By JOANNE KORTH, BRIAN LANDMAN, Times wires
© St. Petersburg Times, published March 26, 2000
Florida assistant coach John Pelphrey was busy Saturday planning for the future in the form of an Oklahoma State scouting report, but it felt like a trip to the past.
Florida plays OSU in today's East Region final, putting Pelphrey on the bench opposite his mentor, Cowboys coach Eddie Sutton. Pelphrey played for Sutton as a redshirt freshman at Kentucky in 1988-89, and was a first-year assistant with him at OSU in 1992-93.
"I have great respect for Coach Sutton," said Pelphrey, who remains close friends with Sutton's son, Sean. "I can't think anyone else who has been in the business as long as he has who enjoys it more than he does. He's a champion and a warrior."
Though UF coach Billy Donovan has confidence in Pelphrey's scouting talent, he can't imagine his former association with Sutton will be of a tremendous help to the Gators.
"I just don't think it's that big a deal," Donovan said. "It was six years ago and John was only there for one year and he was only 22. What did he know at that point in his life, anyway?"
A CLOSE SHAVE: Reaching the Final Four could be a hairy situation for Sutton, who was reminded by senior Doug Gottlieb of a preseason promise he made to shave his head.
"The hair will come off," Gottlieb said.
Sutton just smiled: "I tricked them. I made the statement that if we get to the Final Four I would allow them to shave my head, but I had my fingers crossed."
NEW YORK STATE OF MIND: Florida is 12-6 all-time in seven NCAA Tournaments, including 3-0 in the Carrier Dome. The Gators beat N.C. State and Purdue in the opening rounds in 1987 and top-seeded Duke 87-78 on Friday. OSU is 30-15 overall in the NCAA Tournament, 5-0 in the state of New York. The Cowboys won the 1945 and '46 title games in New York, and played the first two rounds of this year's tournament in Buffalo.
HOW SWEDE IT IS: Oklahoma State took in a pro hockey game while in Buffalo for the first two games of the NCAA Tournament. Maybe it was to make their 6-foot-10 center feel more at home. Fredrik Jonzen is from Sweden. He played for club team Sallens, which won the Swedish 20-and-under championship two years ago, and for the Swedish National Team.
A DIFFERENT LEAGUE: Tulsa coach Bill Self said the seeds for this year's success were sewn in last year's second-round NCAA Tournament loss to Duke.
Top-ranked Duke humbled the Golden Hurricane 97-56.
"We had a nice team, we're a better team this year, but I thought we had the pieces to at least make Duke sweat," Self said. "The day we played Duke, I'm not sure there were many teams that could had made them sweat. But I do believe that game itself, the way it ended, it was far better for us to lose by that amount than to lose by 5 or 10. I really feel our players learned there's a different level than what we were playing."
TALL ORDER: Tulsa starts one player taller than 6-5, that being 6-10 center Brandon Kurtz, so it knows it will be looking up at a towering North Carolina frontcourt. Center Brendan Haywood is 7-0, power forward Kris Lang is 6-11 and small forward Jason Capel is 6-8.
So Coach Self, what team would you compare UNC's frontline size to?
"The Lakers," he said."Our league is a league of 6-5, 6-4 4-men. We haven't played any team like Carolina. I told the guys they need to play a lot bigger than they are. And we've done that for the most part this year."
OMINOUS SIGN: UNC point guard Ed Cota likened Tulsa's quickness, especially on defense, to that of Duke and Virginia. UNC lost twice to both teams.
JOB SEARCH? Miami coach Leonard Hamilton, mentioned as a candidate to take over at Georgia Tech, didn't want to hear questions about any vacant positions. "I'm the head coach of the University of Miami," he told the Austin American-Statesman Friday. "That's the job I have. If you're going to ask me every time a job comes open, that's unfair to me. I just got through coaching my team. I'm not interested in commenting on any thing but the game and Miami, over and out."
ONE FOR THE BOOKS, ALMOST: With Tulsa the No. 7 seed and UNC the No. 8 seed, the matchup is the between the highest seeds in a regional final since No. 9 Penn met No. 10 St. John's in the 1979 East Region final.
WEATHER ALERT: Tulsa players came to Saturday's press conference wearing new blue T-shirts. On the front, the shirts read "Hurricane Austin," and on the back, "Category 5, Hurricane Warning." Asked who came up with the idea, the players didn't know. "These guys will wear anything that's free," Self said. "They don't ask questions, they just wear it."
HE SAID IT: "I think people don't know about Tulsa because we don't get a lot of television exposure. Growing up in Cincinnati, if you had asked me about Tulsa, I don't think I could have told you it was in the state of Oklahoma." -- Tulsa junior forward David Shelton, the team's sixth man and leading scorer.