Saturday, January 19, 2002

RedHawks brace for Athens 'welcome'

By Ian Duthie
Enquirer Contributor

        How deep is the rivalry between Miami and Ohio University? Miami coach Charlie Coles jokes that if he'd had his cardiac arrest in Athens instead of at Western Michigan in 1998, the Bobcats would have left him on the floor and yelled for the referees to call a technical foul for an extra man on the court.

        Kidding aside, Coles expects the fans to make it as miserable as possible on his team today in Athens. At stake is the right to stay atop the standings of the Mid-American Conference Eastern Division.

        “We know how hostile a crowd it is that awaits us,” Coles said. “Boy, you can't get away with wearing any red and expect to get out of their alive.”

        Former MU coach and athletic director Dick Shrider recalls a time his Miami team was playing in Athens when a fan yanked the chair out from under assistant Darrell Hedric, who came crashing down on his backside as the fans enjoyed every second.

        “He nearly lost everything inside of him,” Shrider said of the shocked Hedric.

        Shrider played two years of basketball at Ohio before eventually coaching nine years in Oxford and serving as athletic director. To this day, Shrider remains upset that Ohio is the only MAC school to hold an all-time advantage over Miami, 84-78.

        Coles and his staff will not have to watch where they sit. Partly because of the chair incident, the league implemented a rule placing visiting fans behind the visitors' bench.

        No one on Miami's team is looking forward to the game more than Juby Johnson, who will square off against his brother, Sonny. It will be the first time Miami's Johnson can remember playing against his brother in organized basketball after they played for their father, William, at Warrensville Heights High School.

        “I haven't seen him play in a while,” Johnson said of his older brother, who transferred from Cleveland State and had to sit out a year. “Hopefully, I still know enough so we can stop him.”

        That will be a challenge.

        The elder Johnson has yet to start a game, but he still averages 15.7 points a game, second-best on his team and more than any RedHawk. More importantly, it is five points better than his younger brother.

        The Miami-Ohio U rivalry is so extreme, Juby will not admit to being an OU fan even in games that don't include Miami.

        “No way. He is my brother and best friend, but I still can't root for the whole team,” said Juby Johnson.

        The two teams met three times last season, with Miami winning twice, and none of the games were decided by more than four points.

        The most devastating loss for Ohio U came in the semifinals of the MAC Tournament when Jason Grunkemeyer, a transfer from Ohio, hit a 22-foot 3-pointer with 6.8 seconds remaining to lift the RedHawks to a 62-61 victory.

        Ohio finished the season with 19 wins, but still fired their coach, Larry Hunter.

        Hunter now is an assistant at North Carolina State, where Herb Sendek — the Miami coach before Coles — gave him a job on his bench after 12 years at Ohio.

        Who says these two teams can't get along?


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