With little NIT-picking, Towson found its way


When it comes to motivating athletes, Towson State basketball coach Terry Truax appears to have set a record for verbal economy.

Terry didn't have to say a word to set his team on fire. All it took was three letters:

NIT. As in National Invitation Tournament.

Towson was having a bad year until Truax mentioned the NIT and the possibility that the Tigers could be invited to it.

The big postseason tournament, the 64-team NCAA, no longer grants an automatic bid to the East Coast Conference, of which Towson is a member.

For much of the season, Truax's players seemed to lack incentive. At one point, their record was 4-11.

Then Truax said those three little letters, NIT, and -- wham! -- Towson was off and running. They have won nine straight. They'll go for Nos. 10 and 11 tonight at Brooklyn and Saturday afternoon at Hofstra.

At first, basketball people thought Truax had pulled one out of his hat, that Towson -- hey, at 4-11? -- had no shot at the NIT. Now it doesn't seem so far-fetched.

"We have three regular-season games left," says Truax (the last one is at home Feb. 29 with Rider). "Then we'll play in the ECC tournament [at UMBC March 7-9]. If we finish in first place, we'll get a first-round bye.

"That means the most we could win is 18 games. If we are fortunate enough to win the remainder of our games and finish with 14 straight wins, that should get the NIT's attention."

The fact that Towson played in the last two NCAA tournaments would also tend to legitimize the Tigers.

And if all that should happen, Truax should get an award for coaching ploy of the year.

* The day after he presided over the Maryland Athletic Hall of Fame luncheon -- and the day before last night's boxing show in Pikesville -- State Athletic Commission chairman D. Chester O'Sullivan fell at his residence and broke his shoulder. O'Sullivan, 87, underwent surgery yesterday and is resting at Mercy Medical Center.

* The unseemly internal clash in the Washington College athletic department between athletic director Geoff Miller and tennis coaches Fred Wyman and Holly Bramble appears to have ended.

Miller, who has been advised not to comment on the affair, fired the highly successful part-time coaches last May to make room for full-time coaches. Then Miller -- without talking to the coaches or the players involved -- self-reported the college to the NCAA for violations in the tennis program (mostly calls to recruits via players' parents' phones). The NCAA has ruled the infractions were secondary and there will be no sanctions against the tennis program.

Washington College has hired Tim Gray, who played for Wyman, as its tennis coach. Wyman and Bramble are now coaching at Kent County High School.

* As one who covered the Miracle on Ice in the '80 Olympics at Lake Placid, which was the most exciting experience I've ever had as a sports writer, I feel strongly that even if the current U.S. hockey team wins the gold it won't be the same. The world was different then. The Evil Empire was in Afghanistan and the U.S. college kids were given no chance against the Soviets' old pros.

* The Atlantic Coast Conference football banquet, which has been such a success in Baltimore the last two years, won't be back here in '93. Says commissioner Gene Corrigan: "We want to move it around. We had a great two-year run in Baltimore and I fully expect it to come back."

* Chesapeake Lacrosse Club coach Jody Martin is asking what everyone in club ball is asking about star-studded, defending champion Mount Washington this year.

"They've got an all-star roster," says Martin, "with both Gaits [Gary and Paul], Todd Curry, Rob Sheck and Tony Millon, but will there be enough lacrosse balls on the field to keep all those guys happy?"

In college lacrosse, NCAA defending champion North Carolina is favored going in. Unless there are players like the Gaits around, preseason lacrosse picks aren't worth a whole lot. Last year Syracuse and Loyola were co-favorites. Loyola didn't even make the Final Four, though Syracuse did, losing in the semifinals.

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