Patriots visit with Flournoy of Tex. Western

Yannick Noah attends first tournament game

Notebook

men's final four

April 02, 2006|By DAVID STEELE AND HEATHER A. DINICH | DAVID STEELE AND HEATHER A. DINICH,SUN REPORTERS

INDIANAPOLIS -- George Mason coach Jim Larranaga was not able to get Bobby Plump - the hero of the 1954 Indiana high school champion team immortalized in the movie Hoosiers - to speak to his players before playing last night's game. But the players were visited Friday by another former star whose team's story got the Hollywood treatment: Harry Flournoy of 1966 NCAA champion Texas Western.

"I told them, when we went into the tournament, no one expected us to do well. We were a small school and no one expected us to do what we did," Flournoy said yesterday, recalling his remarks to the players.

"You need to go into the tournament playing up to the best of your ability, don't worry about all the outside stuff, and play as you play normally, and everything will turn out all right."

Flournoy and the rest of the surviving members of the team that upset Kentucky to win the 1966 title (portrayed this year in the movie Glory Road) were in town by invitation of the NCAA to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the historic game. Flournoy and several of his teammates were at the Final Four for the first time since their title year.

Family ties

Yannick Noah, the legendary French tennis star from the 1980s, saw his son play in the NCAA tournament for the first time last night. He had seen Joakim, Florida's sophomore center, at least twice during the regular season but had not attended a tournament game.

Asked to compare the Final Four atmosphere inside the RCA Dome to some of his Grand Slam experiences, the elder Noah laughed and said, "It's a lot louder here."

Lesser-knowns

Any fan could've walked into the main concourse of the RCA Dome in the past week and seen Connecticut's Jim Calhoun mingling, or spotted Maryland coach Gary Williams eating dinner downtown. The number of big-name coaches and TV personalities seen walking around the Final Four was overwhelming, but they weren't the ones scheduled for autographs at the NCAA's Hoop City event.

Doug Wojcik of the University of Tulsa joined Buzz Peterson of Coastal Carolina, Ron Hunter of Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, Ernie Kent of Oregon and Jeff Jones of American University.

View from above

After climbing up several flights of stairs at the RCA Dome to the worst seats in the building, the first sign fans see is one directing them to the $10 binocular rentals.

They definitely needed them.

"We paid for these seats?" asked one woman who made the trek up to sit just a few rows under the ceiling.

The basketball court was not in the center of the floor, and from a large portion of the upper deck seats, it looked as small as a board game. Fans had a better view of the temporary bleachers that were set up in the middle of the floor. It looked like an Erector Set.

George Gracie, 39, of Glen Burnie, has been coming to the Final Four since Maryland won the national championship in 2002. He came with 10 of his friends and paid the $110 face value of the tickets, which were alloted through a random lottery. They included all three games.

The Maryland fan, who was rooting for George Mason, said it was worth it, just for the atmosphere.

"Of all the years I've come, this is the farthest I've been out, but it's also the lowest I've been," he said. "I guess it's a trade-off. This event has gotten so big, I can't wait for them to put the court in the middle."

Former Bruin believes

One of UCLA's most notable former basketball players, Reggie Miller, watched his alma mater from the Bruins' section last night.

Miller, whose No. 31 jersey was retired Thursday during an Indiana Pacers game that the UCLA team attended, believes his old school can win the title now.

"They should win it all," he said during the Bruins' 59-45 victory.

Would Miller prefer playing? Not a chance. "I miss playing obviously," he said, "but my knees love it [retirement], my back loves it. I'm a big fan of the game."

david.steele@baltsun.com heather.dinich@baltsun.com

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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