Remember that great scene in "Hoosiers?" The good folks of Hickory have just fired struggling basketball coach Norman Dale by secret ballot when the town’s best player, Jimmy Chitwood, walks into the hall and announces he’s ready to end a self-imposed hiatus and rejoin the team. There’s only one catch.
Coach Dale goes? Chitwood goes.
Ike Diogu’s announcement wasn’t quite as dramatic or emphatic Tuesday — if ASU keeps struggling coach Rob Evans, the Devils’ star center might give up his senior year and head for the NBA anyway.
But if his confidant and mentor is fired with two years left on his contract, Diogu made it clear the new coach will have to begin the rebuilding project minus one 6-foot-8, 260-pound, All-American cornerstone.
Coach Evans goes? Ike goes.
That’s all ASU athletic director Gene Smith needs, another factor to ponder when he sits down with his coach after the NIT.
The boosters are restless, the Valley is yawning, and now the Pac-10's leading scorer and rebounder — the one person who makes the team worth paying attention to — leads the league in veiled ultimatums.
Without Ike, ASU doesn’t win 10 games this year, even with the marshmallow non-conference schedule. But even with him, ASU couldn’t finish in the top half of its league or draw the attention of the overloaded local sports fan. Tough choice, Gene. But that’s why you get the good parking spot in front of Carson Center.
RUN MAURICE, RUN
The only thing quick about Ohio State washout Maurice Clarett was his football career. He ran a faster time leaving the NFL combine with his tail between his legs than he did in three cracks at the 40-yard dash. Clarett won’t have a steady job, but at least he’s got a catchy new nickname. Slow Mo.
JUST SAY NO
Backup point guard remains a sensitive area, but the Suns should run — not walk — away from Gary Payton. The same fans screaming for Payton now were screaming for Karl Malone last month. Ask the Lakers how those gold-jewelry diggers worked out for them.
If you want an old point guard, why not give John Stockton or Magic Johnson a call?
• Begin the hand wringing, Yankees fans. Randy Johnson will miss his first scheduled spring start Thursday due to tightness in his left calf. It’s considered a minor injury. But ask around. Nothing with the Big Unit is ever minor.
• It’s becoming more apparent as the heat turns up that John Chaney may have coached his last game at Temple. The only question is, will the school fire him or, like two of his three suspensions, will the guy have to fire himself?
• Lemme get this straight. The 76ers’ Allen Iverson wants to practice now?