UH’s Farmer likely to don UCLA blue at Final Four
Larry Farmer will be in the stands at the Alamodome when UCLA and Memphis meet on Saturday.
He was much closer to the action the last time the schools hooked up in a Final Four.
The Hawaii assistant coach and former UCLA standout was on the court a little more than 35 years ago when the Bruins beat Memphis (then known as Memphis State) for the national championship, the last in UCLA's string of seven consecutive national titles from 1967 through 1973 and part of a run of 10 titles in 12 years.
"Out of the three championships (he participated in) that was the last one, so from that standpoint it was the most special," Farmer said.
Farmer, who earned honorable mention All-America honors as a senior, ended that night with a modest line of two points on 1-for-4 shooting with two rebounds, partly due to a teammate's landmark performance.
That was the night Bruins great Bill Walton went 21-for-22 from the field on his way to 44 points in the 87-66 win over the Tigers.
"Usually because of my position on the floor, I'd get a lot of offensive rebounds," Farmer recalled, "and it dawned on me Bill hadn't been missing very many shots. If he's double-teamed or if he's missing, then my chances of getting the ball go way up. It dawned on me that I hadn't gotten a lot of touches, but I had no idea that he had played THAT well.
"In talking to him, the one shot he missed, he got the rebound and scored. So he never had an empty trip when he got the ball."
The significance of that evening in St. Louis extended beyond the box score for Farmer. He eventually struck up a friendship with Memphis State star Larry Finch, who scored 29 points against the Bruins and later became the Tigers head coach.
Farmer also became close to Gene Bartow, who coached Memphis State against the Bruins before succeeding the legendary John Wooden in Westwood. Farmer assisted Bartow for two seasons at UCLA early in his coaching career.
"There has been a lot of stuff that happened after that game as far as lifelong friendships," Farmer said.
Farmer and the rest of the Rainbow Warriors staff left for San Antonio yesterday. Although he'll attend the festivities as a Hawaii representative, there's a good chance he'll be sporting some UCLA blue when the Bruins take the floor for their third straight Final Four appearance.
"(Last year) I sat in the UCLA section, and I'll probably do that again," he confessed.
Along with watching the Final Four for the first time, there's some work to be done this weekend for the UH coaches.
The National Association of Basketball Coaches holds its annual convention in conjunction with the Final Four and UH head coach Bob Nash will attend a meeting of Western Athletic Conference coaches while networking with others from around the country over the weekend. The convention includes a scheduling meeting, which could prove useful as the UH looks to fill a couple of openings in next season's slate.