Smith, Crum know their numbers add up to little Coaching greats downplay matchup, point to players


March 23, 1997|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,SUN STAFF Sun staff writers Paul McMullen and Don Markus contributed to this article.

They have nearly 1,500 college victories between them, but Dean Smith of North Carolina and Denny Crum of Louisville downplayed the coaching matchup in today's East Regional final at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse, N.Y.

"I'm not playing Denny," said Smith, who nevertheless sized up his bench counterpart. "I have him by six years and he has me by three inches."

Smith, who passed Adolph Rupp on the all-time victory list this month, has 878 wins in 36 years at Carolina; Crum has 613 in 26 seasons at Louisville.

"You have an opportunity to advance and it doesn't really matter who you are coaching against," Crum said. "Obviously, Dean is a great coach. There's not enough accolades of what you can say for what he has accomplished in his career.

"Coaching can help, there's no question about that. [But] the players still have to do it. We might play our best and still lose, and they could play their best and still lose."

Crum is 6-0 in regional championship games; Smith is 10-4, including 8-2 in East Regional finals.

Trading goodwill

North Carolina point guard Ed Cota, a native of New York City, got 24 passes for family members and friends to attend the East Regional.

"He really gets along well with his teammates if he can get 24 passes," Smith said.

Vince Carter said he gave Cota six passes. What did he get in return? Carter was asked.

"An alley-oop pass," said Carter, who broke the final tie in the Tar Heels' victory over California on Friday with a dunk off a lob pass from Cota.

Cota said his game won't change because of his personal group of fans.

"Having my family and friends there doesn't really have anything to do with the way I perform," he said.

Emotional ending

With about a minute left in his team's 80-72 loss to Minnesota in the Midwest Regional final yesterday at the Alamodome, UCLA coach Steve Lavin's eyes became noticeably moist. When asked about it later, Lavin couldn't contain his emotions.

"This is just a special group of players and this has been an incredible year," Lavin said, as he tried in vain to control the tears. "All the thrills they've given me, you feel bad for them. You want them to win. You don't want them to fall one game short."

Until yesterday, it had been a roller-coaster first season for Lavin, at 32 the fifth-youngest coach in Division I. But after replacing Jim Harrick, after bringing his team back from a 3-3 start and a 48-point loss at Stanford, Lavin also fell short of his dream.

"The difference is that I'll be back and they won't," said Lavin, who was first named the team's interim coach and then signed a four-year deal Feb. 1.

Family ties

Growing up in Fullerton, Calif., Arizona guard Miles Simon was a big fan of the New York Mets and idolized Dwight Gooden and Darryl Strawberry. What was it was like when his sister married Strawberry?

"It's kind of cool, because he was my idol as a kid," said Simon, who was in the New York Yankees' locker room after they clinched the World Series last fall.

Jamel Thomas, Simon's counterpart at Providence, is a cousin of Stephon Marbury, now a rookie with the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Thomas, God Shammgod and Corey Wright, the Friars' second guard off the bench, were teammates earlier with the Gauchos, one of New York's famed AAU powerhouses.

"I still can't believe how all of us met up," Thomas said. "We live five minutes away from each other, and I never dreamed me and God would be in the backcourt together."


With four three-pointers against California, North Carolina junior guard Shammond Williams broke the school's single-season record Friday. His total of 90 toppled the previous mark of 87 set by Kenny Smith in 1987 and tied by Donald Williams in 1995. Shammond Williams has hit 90 of 212 three-pointers (42.5 percent) this year, and has hit a three-pointer in each of the past 25 games. When Minnesota meets Kentucky Saturday in Indianapolis, it will mark the first time Clem Haskins has coached against the Wildcats since his final game at Western Kentucky in 1986 -- a 71-64 loss in the second round of the NCAA tournament.

Pub Date: 3/23/97

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