective successes in the NCAA Basketball Championships. Teams from the Final Four moved off to their appointed locations Monday following the finals to "tip the hat and toast the heroes."

The mood, as you would expect, was brightest at the Hotel Utah Motor Lodge, where Michigan State fans swarmed into the parking lot and buffet room, and a few private rooms, still attired in the green and white game garb and chanting, "We're number one."

When the team members arrived there was the expected autograph signings, congratulations, praises and promises — "We'll be back in '80 with that same ol' Magic."

One roughly printed sign read: "the Magic left the Bird." It drew applause from all who passed by . . . waiters and bellboys excluded. Noted one MSU fan, Brad Weight: "If you think this is wild, you should see it back in East Lansing (Michigan). I'll bet the town in upside down."

East Lansing police did report that bars were much busier than normal and that several streets in the town had to be blocked off for parading fans. "This place is going wild, I can't believe it is happening," reported on police official. "Over at the Hotel Utah, where Indiana State fans were gathered, there were no signs, no cheers, just fans milling around and discussing the game play-by-play and, of course, the officiating. All that changed, though, when team members arrived. Even the elusive Larry Bird made an appearance; he quietly entered, shuttled off to the sideline and quietly accepted handshakes, picture and autograph requests . . . but not much else. Said his brother Mike: "Hey, as far as I'm concerned, the Bird's still number one . . . this team's number one. Come on, let's hear it for the Sycamores."

"We still love our Bird and we love our team. Nothing has changed," said ISU fan Darrell Ghee respectfully. "This crowd (about 400) is a little quiet, but what can you expect?"

Fewest fans turned out for the Pennsylvania party. The most respectful fans were gathered around coach Ray Meyer of DePaul.

As for some other points of interest, here are a few of the BESTS and not-so-goods:

  • Best cheering section: No doubt about it — Michigan State won hands down. When the Indiana State fans sensed imminent doom, a hush fell over the crowd — early.

  • Best player: Michigan State won by default; the Bird failed to show.

  • Best answer to an off-beat question: "Would I rather see the Bird inside or outside? I'd rather see him on the bench." Jud Heathcote, MSU

  • Best defense: Magic Johnson when he responded with four rapid-fire "I don't knows" to questions about his leaving school and turning pro.

  • Best dunk shot: Gregory Kelser's twisting-reverse-backhanded dunk at game's end.

  • Best uniforms: Michigan State's drill team — much better than ISU's powder-blue gear.

  • Worst shot: Larry Bird's late-game, four-feet-from-the-basket air ball.

  • Worst act: Penn as a basketball team in the first half against Michigan State. It set the record for poorest output and most one-sided first half.

  • Worst call: A tie — the two in-the-air calls against ISU that sent MSU to the line with two points and two shots.

  • Best quote: When asked about playing for third place — "It filled a lot of time." Ray Meyer, DePaul.