USC looks for Westphal, Huskies look for answers

By Patrick Klein
Arizona Daily Wildcat
February 13, 1996

It has been a while since the Pacific 10 Conference champion was not a one or two seed in the NCAA Tournament, but this could be the year it happens again, as No. 13 Arizona has the only realistic shot of climbing high enough in the polls to be considered. Conference foes No. 18 UCLA and No. 20 Stanford might not have enough time left to make a serious run. Here are notes from the Pac-10 Conference.

Westphal next?: The word out of Los Angeles is that former Phoenix Suns coach Paul Westphal, who played at USC from 1970-72, is the front-runner to be the next head coach for the Trojans.

Charlie Parker was fired unexpectedly last Wednesday, despite guiding his team to an 11-10 record, following a 7-21 campaign last year as the interim head coach.

USC athletic director Mike Garrett said the decision was made not on the basis of wins and losses, but on the progress the team was making on and off the court. He said he had been mulling it over for several weeks (perhaps since Jan. 16, when Westphal was fired by Phoenix.) Parker said last week he had never been given any notice that his job was in jeopardy.

The fallout of Parker's firing continued over the weekend. Starting center Avondre Jones did not make the Bay Area trip, apparently as a protest of Parker's dismissal. Interim head coach Henry Bibby said Jones' status would be evaluated this week.

Without the 6-foot-11, 225-pound Jones, who is the Trojans' primary inside force, the Trojans were swept by Stanford (99-69) and Cal (89-69), stretching their losing streak to three games. USC is 3-7 in their last ten contests.

"My only comment is, I guess I'm glad this game is over," Bibby said after the Stanford debacle. "With all the distractions we've had the last few days, it took us out of our framework for the game."

Westphal's name makes it fairly certain that Bibby, father of UA recruit Mike Bibby, will not get the chance to coach against his son next season. USC and Arizona play Jan. 16 and Feb. 15 next season.

"I feel badly about Charlie Parker," Cardinal head coach Mike Montgomery said. "He is a very good friend of mine and a very good coach."

Huskies slip: Washington's NCAA Tournament hopes took a big dive with their second straight loss, a 55-52 home defeat to Oregon Tuesday. While matching their best start since the 1985 team also started 14-6, Husky losses have come to Idaho, Oregon State, Arizona State and the Ducks, teams you wouldn't expect one of the best 64 teams in the nation to lose to.

With five of their last seven games on the road - Washington State, Cal, Stanford, USC and UCLA the Huskies probably have to win three of those and sweep both their home games, against Arizona and Arizona State, to make it to the field of 64.

"It was a very difficult loss for us," UW head coach Bob Bender said after the Oregon game. "It was the first time we haven't bounced back from a loss with greater concentration and effort."

The Huskies lost to ASU 88-79 last week.

Frieder speaks: Speaking of the NCAA Tournament, ASU head coach Bill Frieder offered his assessment on the Pacific 10 Conference's chances, despite the fact his team (8-11, 3-7) will most likely be spending March on the beach.

"Maybe the conference is a little down from what I expected, but that's probably due to injuries and ineligibility," he said. "Still, I think we have a real good chance of five teams going to the NCAA Tournament."

Four is probably more likely, with UCLA, Arizona, Stanford and Cal getting bids. The Huskies are on the bubble, and Washington State (11-8, 4-7) would probably have to win out, and WSU shares the same tough schedule the Huskies do.