Not to be a wise guy about this, but who cares? Who cares about the ACC tournament at Capital Centre? It has nothing to do with anything valuable about college sports. Because it makes no difference which team wins, the idea of competition is corrupted. Only a hundred or so students from each school are allowed in the 19,000-seat building, which means this is the ultimate rich alum's floor show. All that matters to the ACC, really, is how much money comes in.
Okay, sure, some cosmic questions need to be answered.
Can Lefty coach?
How do you say Mike Krzyzewski's name without dislocating your tongue?
Does Ernest Graham think Lefty can coach.
Is it true that Georgia Tech didn't practice here yesterday because Tech has its stuff down cold and didn't want to risk losing the fine edge that has made it the team it is?
Who cares if Ernest Graham thinks Lefty can coach?
Let's talk about Lefty for a minute, and then we'll get back to telling the ACC it ought to ditch this demeaning, meaningless, money-grubbing spectacle of a tournament.
Of course, Lefty can coach. The numbers show ilt. "Lefty's problem is that he brings it on himself by talking so much," said Bill Foster, the Clemson coach. He spoke kindly of Lefty. He likes Lefty. He thinks Lefty is fun. After reading in the papers of Lefty's attack against critics of his coaching, Foster put in a phone call to Lefty.
"I told Lefty, 'I think you can coach,'" Foster said, smiling, "and he just started laughing, roaring."
"Why don't you guys get off Lefty?" Virginia Coach Terry Holland said to a Washington newspaperman the other day.
This was about 10 minutes after Holland, unable to resist, made a joke at Lefty's expense. Someone reminded Holland that down in Carolina there are bumper stickers saying. "Don't Blame Terry -- Lefty Learned Him Everything He Knows." Holland, whose team beat Maryland when Graham couldn't get the ball inbounds in the last minute -- Holland, whose team then lost to Notre Dame when it too failed to get the ball inbounds, said of that Carolina bumper sticker, "Well, we did use one of Lefty's inbounds plays up at Notre Dame."
Everybody laughed and laughed, for in this tight little family of ACC basketball, everybody has created images of their heroes and villains. Look, for instance, at Dean Smith and Lefty.
Dean Smith invented basketball.Everybody in Carolina knows that. Carolinians say people ought to pay Dean royalties every time they bounce a ball.
Cross the carolina border, however, and you can find people who believe Dean teaches Sunday School after selling orphans all week.
Lefty, it is widely believed, hung back in fine when angels passed out smarts. But he went through the charm line twice, which explains how he gets all these great players who win 20 games a year for 20 years when it is widely known, Lefty couldn't coach a fish to swim.
Come into Maryland, however, and there Lefty is a straight-shooting eccentric who made a nothing program into the second-best in the ACC (the numbers show Maryland under Lefty with a won-lost percentage second only to Carolina's).
Ernest Graham, a senior guard, said the other day that Lefty ruined his career at Maryland by not letting him shine, by playing him out of position so much, by not letting him be himself. In effect, Graham was saying that Lefty didn't know how to coach such a great talent.
It says here that one of Lefty's greatest coaching jobs has been getting something of value our of a player who, if given the ball for 60 seconds, will find 60 ways to shoot it.
With Graham at point guard two years ago, Maryland was a basketball team that offended the eyes.Only when Lefty moved Graham to forward permanently -- along with moving Albert King inside and Buck Williams to center -- did the coach find the combination of talent that unlocked the vault of potential in that group.
Maryland was 24-7 last year, losing in the NCAA tournament in the round of 16. It is 18-8 right now, and yet could make it as far as it did a year ago. That Maryland didn't meet the expectations of the media is no indictment of a coach, and Clemson's Foster came to Lefty's defense yesterday.
"Lefty had the hardest job in the league this year." Foster said. "It is difficult coaching an all-senior team that already has done it once. It's just human nature. Once you get the money, you don't work as hard. Once you win big, you get fat. You don't dive on the floor after as many loose balls."
So if Lefty has failed this season, it is in not moving his players to believe they yet had a lot to accomplish and had to work even harder than they did a year ago. Coaches do not win national championships without demanding that the players give up so much of themselves they have no room left for drinking beer and telling sportswriters they could have been stars if the coach only let them.
Enough about Lefty.
You pronounce Krzyzewski this way: Sheshefski.
"We call him Coach K," said Gene Banks, Duke's all-ACC forward.
About Georgia Tech, which chose to keep its 4-22 team out of sight yesterday, it was noted that Dwane Morrison, by resigning, could become the third coach in the last seven seasons to win the NCAA as his swan song. John Wooden announced his retirement before the championship game of 1975, and Al McGuire told Marquette in midseason of '77 that he was all done. All Tech has to do is win nine straight games for Morrison, becoming the first 13-22 national champion.
Now, about the greed of the ACC, which knows it will send four teams, maybe five, to the NCAA no matter what happens in this tournament -- now, about a league that tells the students to get lost in order to make room for the high-rollers -- now, about a league that persists in playing a postseason tournament when history shows such a tournament is counter-productive in NCAA play -- now . . .
You get the idea.