Bibby helps open Trojan horse on Pac-10 Conference

On College Basketball

February 14, 1997|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,SUN STAFF

To sort through the plot developments at Southern California, get an Atlas, a law firm and a counseling center.

The ugly stepchild in Los Angeles to UCLA's role as favored son, USC was 6-30 in the Pac-10 Conference over the past two seasons. There was tumult and trauma: George Raveling nearly died in an auto accident and then retired. Charlie Parker was interim coach, permanent coach and ex-coach in a span of 11 months. Henry Bibby emerged as his successor.

Bibby, 47, was the point guard near the end of UCLA's dynasty, running the show on NCAA title teams from 1970 to 1972. Between playing and coaching in Los Angeles, there were at least 17 stops for jobs, including an NBA championship with the New York Knicks and too many nights in the CBA.

You don't remember Bibby coaching the Baltimore Lightning in 1986?

That was about the time Bibby separated from his wife, Virginia. While he worked his way through the coaching world, she raised four children in Phoenix, Ariz. The third child is Mike Bibby, who happens to be the best recruit ever to land at Arizona, where USC plays tomorrow.

Mike Bibby is the first freshman to start for Arizona since Sean Elliott in 1985-86. Mike Bibby has his father's leadership skills, leading the Wildcats in assists, but goes to great lengths to credit his basketball development to his mother.

Mike was once asked what was the biggest misconception about him. His reply: "How people thought my dad was always there for me."

Mike went with the stability provided by Lute Olson in ignoring USC's recruiting/family reunion pitch, but the Trojans have done surprisingly well without him. In fact, his father might have the nation's most-improved team. USC took a share of the Pac-10 lead into last night's game at Arizona State.

If the focus out West has been on the Bibbys, that's fine with the USC point guard, one Rodrick Rhodes, who can understand the vagabond aspects of his coach.

Rhodes, a prep star at St. Anthony's in New Jersey, couldn't adjust to being under the microscope that is Kentucky basketball.

Rhodes spent three seasons in Lexington. He was on a pace that would have pushed his career point total past that of such Kentucky luminaries as Kyle Macy, Rick Robey and Sam Bowie but walked away after the 1994-95 season.

Rhodes thought he was ready for the NBA, but his game just wasn't strong enough at a pre-draft workout in June 1995. There was talk that Kentucky coach Rick Pitino wanted him to red-shirt and that Rhodes would go to Fresno State and play for Jerry Tarkanian but he instead transferred to USC.

Despite a sprained knee that limited him for a couple of weeks last month, Rhodes is averaging 14.1 points, 4.6 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 1.9 steals. When Stais Boseman, a 6-foot-4 swingman and ace defender, is at the other guard position, it's one of the best backcourts in the country.

Henry Bibby will publicly criticize his players, but he'll also pick up the phone at night just to see how they're doing. Rhodes received such a call last Sunday night, a day after a pivotal win over Cal.

"The bottom line is, he was letting me know he appreciated what I did," Rhodes said at a news conference Monday. "No coach has ever done that to me."

Under siege

Pat Dennis has won just 41.1 percent of his games at The Citadel, but the folks in Charleston, S.C., aren't ready to show him the door, because he's also the first coach in the military school's history to achieve double-digit wins in five straight seasons. The 11-11 Bulldogs could finish with their second winning record since 1985.

Dennis went to Loyola High, was a Division III All-America at Washington & Lee and assisted at Towson State and Loyola College before seven successful seasons as Dick Tarrant's right-hand man at Richmond. He knew what was in store when he went to The Citadel, which last played in the Southern Conference championship game in 1959.

"The expectations here are a little different," Dennis said. "The program has never been to the NCAAs. I think we've won one game in the conference tournament in the past 31 years. I think we've made up some unbelievable ground, but recruiting and keeping kids is still a challenge."

Dennis has reached overseas to broaden his recruiting base. His 7-foot center is from Byelorussia, and next year's recruiting class includes 6-9 players from Senegal and Finland.

Miscellaneous

Wake Forest most likely will open the NCAA tournament in

Pittsburgh, because it can't play at the East's other sub-regional site, its own floor in Winston-Salem, N.C. Minnesota is No. 3, and it's the first time in Gophers history that the basketball team has ranked higher than the hockey team this late in the season. Bill Hodges has seen better days. He coached Larry Bird and Indiana State to the NCAA final in 1979, but now he's at Mercer, which is No. 307 and last in this week's RPI ratings.

Pub Date: 2/14/97

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