George Raveling has been in the college basketball coaching business for a long time. He is a realist and, as such, does not believe in useless sentiment going into tonight's game between his Southern California Trojans and Maryland at Cole Field House.
Twenty years ago, Raveling was an assistant to then-Maryland coach Lefty Driesell. Under his leadership, the Terrapin freshman team of 1971 that included such future luminaries as Len Elmore and Tom McMillen went 16-0.
But that was 20 years and 3,000 miles ago, and Raveling swears tonight's contest (7:30 p.m., WBAL-AM 1090) has no particular emotional meaning for him.
"I'm too far removed," said Raveling, who was a candidate for the coaching job that went to Gary Williams before last season. "There's not any sentiment about coming to Maryland.
"As I told the kids, they'll love playing there. It's a great place to play. It's in the ACC. This is one of the reasons you play the game. Rather than our kids being in awe, I told them to enjoy the experience."
It's not likely that the Trojans, who blitzed independent Chicago State 110-69 in their season opener Saturday, will be in awe of Maryland. After all, the Terps needed an off-balance shot from Walt Williams with 12 seconds left to beat USC, 64-62, in Los Angeles last February.
Although USC hasn't visited the NCAA tournament since 1985, when it won the Pac-10 title, there is room for optimism. Raveling has four starters and nine lettermen returning from a club that upset UCLA, an NCAA Final 16 team. The Trojans are picked to finish in the top five of the league.
"I've been very pleased with our progress," said Raveling. "The fact that we've been able to score over 100 points during our exhibitions is a good sign for us."
Chief among the returnees is sophomore Harold Miner, the best freshman who was not Kenny Anderson last season. The 6-foot-5 native of Inglewood, Calif., averaged 20.6 points, second best in the Pac-10. He won league Freshman of the Year honors, breaking the conference rookie scoring mark previously held by UCLA's Don MacLean.
"You could talk about Miner for ages," Raveling said before the season. "He's an unusual kid. Most of us live in search of what God put us on earth to do. I don't think there's any question what Harold Miner is here to do -- play basketball."
In addition, Raveling will have senior point guard Robert Pack and junior Duane Cooper to form a solid three-guard rotation.
Up front, USC boasts forward Ronnie Coleman, a 6-6 senior from Compton, Calif. Coleman, a three-time team most valuable player, is sixth on the all-time Trojan scoring list, fewer than 300 points behind the leader, Wayne Carlander. Calvin Banks, who is also 6-6, is the team's defensive stopper.
Raveling, who won 20 games twice at each of his previous stops at Washington State and Iowa, has yet to win more than 12 in any of his four seasons at USC.
Many coaches in a similar circumstance would be contacting their real estate agents to get the best prices on their homes. Yet Raveling, who says he has never been fired in 30 years of coaching, says he feels no pressure and has placed none on his players.
"The only time I ever think about it is when somebody in the media brings it up," said Raveling. "The last thing I would do is allow the focus to create anything less than an ideal teaching situation. My job is to keep the pressure off the kids as much as I can."