Christmas is in the air, and that means it's the time of year when everyone talks about the joy of giving. So, as college basketball teams head into one last weekend of holiday "classics" before conference play begins, it's time to give some awards and some presents.
First, the awards:
To Johnny Newman, Richmond's superb forward, goes the award as The Best Unnoticed Player Anywhere. He is 6 feet 6, can shoot from anywhere and is the linchpin of a team that is 8-0 after beating Virginia, 58-46, Saturday. Newman may very well be a first-round pick in the NBA draft and his coach, Dick Tarrant, may be The Best Unnoticed Coach Anywhere.
To Georgetown Coach John Thompson goes the award for The Best Reload in recent college basketball history. Surprised by how easily the Hoyas handled De Paul Saturday? No need to be. With Reggie Williams, David Wingate, Michael Jackson and Horace Broadnax, Georgetown is not only as quick as anyone around, but perhaps is the most experienced big game team in the country.
To Maryland Coach Charles G. Driesell goes the award for The Best Story of 1985. When a 54-year-old man (Happy birthday Wednesday, Charles) decides after 25 years of foot-stomping that "Lefty" is an undignified nickname, the whole country has to notice.
To Villanova Coach Rollie Massimino goes the award for The Best Coaching Job Ever. Anyone who can coach a team to shoot 78.6 percent in the national championship game against one of the best defensive teams of all time deserves a superlative with no qualifiers.
And finally, former George Washington Coach Gerry Gimelstob gets the award for The Best Unused Idea in D.C. basketball history. Gimelstob suggested that Thompson and Driesell put aside their differences and work with GW and other local schools on an annual Christmas tournament, with all proceeds going to charity. Imagine, great basketball, great rivalries and a great Christmas present for basketball fans and for charity.
Nah, forget it, it makes too much sense.
Now, for some presents, with 1986 in mind:
To the NCAA: A brain. This is the organization that suspended Indiana's Steve Alford because he posed for a calendar that was sold to raise money for charity. It is the same organization that is dragging its feet in the investigation of Kentucky. What is that old saying about the letter of the law versus the spirit of the law?
To Ball State and Dan Palombizio (Who?): Some recognition. The Cardinals are 7-0 for the first time in school history and Palombizio, their 6-8 center, is averaging 22 points and 12 rebounds a game.
To Traveling Tito Horford: A professional basketball team, somewhere in the world, for which he can play.
To Charles G. Driesell: A couple of wins over North Carolina's Dean Smith. Driesell's predecessor as Maryland coach, that guy named "Lefty," was 8-29 against Dean. Maybe, Charles will do better.
To Dean Smith: A 6-11 player who can handle the ball. That way, he finally can field a starting lineup of five 6-11 players. Right now, among the five players he has that are that size, not one has panned out as a point guard.
To North Carolina State Coach Jim Valvano: Twelve freshmen and a partridge in a pear tree. The freshmen will be no problem; the Wolfpack annually signs about that many. The partridge, however . . .
To Stanford Coach Tom Davis: A new job. The former Boston College coach apparently didn't realize that Stanford would not rewrite it's academic standards to win basketball games. This fall, he was ready to sign 6-8 standout Chris Munk, but couldn't get him in school. Davis is reported to be very frustrated . . . Footnote: Guess who still is recruiting Munk? -- Georgetown.
To the pathetic Pacific-10: Some decent basketball teams. To the West Coast in general: Same thing.
One other gift comes special delivery from Indiana Coach Bob Knight, addressed to Louisiana State Coach Dale Brown. Let Knight explain: "It's a spaceship," he said, "because Dale Brown is definitive proof that life exists in outer space."
And finally, to The Upset Pick: Some upsets. Dale Brown landed on earth long enough to crush Lamar last week, so the record dropped to 2-3. To end 1985, go West: Montana will beat Washington, proving that the best in the Pac-10 still is pretty mediocre.