Advertisement - Click to support our sponsors.

Pat Bigold

The Way I See It

By Pat Bigold

Tuesday, March 28, 2000

Half of Final Four
was forged at Lahaina

HALF of the Final Four was forged in the furnace of the Lahaina Civic Center last November.

I frankly wondered how people could pay so much money to sweat off about 10 pounds each game in a packed arena that lacks air conditioning.

But I'm sure that North Carolina's Bill Guthridge and Florida's Billy Donovan are glad they had the chance to start their seasons that way.

I mean, if you can survive the barn-like climate of the Civic Center, you can certainly survive Indiana Convention Center.

It took some brilliant coaching this season for Guthridge and Donovan to arrange the face-off they never got during the 16th Maui Invitational.

While Donovan's blue-chip brat pack arrived in the NCAA tournament at 24-7, the Gators didn't look as solid as North Carolina or Purdue on Maui.

I remember him actually sitting his point guards for most of one game because, as he said: "They're not running our team. We need point guards like Ed Cota and Carson Cunningham."

I also remember him suspending two-year starter Brent Wright during the invitational because he had the "wrong attitude."

DONOVAN didn't care how nauseous his troops became sprinting up and down in the stifling air of the Civic Center floor as long as they learned what it was going to take to get past the Sweet Sixteen this year.

He said getting pounded by Purdue in the Maui semifinals was a valuable "wake-up call" for a team he said lacked leadership and cohesion on the floor.

I remember Guthridge looking out at reporters from behind the big silver cup his Tar Heels were awarded for beating Purdue in the Maui title game.

"I hope this won't be the highlight of the season," the third-year head coach said.

Well, no, coach, it sure wasn't.

But without Maui, the Tar Heels, who were only 18-13 going into the NCAA tournament, would not have even received an invitation. Those wins over USC, Georgetown and the Boilermakers made all the difference.

It's been a hellish year for Guthridge at Chapel Hill. A humane person would not wish such an ordinary regular season on a Tar Heels head coach.

No North Carolina player received first-team All-ACC recognition and this was only the third time since 1952 that the Tar Heels have lost 13 games.

TALK about pressure when you're walking the footsteps of a legend.

The Final Four is absolution of sorts, but in Michael Jordan's home state, losing in the Final Four might not wash well.

If you have a point guard like Cota, your chances of going anywhere are pretty good.

That's if you have Cota.

Cota and teammate Terrence Newby, who were charged in a Halloween night brawl, have a court date back in North Carolina on April 3, the same day as the national championship game.

As if Guthridge's roller-coaster season hasn't been rough enough, he has to hope that the court appearance, which has already been delayed twice, will be delayed again.

But how often can playing basketball get you excused from court in North Carolina? Maybe the sport is on par there with religious obligations.

If Guthridge ever deserved absolution, it would be for beating Florida and then winning a national title without Cota.

Pat Bigold has covered sports for daily newspapers
in Hawaii and Massachusetts since 1978.

E-mail to Sports Editor

Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]

© 2000 Honolulu Star-Bulletin