Lute Olson's arrogant smirk told all you had to know. Last Sunday's game against UCLA was proceeding according to plan.
The Pac-10 tournament final was a blowout for Arizona. And so Olson, the basketball coach with the largest ego west of Bloomington, Indiana, was on his way to a soft opening round in the NCAA tournament.
For the moment, basketball reigns supreme throughout the state.
Arizona State's Bill Frieder, the smarmy little towel holder who brags that he's skilled enough at counting black jack cards to have been ejected from several Las Vegas casinos, is safely ensconced in the opening round of the NIT tournament.
Mention Olson and Frieder and it's unnecessary to identify the universities at which these two wealthy egoists are coaching.
Olson came to Arizona several years back from the University of Iowa. Frieder was propelled here quite suddenly by the University of Michigan when he was caught trying to run a fairly slimy back-door play during last year's NCAA tourney.
Frieder secretly accepted the job at ASU, which offered him a conditional contract with incentives that could pay him as much as $700,000 a year. Frieder wanted to keep his new ASU job quiet until he'd finished the tournament with his Michigan team.
But ASU, desperate to have a new coach hired, demanded that the deal be made public at once.
So Frieder finally admitted he had taken the ASU job. Bo Schembechler, his boss at Michigan, promptly sent him packing in humiliating fashion.
Frieder's contract at ASU pays him additional money for doing everything except catching a cold.
He gets a guaranteed $40,000 profit from a basketball camp. He got $47,000 in relocation costs. He got another $25,000 for moving costs. There's the possibility of another $121,000 for a television contract as well as $50,000 for radio from KTAR.
Oh yes, he also gets $160,000 from the Nike shoe company if his players wear that kind of shoe for him.
That's not all. There's $20,000 more if ASU finishes above .500 and another $20,000 when attendance for the season averages better than 7,500 a game. If attendance goes to 11,000 a game, Frieder gets another $30,000.
For making the NIT tournament, Frieder will receive an additional bonus. If he ever wins the NCAA, he can earn enough extra to buy a new Mercedes Benz.
Is it any wonder that the first player Frieder recruited was Sam Mack, a young man only recently acquitted of armed robbery? This young student athlete had been shot twice by the police in a shootout at a Burger King restaurant where he and a friend had taken hostages.
Mack was a standout performer as a freshman at Iowa State, but after his acquittal it was determined by his coach that he'd better move west.
Mack wasn't on the ASU campus a month before a young woman filed charges that Mack had raped her.
The charges were finally dropped by the County Attorney's Office. Frieder grandly announced that Mack would be suspended from the basketball program for the season. Big deal. Mack was already ineligible to play because of the transfer rule. There was no way he could play for ASU until next season, anyway.
But Mack has boasted publicly of having an agent who can get him a pro basketball contract. If that's true, the NCAA may decide that Mack should move to the NBA. Since his reading skills are on the level of a fourth grader, that might be the best solution.
Mack apparently has a knack for getting in the news. This past weekend, while ASU was upsetting Oregon State and barely losing to UCLA, he was arrested once again. This time he's charged with making purchases with credit cards that didn't belong to him. After this, he was finally dropped from the squad.
The Mack case is fraught with similarities to the one Jim Valvano brought upon himself several years ago at North Carolina State.
He recruited Chris Washburn, a six- foot eleven-inch pivotman, into his program. Washburn could barely read but was a terrific basketball prospect.
When he took the college SATs, he scored 470 on an examination that awarded 400 points for merely showing up and writing his name.
Washburn was asked by a geography tutor at North Carolina State what country was directly south of the United States. He thought a moment.
"Canada," he said.
"No," the tutor said. "Will it help if I tell you they speak Spanish?" Washburn's eyes brightened.
"Spain," he said.
"Let's get on to something else," the tutor said. "Tell me what country's directly to the north of the United States?" "England," Washburn replied.