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SoCalHoops News

UCLA, Lavin & Dalis, "OddItis"
& Other Stuff. . . --(Jan 11, 2001)

Best Quote of the Week: “To win state, you have three tough games in five days. With these weekend games ["extravaganza-type games"], we find a way to face quality people.”--Doug Mitchell, Bishop Montgomery Coach in the Daily Breeze.

Talent?:  If you weren't at the Westchester gym the other night, then you missed watching a bunch of D-I guys.  Lots of club coaches, college coaches (UCLA's Jim Saia, New Mexico's Joe Dooley, LMU's Steve Aggers, USC's Silvey Dominguez, etc).   Quentin Richardson and Darius Miles as well had the high school girls going nuts too. . .  Great game (well not for Fairfax), but it was fun to watch.

Coming Or Going. . .  With Pete Dalis, Who Knows?-- We've been hearing rumors that Rick Pitino was going to be coming on his white steed to Westwood for more than a month.  We had also heard that there were/are several very wealthy and prominent alums of UCLA who were prepared to assemble the required cash needed to perform a surgical buy-out of Steve Lavin's contract.  Of course, even though the details of Lavin's contract concern a personnel matter, it's also a public institution and thus subject to scrutiny.  We've never read it, but understand that it would take at least $1m to perform the exit strategy depending on the year of the buyout. . . .But let's stop the speculation, because it isn't going to happen.   All of these news reports are just the Trojan-controlled media's way of distracting UCLA from tonight's big game at Pauley (hey, that's a joke). . . and the Bruin administration just keeps playing right into it. . .

Yesterday, Rick Pitino personally phoned Coach Lavin and told him not to worry, that he's not interested in the UCLA job.   Which of course leads everyone to speculate that if Pitino has plans to get back into coaching college, that it will be in Las Vegas, where Billy Bayno recently got the hook (and plans on suing for damages).  According to our sources in Vegas, Steve Wynn the casino magnate and a huge booster (we're not using that in the technical NCAA-sense) is very interested in getting Pitino. Those who know about such things tell us that Wynn can be a very persausive guy. . . .For now though, it looks like Steve Lavin will stay in Westwood through the end of the season . . . or maybe he won't. . .. or maybe he will. .  Just don't ask Pete Dalis, because if his lips are moving, it won't be the right answer.    The way we figure it, the only way the UCLA unhappy alums will get to stomp their feet and cry and bitch and moan long enough to get Lavin offed is if he doesn't get the team to the tournament or possibly if they lose in the first round again.   Personally, we think this is all just a ploy to fool those unhappy alums, to make Dalis look like a jerk, and to give him an excuse to tell the alumni who are unhappy, "Hey, look we can't fire the guy, because I feel so bad about what I've done to him with all the public duplicity. . ."    Whether that's just the paranoia or a flight of fancy, just remember, it took John Wooden something like 15 or 16 years before he started winning too. . .and maybe it's time to realize that stability is what this program needs, not some major trauma every year. . .  Oh, and we're also willing to bet that during those lean years, when UCLA played it's games at venues like LACC, or Santa Monica College, or even local high schools, that the "gate" was considerably lower than what it's been, even with declining attendance at UCLA games. . . We note this simply because Pete Dalis, UCLA's AD has apparently had diahrreah of the mouth since being caught with his pants down on Tuesday, and he used "declining attendance" as a reason for why he fibbed to everyone about whether he had in fact spoken to Pitino or not and why he didn't tell Lavin   the truth.  Dalis has "noted" that the seats aren't as full at UCLA as they have been in previous seasons. . . .well, it's not entirely the coach's fault, you know.  He can't get on the floor and suit up and play, although there have been games this season where he might do as well   . Sure, Lavin's been criticized for some of his recruiting choices this year which has left UCLA with scholarship grants for several guys who haven't played yet.  But he's also had a tremendously good recruiting class this year, the rumors of academic ineligibility among this year's seniors were just that, bad, nasty rumors with no truth, and UCLA still finds a way to compete with at least five players at a time who were and some say, still are among the elite in college basketball, even if they are still searching for rhythm and consistency.   Sure, Lavin hasn't really installed much of an offensive scheme (or if it's there, the players just aren't running it). Still, to assume he knows nothing about the game as some people have written, or that his players have "no respect" is just stupid.    Steve Lavin may not have, as Dianne Pucin at the LA Times recently noted, played in the "big time" like Matt Doherty, but then he's probably learned and forgotten more about basketball than she'll ever know. . . really, why anyone would ever want that crazy job is something that we'll never understand. . . It's great when you're up, but like anwhere else, when you're on the ropes, well, you're on the ropes. . . .   Lastly, on this crazy subject of Lavin, be sure to read T.J. Simers' column in today's Los Angeles Times.  It's great. . .

