Earl "The Pearl" Monroe and other basketball luminaries were among more than 1,000 people who honored coaching pioneer Clarence "Big House" Gaines at a memorial service yesterday in Winston-Salem, N.C.
"This giant of a man was really a big teddy bear," Monroe said of his former coach and mentor, his voice halting. "He is responsible for so many of us, not only during our time in school, but in our lives afterward."
Monroe said he thought he was prepared to handle the passing of Gaines, who died Monday at 81 of complications from a stroke. He realized otherwise once he arrived in Winston-Salem.
"He taught us that no one was better than any other one," Monroe said. "He gave us all the opportunity to be better, not just in sports and basketball. You knew he was for you and you wanted to be for him."
Gaines retired in 1993 from historically black Winston-Salem State University after 47 seasons and 828 victories at the NCAA Division II school.
Former Georgetown coach John Thompson, the first black coach to win the NCAA Division I title, said he both feared and respected Gaines.
"Big House is one of the people who made it possible for me to do what I've done," he said. "He was one of the men who came before me who took a lot of stuff so I wouldn't have to."
Only four men's coaches have won more college basketball games than Gaines -- DeanSmith, Adolph Rupp, Bob Knight and Jim Phelan. Winston-Salem State's 1967 national title was the first by a team from a historically black school.
TENNIS: Sebastien Grosjean took advantage of Andre Agassi's serving troubles and snapped a string of seven straight losses to top 10 opponents with a 4-6, 6-1, 6-2 upset in the quarterfinals of the U.S. Men's Clay Court Championships in Houston.
Top-seeded Andy Roddick powered his way into the semifinals, closing out a 6-4, 6-1 win over Luis Horna with four straight aces.
In another quarterfinal, Jurgen Melzer eliminated defending champion Tommy Haas, 2-6, 6-2, 6-4. Melzer, in the tournament's final four for the second time in three years, will face Roddick in today's semifinals.
Qualifier Nicolas Lapentti rallied to beat James Blake, 6-4, 1-6, 7-6 (7-3), to set up a match against Grosjean.
GYMNASTICS: Georgia won its sixth NCAA women's gymnastics title, ending UCLA's two-year reign and rebounding with a flourish in Auburn, Ala. The GymDogs scored a season-high 197.75 points to beat Alabama (197.40) and Utah (197.275). UCLA, which had won four of the last five titles, was fourth at 197.15.
SOCCER: Nate Jaqua scored in the first half off a deflection to give the Chicago Fire a 1-0 victory over the MetroStars in a physical match in East Rutherford, N.J.
Chicago improved to 2-1-1. The MetroStars dropped to 0-1-2.
Sixteen fouls were called in the first half. The MetroStars lost defender Jeff Agoos (calf strain) and Jeff Parke (mild concussion) to injuries.
-- From News Services