Final Four notebook

Indiana's Davis counts blessings

Coach sheds Knight shadow with unlikely run to final

ex-Terp Manning Ga. host

March 31, 2002|By FROM STAFF REPORTS

ATLANTA - For all the difficulty he faced as the man who succeeded the legendary Bob Knight, one problem Indiana coach Mike Davis won't have to deal with now is reaching the NCAA championship game.

Even before last night's 73-64 semifinal win over Oklahoma, Davis had a real appreciation for reaching the Final Four in only his second season.

"It's a blessing for me to be here," he said before the game. "Every game is the big one for me. Now being in the Final Four, I think about a lot of coaches that are a lot better coaches than I am that never made it to the Final Four.

"You know, Coach [Gene] Keady from Purdue is just an outstanding coach and had a great run. I still don't believe we're here. I thought we could get here, and I base that on watching Wisconsin a couple years ago [in 2000] get here."

Davis is the first coach to take his team to the national championship game within his first two years as head coach since Steve Fisher led Michigan to the NCAA title game in 1989. The Wolverines beat Seton Hall, 80-79, in overtime in that game. Fisher had replaced Bill Frieder at the start of the tournament, however.

High five

Indiana became only the second No. 5 seed to reach the national finals. Florida advanced to the championship game in 2000 as a fifth seed, and lost to top-seeded Michigan State, 89-76.

The Hoosiers are 5-0 in national championship games, winning twice in Kansas City (1940, 1953) and Philadelphia (1976 and 1981), and New Orleans in 1987.

Kansas-TCU connection

Kansas assistant Neil Dougherty was in an interesting position last week, having just been hired to coach at Texas Christian. Though Dougherty was named last week and will leave for Fort Worth now that the Jayhawks are finished here, the 40-year-old assistant has known for a while that he will turn his attention to the Horned Frogs.

"TCU did a good job to keep things under wraps," said Dougherty, who will be replacing the retiring Billy Tubbs.

Dougherty has spent the past seven seasons in Lawrence. A lot of what Dougherty plans to implement at TCU he has learned from Roy Williams.

"I'd be flat-out silly not to," said Dougherty, "and I'm not silly."

Enjoy it, Coach

With 24 seconds left and victory assured, Indiana guard Dane Fife noticed Davis with quiet contemplation and couldn't resist.

"Coach Davis had his head buried in his hands," Fife said. "I don't know what he was doing. I just said, `Coach, get your head up, man. We're going to the national championship.'

"He looked up and smiled. That was about it."

Back to the whirlpool

Indiana point guard Tom Coverdale contributed three points, four assists and five turnovers in a gritty 29-minute performance on a sprained left ankle. After the game, he started to receive more treatment to get ready for tomorrow's championship game.

"We expect Tom to be a day and a half more healthy," Fife said. "One of the things about Tom is that he's such a tough kid. His main problem really wasn't his ankle tonight. His main problem was he hadn't run much in a week."

Faces in the crowd

The contingent of former Maryland players at the Georgia Dome included Len Elmore, the school's all-time top rebounder, and Greg Manning, its record-holder for career free-throw percentage who was attending his first Final Four.

Manning is the athletic director at Georgia State, and he heard from many long-lost acquaintances looking for tickets.

"I've got 15 people sleeping at my house," Manning said. "They sold 50,000 seats, and only 15,000 of them are good."

On the Terps' jock front, CBS sideline reporter Bonnie Bernstein was a gymnast for Maryland.

Ravens owner-to-be Steve Bisciotti, a Cole Field House regular, was in attendance, along with Ravens executive Ozzie Newsome.

IU ID

Asked if reaching the Final Four provided a sense of closure for the tumult of the Knight era, Fife deftly drew the line of who deserved credit for this year's success.

"This is Coach Davis' team now. People [say], `You're playing with Coach Knight's players ... '

"Then [Los Angeles Lakers coach] Phil Jackson is playing with Del Harris' players. [Rick] Pitino is playing with [Denny] Crum's players [at Louisville]. This is Coach Davis' team. We consider ourselves Coach Davis' players. We're here to win a championship together as part of Indiana University."

`Garyland' south

While Oklahoma purchased a full-page ad in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution to tout its university, two billboards visible from Centennial Park read "Welcome to Garyland" and featured a smaller Terps logo. Those billboards are owned by Viacom, the company that recently signed a $2 million-a-year deal to market Maryland athletics.

Scoreless Sooner

Oklahoma guard Quannas White went into last night's game with a sprained ankle suffered in practice Thursday.

White, who scored 12 points and had seven rebounds and seven assists against Missouri, predicted that it wouldn't be much of a problem for him. "I put some ice on it last night," White said. "It's pretty good. I'll be good to go."

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