Odd Iti & Other Legal Oddities: The strange saga of Martin Iti just keeps getting weirder and weirder. . . First Iti and his guardian hire a lawyer last fall to contest Iti's ineligibility problems with Villa Park, the school district, and the CIF (both Southern Section and the State CIF). . . no dice anywhere.  Iti is still ineligible.  Lots of court action threatened, but apparently no one reads the Steffes decision from 1986 [" the fact that public education is a fundamental right under the California Constitution does not compel a finding that in California the right to participate in interscholastic athletics is also a fundamental right entitled to the highest degree of constitutional protection.. . ."].  No injunction proceeding are filed by Iti despite a lot of blustering.   Then over the December break, we hear from PacWestHoops that Iti (or someone on his behalf) is investigating whether he can transfer to Bishop Gorman in Nevada and gain eligibility. . . so far though Iti is still at Villa Park.

But according to the LA Times and the Orange County Register this week, Iti will now go back for a "visit" to Australia to see his mother.   Ok, that's not so wierd.  But if you know the history of this mess, we have to wonder whether, if Iti does leave the U.S., will he get back in again?   Doesn't anyone read the story of Charlie Rodriguez?  Hey Martin, if you leave, just be sure you've already got you're return entry visa in hand. . .

More Odd Iti:  Now the story gets really strange:  According to the LA Times, Ronald Lais, the attorney hired by Iti and/or his guardian,  is now apparently no longer employed by them, and instead has reportedly filed charges with several governmental agencies.  According to the Times' story, Courtney Rosegreen, Iti's guardian has engaged in "child abuse" and "illegal immigrnat smuggling."  As it appeared in Monday's LA Times, Ben Bolch writes:  "Courtney Rosegreen, Iti's caretaker since bringing him to the United States from Australia in June 1998 to further his basketball career, said that attorney Ronald E. Lais threatened to go public with the allegations unless Rosegreen   agreed to keep Iti at Villa Park and petition the CIF for a fifth year of eligibility." Of course, for those of use who have been to law school and read the penal code at one time or another, there's a certain section of the code which prohibits such conduct. . . just ask Erin Brokovich and Ed Masry. . .

Bolch also writes:  "Iti, who is serving a one-year athletic suspension, then called Lais, Rosegreen said, and told the attorney he no longer wished to be associated with him. Rosegreen said he and Iti previously informed Lais they no longer intended to petition the CIF for eligibility because the matter had become too stressful for Iti.  Lais had represented Iti last summer in legal proceedings against his Australian mother, who at the time requested that her son return home because he had transferred four times during his short stay in the U.S.  But she softened her stance once Lais agreed that Iti would complete his high school career at Villa Park." 

More Iti Oddities:  Bolch's story mentioned another interesting twist in all of this:  "Lais' involvement in the matter has come into question. According to Nancy McCarthy, a spokeswoman for the State Bar Assn., Lais was suspended from practicing law Dec. 1 for ethical violations. Additional charges of ethical misconduct are pending, McCarthy said, and the state bar might investigate whether his report of criminal activity against Rosegreen violated the terms of his suspension.  Lais said he plans to resign from the California bar in the next few days." A check by SoCalHoops with the California State Bar of their member records online indeed shows that Lais is on inactive status and not entitled to practice law.   

UCLA v. USC tonight:  Like anyone needed reminding. . .  it's at Pauley.  If you don't have a ticket, forget it.   Watch it on TV.

The Swish Award
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