U.S. Olympians owe Wilkens coaching shot


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If there's any justice in the world, which, as we all know, there ain't, Lenny Wilkens will end up as the U.S. Olympic basketball coach. Besides being an exceptional person and having the well-deserved reputation of being a terrific coach of young players, Lenny was the victim of a gross injustice when he wasn't named to our fabled 1960 squad. He was simply immense during two days of tryouts in New York, but, unfortunately, the team already had been selected.

* A gent who puts out one of those magazines rating high school football recruits says 70 of the top 200 players in the land have not met minimum NCAA qualifying standards yet (700 on the SATs). Which lends credence to the claim by the Institute for Athletics and Education at the University of Chicago that 25 to 30 percent of schoolboy football and basketball players are illiterate.

* One of the problems with NBA-style hoops becoming so popular on the telly is impressionable youth think the pro game is the way to play. There were 51 turnovers in the All-Star Game the other day and these guys with the questionable fundamentals are generally regarded as the best.

* A warhorse of running, the Washington's Birthday Marathon, goes Sunday for the 30th time from the NASA Recreation Center in Greenbelt. About 350 will compete, including relayists, and in the crowd will be Ed Barreto. He knocked off 65 marathons in a 1987-88 calendar year, subsequently lost his place in the Guinness Book of World Records and is out to get it back with 72 full marathons this year. Defending champ Jack Cleland is aboard.

* Say what you want about the New York Mets, but they are a scurrilous bunch. They're about to make unconscionable contract proposals to flingers Doc Gooden and Frank Viola while attempting to chisel debt-ridden New York City out of $300,000 rent money for Shea Stadium. The bill's more than a year old and is the equivalent of a signing bonus for a third-string catcher.

* The final and conclusive argument for the three-point line being too close to the hoop in college ball: Three (count 'em) women's teams have made a record 13 treys this season already.

* It's hard to figure out the "Fight Doctor" sometimes. Ferdie Pacheco is quick to point out the lethal damage that can occur when a punch rattles off a boxer's head while at the same time expressing disgust when a fighter doesn't close in for the kill. For instance, the other night, Terry Norris was pummeling Sugar Ray Leonard and winning every round. When he didn't press his advantage out of deference to his idol, the Showtime commentator berated him for "wasting time."

* Buddy Ryan's tough-guy image took it on the chin with the recent disclosure that once upon a time the former Philadelphia Eagles coach excused quarterback Randall Cunningham from the second half of an exhibition game so the quarterback could attend a birthday party for Whitney Houston.

* Sports fantasy camps have moved all the way over to tennis where $3,895 (transportation not included) buys you a week in Scottsdale, Ariz., slapping the ball around with Rod Laver, Roy Emerson, Pancho Gonzales, Roscoe Tanner and others. One of the questions promoters promise will be answered during the six days is, how did fun-loving Emerson party all night long and still win more Grand Slam titles than any man in history?

* Maybe the reason LSU coach Dale Brown acts so, uh, unorthodox sometimes is due to the assistant coaches he has had from time to time. The mother of former Tiger John Williams of the Bullets was known to put her two cents worth in often and now Shaquille O'Neal's father is yelling bloody murder that the referees in the SEC are allowing all manner of assault upon his son. Does anybody remember Ronnie Knox and his father?

* From the how soon they forget department: Up in the bookstore at State College, Pa., they're selling plaques with the names and exploits of former Penn State football legends and missing from the list is Lydell Mitchell.

* One wonders how Ed Hale is going to make the nut for the spiffy new 22,000-seat arena he has planned for the Timonium Fairgrounds if he keeps chipping away at the MSL schedule. Twenty indoor soccer games, not including playoffs, leave a lot of dates to fill to reach 250 and profitability.

A sure-fire sellout, no doubt, would be the appearance of Harvey Wallbanger, billed as "the last of the authentic American racing buffalo." During the last few years, according to the Thoroughbred Racing News, Harvey has won 79 of 92 races against quarterhorse, thoroughbreds and other creatures. Harvey covers his "classic distance," 110 yards, in nine seconds (leaving Ben Johnson and Carl Lewis up the track). Crowds of 25,000 have turned out to watch Harvey haul tail.

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