In case you guys missed it the Daily Bruin ran a really cool interview with Bruin alum Tracy Murray. Tracy was one of the anchors of the UCLA basketball program from the early 90s who played an instrumental part in helping Jim Harrick bring Bruin basketball back in the national scene. In fact Murray and Madkins were essentially our JF and AA when many of us entered Westwood as students around that time.
It is pretty surreal to think back to those days (91-92 season) and think how lethal we were from the perimeter thanks to the ridiculous shooting of Murray and McLean, who had a great supporting cast in Gerald Madkins, Derrick Martin, Mitchel Butler, and youngsters such as Sean Tarver, Tyus Edney and some guy named Ed O'Bannon. That team brought back the Pac-10 title in Westwood, got the number 1 seed out West, only to suffer a terrible defeat in the hands of Indiana (which we beat to start the season right infront of a bloviating Dick Vitale).
Anyway Tracy went pro a year early right after that season which was unusual at the time. It left us in a transition mode which we didn't fully recover (even though we kept winning 20 something games) until Ed O and Edney's senior seasons in Westwood.
So Tracy sat down recently with Daily Bruin’s Brantley Watson to share his basketball on the game and the state of UCLA basketball in general. Along with Don MacLean I always thought Tracy's observations on UCLA hoops have been dead on. Plus we know he thinks like us as evidenced in this "Ben Ball Warrior" reference from January of last year (thanks Tele):
Going back to present, I wanted to share some interesting nuggets from the DB piece right after the jump, which I think confirms some of the perception we had about this year's UCLA basketball program.
Tracy highlighted how the guys back then approached the game with a completely different mental approach (emphasis added throughout):
DB: What are some of the major differences between this year’s team and when you played?
TM: I think the biggest difference is the mental approach to the game. We had friends on the other team, but they weren’t our friends during the game. They weren’t our friends during warm-ups. We didn’t go hug them, laugh with them, joke with them; they were the enemy. We grew up with guys from USC, but we were hammering each other. It was almost like we didn’t know each other. The mentality is totally different.
You got to attack the other team like it’s personal. I don’t think the team this year took losses personally like we did. Our practices were dogfights because we were trying to take each other’s positions.
We were literally fighting in practice. That type of fighting in practice is healthy because you got guys busting their tails, trying to be the best they can be and snatch a position. I’m not too sure if that kind of competitiveness was going on with this team. I didn’t see much fight this year. And I’m pretty sure Coach Howland was frustrated about this because most teams he coached, they fought.
It was also very interesting to see Tracy admit how his own team that won the Pac-10 title was set back for being slightly selfish (pointing the finger directly at himself):
DB: In your three years at UCLA, you made it as far as the Elite Eight but never the Final Four. Does that ever haunt you when you watch the tournament today?
TM: It haunts me all the time because of all the talent we had on our team. I told my dad earlier this morning, that with the talent we had, I wish I sacrificed a little bit more of my game for the sake of the team, especially during tournament time because it’s not about individual performances, it’s about winning championships.
I am guessing he identified closely with the teams from Howland's early years in Westwood. He implied how there was a vacuum when it came to leadership in the program:
DB: A lot of the same guys are returning, so what do you think it’s going to take to turn this team around by next season?
TM: It’s going to take leadership because, honestly, I thought leadership was lacking this year. Mike Roll did a good job of doing the best he can to lead this team. He had ... a very good senior year. But I don’t think there were very many people following Michael Roll’s lead. If they were following his lead, then the team would have done better.
Leadership is key. If there are guys that are leaders on that team, and they’re stepping up and they’re getting in people’s faces and getting people into the gym to work their behinds off and get better for next year so this won’t happen again, then the team will go in the direction that it should go.
And then he had pretty frank words for anyone in the team considering "testing" NBA waters:
DB: Having played in the league, what player on UCLA’s team today has the best chance to be a solid pro?
TM: Right now, no one because they haven’t proved themselves yet. Honestly, there are some people talking about putting their names in the draft or have put their names in the draft that have no business doing it. If your team doesn’t go to the NCAA (Tournament) or the NIT (National Invitation Tournament), and do well, what type of stock do you have? You don’t have any stock. NBA teams want to see that you can win. If you can’t win, and you’re not putting up crazy numbers, you’re not going anywhere.
A lot of kids don’t understand what they have to deal with nowadays that’s different from what I had to deal with when I came out, I only had to deal with kids coming out of the universities around here. I never had to deal with the element of the unknown that’s coming from overseas.
So everybody that thinks they’re doing well, or their parents are telling them to test the market, or their boys are telling them they’re great; you better look in the mirror and be real with yourself. It’s a lot harder to just throw your name in the draft now unless you’re one of the top guys in the country.
Really great job by the folks at the Daily Bruin. It's one of the most poignant pieces I have read from their sports site in a while.