LANDOVER -- John Chaney of Temple and Bob Knight of Indiana, two of college basketball's most fiery and controversial coaches, fended off questions about unseemly incidents this season in a contrasting manner yesterday.
Chaney, whose Owls face Philadelphia rival Drexel tonight in an NCAA tournament East Regional first-round game at USAir Arena, was more emotional responding to questions about his confrontation with Massachusetts' John Calipari. After Temple's 56-55 loss on Feb. 13, Chaney threatened and then had to be restrained from attacking Calipari.
Said Chaney, who later apologized to Calipari: "I've been in this business for 22 years. People that know me are the people that count. Those that don't know me, I don't count. When I apologized, I only did it for people who care about me."
Knight, whose Hoosiers face Ohio University, talked obliquely about his head-butting of freshman Sherron Wilkerson and the alleged kicking of his son, Pat Knight.
"We all have areas [of behavior] we could eventually step over," he said. 'None of us wants to do it, but can any of us say it will never happen?"
Knight was more forthcoming in a taped interview with NBC sportscaster Bob Costas earlier this week.
Said Knight: "I can't tell you how many times I've gone home and said to myself, 'I shouldn't have gotten on that kid, or that team.'
"But the difference between me and other people is that I make my mistakes in public and the critics make them flamboyant."
Kelvin Sampson, whose Washington State Cougars are making their first NCAA appearance since 1983, defended the quality of play in the Pacific 10 Conference.
"The Washington States of the world don't get near the exposure of a Boston College [the Cougars' opponent today]," he said. "The problem is the perception the rest of the country has about the Pac-10.
"Everyone still relates to UCLA," said Sampson, in his seventh year as coach. "If UCLA isn't doing well, they think the Pac-10 isn't doing well. But I believe we have four tough conference teams in UCLA, Arizona , California and ourselves."
Sampson said the downgrading of the Pac-10 had much to do with television exposure and time zones.
"Everyone in the country gets to watch the Big East play on Monday nights," he said. "But we can't start our games at 4 in the afternoon to attract a national audience."
Coppin a plea
Sophomore forward Mark Hendrickson said Washington State's 57-55 escape against visiting Coppin State in the season opener was the best thing to happen to the Cougars.
"Coppin was relentless," Hendrickson said. "They were small but they kept after us, and that really prepared us for the rest of the season."
One minor flaw
In its last outing, March 11, in the quarterfinals of the Big East tournament, Boston College was routed by Georgetown, 81-58. But Eagles coach Jim O'Brien said it was just an aberration.
"We can't have one bad performance spoil a great season," O'Brien said. "We lost three of our last four games, but I don't consider it a slump. Two of those losses were on the road at Providence and Georgetown, and those are the toughest Big East teams for us to match against physically."
O'Brien touts senior star Bill Curley (6 feet 9, 220 pounds) as an NBA prospect, but not as a center.
"We ask him to play with his back to the basket," O'Brien said of Curley, who averages 20.2 points and 8.9 rebounds. "But his natural position is power forward and he can hit the outside shot.
"Bill is every coach's dream. It sounds corny, but it helps when your best player is also your hardest worker."
Needs a ride
Senior guard Jim Rullo, a walk-on at Drexel, has a split allegiance in his family entering tonight's game against Temple.
"My father is a Temple alumnus," he said. "If we beat them, he won't give me a ride home. But I think my mom would."