Look, it's a jungle out there. Even in women's college basketball, it's a jungle. If we didn't know it before, we do now. It's a jungle, for sure, and the jungle was a band.Not a band of pygmies with blowguns. A band band, with six trumpets.
And the jungle is full of mysterious sounds. You hear trumpets, and you hear voices. These voices are not of pygmies plotting a fast break into your camp. These are the fearsome voices of women's college basketball players. It is a jungle out there, and over the weekend came scarifying evidence in the sounds of trumpets and women who play basketball.
Except when used by a sixth grader upstairs after school, a trumpet is harmless. At Penn State on Saturday, six people with trumpets came to the women's basketball game against Maryland. A year or two ago, the women's basketball people would have been happy if six pygmies with machine guns bought tickets. But now, when six students show up with trumpets, Chris Weller screams.
Chris Weller is the Maryland women's coach. With 10 minutes to play at Penn State, her team was behind, 71-58. At that point the coach ordered her players off the floor, not to return. She didn't like the Penn State band playing its six trumpets during the game. She demanded that the referees enforce a women's basketball rule that says "playing musical instruments or using noisemakers at any time other than a dead ball, is a foul."
The referees said they didn't notice the band playing, and Renie Portland, the Penn State coach, said; the band leader stopped the trumpets quickly.
"If she could pick up those few notes," Portland said of music critic Weller, "maybe she should go on 'Name That Tune.'"
Along with trumpets, the jungle is alive with voices.
Lin Gehlert, the women's coach at George Washington, quit her job over the weekend when players said they didn't like her coaching.
"It was a lot of bickering back and forth," Gehlert said. "They thought I wasn't doing a proper job. The consensus was that I wasn't motivating them enough or giving them individual attention."
So the GW players asked Gehlert to stay home instead of going with the team to a tournament on Friday. That's when the coach decided to resign.
All this makes for interesting possibilities in men's college basketball.
Nowhere is the jungle thicker than in the Atlantic Coast Conference, where Duke students annually select their all-Ugly team. Mike O'Koren was both forward and center on that team last year. At Lefty Driesell's every appearance, the Dukies wear their skinhead masks. Virginia prints posters displaying Lefty's balding head -- with a gas gauge needle pointing to "E".
Now, with the Weller precedent, Lefty has an option next week during the ACC Tournament. If Lefty doesn't like what he hears -- maybe some fiend aims a kazoo at his balding pate -- the coach can take Maryland into the locker room and say, "That's a jungle out there. We're not playing anymore until they make Tarzan a referee."
Everyone would understand.
Gehlert's idea that universal admiration is necessary to continue as coach at George Washington ought to teach Bobby Knight a lesson.
For 10 years now, Knight has operated on the belief that he needed only the love of his hunting dog. Had Knight quit coaching when he heard his players didn't like him, he would have lasted 13 minutes. By now Knight would be a three-star general drawing up X's and Q's for The Biggest Game against the Russkies.
But now, thanks to Gehlert, Knight will know better. The next time he is tempted to be angry at a mistake by one of his beloved players, Knight will say, "Please don't misunderstand, Bobby, my friend, but I would appreciate it forever and ever if you would be more cautious in passing the basketball. For every assist you make, I will send you sweet flowers."
No, college basketball does not have to be a jungle. Get rid of the trumpets. Order flowers for the kids.
On second thought, perhaps we are being too romantic here. Chris Weller might think so. Though Weller denies it, the Penn State coach, Renie Portland, said Weller asked the officials to call a technical foul on Penn State for delaying the start of the game. Penn State had presented flowers to its one senior player.
Everyone would understand if Weller had asked for a flowery technical. It is a jungle out there, and Tarzan can't be everywhere, so we all have to look out for ourselves. You never know when you will be attacked by the sound of trumpets or a spray of carnations.