Dickerson home at last

Tulane coach will hold his first campus practice Christmas Eve

National notebook


Arlo Guthrie and Willie Nelson played Tipitina's last week.

The streetcars are running on Canal Street and the bars in the French Quarter have gotten the green light to remain open all night.

Dave Dickerson would love to say that things are returning to normal in New Orleans, but he's still learning his way around town. Tulane's rookie coach will run his first practice on campus tomorrow. It's unusual to hold an 8 p.m. workout on Christmas Eve, but nothing has been status quo for the Green Wave and its city since Hurricane Katrina hit a week before Labor Day.

"We have two freshmen players and they've never attended a class on campus," said Dickerson, who spent 12 seasons at Maryland as a player and assistant coach before taking on what already figured to be a daunting rebuilding job.

"Those two kids and the four guys on the coaching staff have never practiced in Fogelman Arena or had a game there. We're obviously excited to get back on campus, but you don't know what type of support we're going to get."

Tulane will finally play an asterisk-free home opener Tuesday against Richmond. As few as half of the undergraduate enrollment of 8,000 could return when the spring semester begins Jan. 17, but Dickerson is trying to see the glass as half full after Katrina canceled the fall semester, scattered the college's people and decimated the athletic department.

Men's basketball found a temporary home at Texas A&M. The start of practice was delayed, and conditioning could have been a factor in the broken foot that sidelined Robinson Louisme. A knee injury ended Taylor Rochestie's season before it started. Minus the point guard who made the Conference USA all-freshman team, the Green Wave has struggled to a 2-6 start.

They're coming off a loss to Division II St. Edward's, but things had already turned sour in College Station.

Four of the other five Tulane teams that were housed at Texas A&M were among the seven the university cut in a cost-saving measure, and Dickerson was eager to put Texas behind him.

On his drive from College Station to New Orleans Wednesday, he stopped in Lake Charles, La., to scout a high school game and jump-start a recruiting effort that has encountered only skepticism.

Dickerson remains grateful for the opportunity Tulane gave him, and for the fact that two dozen players, coaches and support staff will share Christmas dinner at his house Sunday. It's been vacant since August, but his wife, Laurette, and 4-year-old son, Dave III, are prepared to turn it into a home again.

"One of the best Christmases I ever had came when I was 6 or 7," Dickerson said. "I got an electric train set. I came from a poor family, and our cousins and friends came over and played with that. One of the gifts my wife and I got for our son was a train track. We want to do something to make him happy. This has been rough on him, too."

Nod to McNamara

Whenever appropriate, Jim Boeheim schedules a Syracuse game near the hometown of one his veterans. Gerry McNamara gets that treatment Tuesday in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., where the Orangemen will meet Towson. The two last played in December 1990, when Billy Owens of Carlisle, Pa., was the premier player for Syracuse and the game was in Hershey.

McNamara played his prep ball in Scranton, then provided the other half of the freshman combination that led the Orangemen on their surprise run to the 2003 NCAA title. Carmelo Anthony promptly moved on to the Denver Nuggets and mood-setting Nike spots, while McNamara became the most prolific three-point shooter in the program's history.

He had 38 points, including eight threes, against Davidson Sunday, giving him 333 for his career. McNamara is in position to set a Big East career record, but a team that had to replace Hakim Warrick and Josh Pace also needs the point guard to get his teammates more into the offense.

McNamara has started all 111 games of his career at Syracuse, which has lost to No. 5 Florida and Bucknell.




No. 8 Gonzaga at No. 4 Memphis, Tuesday, 7 p.m., ESPN2 -- Come Selection Sunday, no nonconference game may carry as much significance as this showdown that features two elite, versatile talents, Player of the Year candidate Adam Morrison and Rodney Carney, who could turn out to be the better pro. Next month, Memphis will start beating up on a watered-down Conference USA, which lost five teams to the Big East, and Gonzaga will go hide in the West Coast Conference, which is rated 14th among the nation's 31 leagues. The winner will keep alive its hope for a No. 1 seed.


Lowdown -- Fans who received their first glimpse of Towson's Gary Neal in Wednesday's disappointing loss to VMI could be forgiven for thinking they were caught in the way-back machine. In 1988, the Tigers were bolstered by the addition of Kurk Lee, who, like Neal, was a junior transfer whose background included a stint at Calvert Hall. Neal's body, shooting range and use of the glass further evoke Lee, who averaged a Towson-record 25.7 points in his two seasons there and took the Tigers to their first NCAA tournament.

Paul McMullen

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