Thursday, March 22, 2001

Long road led Bibby to USC


UCLA great coached in USBL, CBA; now faces UK

The Associated Press

        PHILADELPHIA — The two schools are across town from each other, but the trip for Henry Bibby from playing at UCLA to coaching at Southern California took a long time and a winding path.

        While his old team was preparing Wednesday for the NCAA East Regional against Duke, Bibby was busy getting his current one ready for Kentucky.

        He has taken teams into big games before, teams in the USBL and the CBA, teams in Savannah and Springfield, even a team in Venezuela. Like most basketball lifers, there are plenty of destination stickers on his luggage.

        “The road I've taken here, I've been in a lot of spots and there have been a lot of obstacles,” Bibby said. “I'm a self-made coach.”

        Bibby played point guard on three of John Wooden's NCAA championship teams at UCLA, 1970-72.

        In those days, Southern California was a basketball afterthought while Wooden's UCLA dynasty was winning 10 national championships in 12 years.

        Drafted by the New York Knicks, Bibby arrived just in time to be on an NBA championship team. He made two trips to the NBA Finals with Philadelphia in 1977 and 1980.

        So this regional is something of a homecoming.

        “In the latter part of my career, I was booed here a lot,” he said. “I hope they don't think I owe them a championship. Dr. J made that promise to Philadelphia, not me.”

        Bibby wanted to coach and he knew the only way to do that was to start at the lowest levels.

        For eight seasons, he coached in the CBA with teams like the Oklahoma City Cavalry, Tulsa Fast Breakers, Savannah Spirits and Baltimore Lightning. There were three summers in the USBL with the Springfield Flame and another with a club team in Venezuela.

        “At that level, you have to drive the van, tape the ankles,” Bibby said. “I've done everything possible in basketball to get where I am.”

        That included resurrecting a moribund Southern California program.

        Hired as interim coach in February 1996, Bibby imposed tough standards on the team, running off players who broke rules. Eventually, he found himself with just four scholarship players and the Trojans lost their final nine games of the season.

        Despite the losing streak, Bibby got the job and began imposing his basketball will on this football school.

        “We teach a lot of life skills,” he said. “I don't have too many NBA guys. I try to prepare them for life. I understand the people I coach and what they go through. I understand what it's all about with them.”

        The toughest assignment belongs to point guard Brandon Granville, who plays the same position Bibby did. That is not always a good thing.

        “My first two years, he was constantly pressing me,” Granville said. “Being a point guard humbles you and forces you to take responsibility. Coach Bibby is trying to make me better.”

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