George Will

     In the movie, Haskins tells his team the day before the game that he will play only black players the next night -- he used all seven -- in order to make a social statement. But former Georgetown coach John Thompson, a black man famous for his bluntness, minced no words when talking to Eddie Einhorn for a book, ``How March Became Madness,'' a history of the NCAA tournament, that Einhorn is publishing next month (with Rapoport's collaboration). Thompson told Einhorn that Haskins said his only goal was to win, so he played his best players.

     And what of the movie scene where the players' motel rooms are trashed and racist epithets are painted on the walls? One of the players, Nevil Shed, recently told Sporting News columnist Dave Kindred, ``Could have happened.'' Kindred calls that Shed's way of handling ``the fiction.''

     Although the movie shows Haskins emphasizing basketball fundamentals and telling the players that ``showboating is nothing but insecurity,'' the movie also makes much of the black players successfully seeking his permission for the more flamboyant style of play they learned on city asphalt. This much is true: Between 1967 and 1976 the NCAA banned dunk shots, even during warm-ups. What do you suppose that was about?

     In his just-published ``At Canaan's Edge: America in the King Years, 1965-68,'' Taylor Branch writes that when in 1950 Kentucky lost to City College of New York's integrated team, Kentucky's Legislature flew the flag at the capitol at half mast. Two months after the 1966 championship game, a black player received an athletic scholarship from one of Kentucky's Southeastern Conference rivals, Vanderbilt. Kentucky's coach, Adolph Rupp, was born in 1901 and probably was not much different than his peers in his time and place. According to Branch, Rupp complained of incessant calls from his university president: ``That son-of-a-bitch wants me to get some n------ in here. What am I gonna do?'' But Kentucky had no black professor until 1965.

     When Rupp retired in 1972 his team was all white. Today Kentucky has a black coach, Tubby Smith, whose 15-man team includes 10 blacks. They play in Rupp Arena.

George Will

George F. Will is a 1976 Pulitzer Prize winner whose columns are syndicated in more than 400 magazines and newspapers worldwide.
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