Archive for Saturday, March 2, 1991


March 2, 1991


A fellow who didn't have tickets to the Kansas-Oklahoma basketball game asked me Sunday: ``Why don't you media guys find a coaching job, anything else, for Al McGuire. He's getting on my nerves as an analyst and color man.''

Seems the guy watched KU's game on television, where McGuire was working for NBC. The critic wasn't alone in his assessment. Others chimed in with ``amens,'' appropriate, since we were at a church gathering.

Maybe McGuire has overextended his welcome as a TV throat. He's always been outspoken, brash, and free with street slang. But that's OK if a guy really does his homework. Al didn't seem prepped for KU-OU. Dick Vitale overdoes, overstates, overpatronizes and self-aggrandizes. But like him or not, the guy studies, knows where he is, what teams he's discussing, has an amazing grasp of personnel. He's a good show.

McGuire for all his talents and achievements no longer measures up, in my view, to Billy Packer and Vitale. Maybe he knows that and is trying too hard.

PACKER may not make you happy. But he doesn't beat you over the head (which Vitale and McGuire too often try to do). I'd rather be led to informational water and allowed to decide myself if I want a drink than to have my head shoved under for an involuntary inhalation.

Packer has matured and become more controlled and refined, to the point he is called upon to interpret, apologize for and even chastise the likes of Vitale and McGuire. Either of them could be nicknamed Old Yeller because of their tendency to goose the decibel machine. Another analyst who started out low-key but is becoming a howler is Larry Conley. Women sportscasters (ever notice?) often have to holler to be heard over a mike in a crowd simply because of the timbre of their voices. Most guys needn't yell except in the harshest of dins.

Seems sometimes Vitale gets off the plane screaming and gets increasingly strident as the game wears on, even when it's a laugher. Love his enthusiasm, but everything can't be World War III.

COULD BE one reason McGuire didn't win friends among the Jayhawk faithful last Saturday was that he indicated that as good as Kansas is, it probably won't go beyond the Sweet 16 in '91 NCAA play. That means KU would win its first two games in the 64-team field and then lose the third.

Well, home folks will be upset with Packer and Vitale, too, because both concur with McGuire. They like KU, think Roy Williams is one of the finest coaches in the world, young or old, love the way the Jayhawks move the ball, play defense and run the court, consider KU one of the major surprises of the year but don't think Kansas has Final Four potential, even Final Eight.

Two things: The Jayhawks can change all that by playing harder and better and proving they belong; the '88 team won the title with the most losses (11) in tourney history. KU has only five defeats right now.

Just how badly do KU's kids want it? The barn door's still wide open.

COACH WILLIAMS thinks two of his seniors could make the NBA 6-9 Mark Randall because of his size, maneuverability, willingness to play a role and versatility; Terry Brown because he has the potential to become a three-point threat.

Pro scouts are sold on Randall except they think he'll need to be a ``harder'' player to last in the NBA. They like his finesse, but they also want him to be more aggressive, use his muscle more often, and get more selfish. In Vitalese, ``They want Mark to be the guy who demands the rock in the clutch, the guy who says, `Never fear, Mark's here, and he's gonna lead you into the barn, baby.'''

That wouldn't hurt KU in the coming stretch run, either.

Paul Mokeski was a little ``soft'' and injury-prone at KU in the 1970s, but he hardened fast upon learning he could bag $300,000 or more a year as a pro. Paul's still going to the bank, and Randall has an even wider range of skills along with wide-body potential. As Mark gets meaner, he's gonna be even better.

TERRY BROWN has shooting potential for the pros but needs better ball-handling skills and must overcome a tendency to turn casual in the crunch. He has that long, loping stride which probably belies how fast, or quick, he's moving. But sometimes he seems to hypnotize himself into a pace that doesn't compensate for the quickness of an opponent. He also needs to think more two-point thoughts.

As a pro, Brown will see more quickness in defenders than he's ever imagined. Unless he can regularly kick in an after-burner, he may not get off many shots because the ball will be going the other way in somebody else's hands.

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