Williams connection clicked for Larranaga

Call from Terps coach helped land Mason job

West Regional at Boise notebook

NCAA Tournament

March 15, 2001|By Brent Jones and Gary Lambrecht | Brent Jones and Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

BOISE, Idaho -- George Mason coach Jim Larranaga is where he is today -- leading the Patriots to their second NCAA tournament appearance in three years -- in part because of his opponent.

Larranaga credits Maryland coach Gary Williams with helping get him the job at George Mason in 1997. The two knew each other when Larranaga was a coach at Bowling Green and Williams was at Ohio State.

"I've known Gary for a long time," Larranaga said. "My Bowling Green team competed against his Ohio State team.

"When the interview process was taking place [at George Mason], the university put together a committee. One of the members of the committee is friends with Gary. When I found that out, I made a phone call to Gary and asked him if he wouldn't mind placing a phone call to his friend and making a personal recommendation.

"Gary said he was very comfortable in doing that and placed that call after the conversation."

Williams on target

The Terps practiced earlier yesterday at Borah High School, before going through a loose workout at the BSU Pavilion, the home court of Boise State University.

A sparse crowd enjoyed a few dunks by Chris Wilcox, then cheered as Byron Mouton made a half-court shot near the end of the practice.

But Williams stole part of the show by making three three-point hook shots, waving to the crowd after one of them.

Williams later addressed a rumor that Michael Jordan was planning a return to the NBA.

"Michael called me and said he wants to go back with me as part of a package deal," said Williams, 56, who last played ball in 1968 at Maryland, where he was not exactly known for his offensive game. "I feel I can get by more with mental skills than physical skills."

Potentially sweet matchup

After watching the NCAA selection show Sunday, it didn't take Georgetown guard Kevin Braswell long to get on the phone.

The call he placed was to Maryland guard Juan Dixon, fellow Baltimore native and friend, and the topic was getting their respective teams to meet in the NCAA tournament.

"I talked to Juan," Braswell said. "He told me to make sure I do what I can do to make it to the [Sweet] 16 so it can be our first time competing against each other in college. I told him to do the same. Hopefully, we will."

Braswell faces a hefty task today when his Hoyas take on Arkansas. The Razorbacks cannot match Georgetown's size, meaning Braswell can expect full-court pressure and traps the entire game.

Arkansas' vaunted defense is one of the biggest obstacles between a Braswell-Dixon showdown. Braswell is the Hoyas' second-leading scorer, averaging 11 points.

"I know I'm going to need a lot of sleep," Braswell said yesterday. "I might end up playing the whole 40 minutes. It is going to be a kind of up-and-down-the-court game. I'm just going to have to be prepared for it."

Age-old problem

All the coaches seemed pretty relaxed during the interview sessions yesterday. Of course, that is Georgia State coach Lefty Driesell's normal mode. Driesell even made a crack about his age, 69, during his session as he struggled to remember Cincinnati's coach Bob Huggins' name.

"I just worry about going to the bathroom and trying to remember names," he said.

Boise bounce

Boise has produced a Final Four team the past three times the site has been host to an NCAA tournament sub-regional.

In 1992, it was Indiana, which lost in the national semifinals. In 1995, it was the UCLA team that went on to win the title. And, in 1998, it was Utah, which advanced to the national title game.

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