The Media Learning Curve: Feb. 13-20

We were preoccupied with many other things this week, and media-related stuff wasn’t in the course guide so much. Maybe it was that President’s Day sale at Circuit City that short-circuited our week.

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You mean, it was a going-out-of-bidness sale? No wonder someone offered me a spool of cable with every beat-up floor model TV stand I’d purchase on that day. I just through the guy in the red shirt was being cool for a change and not making a hard sale.

While I go back to brouse through the DVDs and see how many more copies of “Who’s Your Caddy?” I can get with this promo code, link over to these places to find more of what you may have missed along the way:

== The new ESPN Radio lineup in L.A. starts March 16, with more Mason and Ireland and no Tirico and Van Pelting Us With Rocks and Garbage (linked here).

== Tennis Channel, on the cutting edge of social justice (linked here).

== Golf Channel, on the cutting edge of proving Charles Barkley knows how to swing (linked here). Meanwhile, Sir Chuck admits to the ‘Tard: I like to drink (linked here via this link at SportsByBrooks.com).

== Oh, how edgy: ESPN.com gives Lil Wayne a blog; he gives his arm an ESPN tat (linked here).

== How edgy is ESPNChicago.com, ready in April to be a stand-alone provider of all that is Chi-town sports? (linked here).

== Would we have to talk you off the ledge if you had to pay ESPN for the right to read Rick Reilly and/or Bill Simmons? (linked here). Why, because you’re a free-downloader?

== ESPN’s ombudsperson says, from her view, the Feb. 9 Gammons/A-Rod interview last week was hardly the makings of Frost/Nixon (linked here). She also notes: “Rumors of my departure have been premature. My term as ombudsman ends soon, by mutual prearrangement, but there will be a column next month, and if it is my last, I will say a proper goodbye.”

== A guy at the Washington Post thinks women need more play-by-play opportunities (linked here).

== Sports Illustrated took the time to photoshop out Danica Patrick’s tattoo from her backside before she was presentable to appear in the swimsuit issue (linked here and linked here). And they finally explain why (linked here).

== Tiger Woods’ new family photo, one where the Swedecaublianasian makes its world debut (linked here).

== Fox may give NFL studio analyst Michael Strahan his own sit-com? (linked here) Why, because Terry Bradshaw passed?

== Here’s a good rumor to spread around about an ESPN sideline reporter and a D-I basketball coach (linked here).

== More to know about CBS’ coverage of the PGA event at Riviera Country Club this weekend (linked here).

== Neil Everett and Stan Verrett, get the boo-yah outta Bristol, Conn., ASAP. Your rent has come due in L.A. (linked here).

== We could retype out all the MLB Network and ESPN schedules for the upcoming World Baseball Classic, but it’s easier to send you here (linked here).

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The joy of Rex: When with Rome, keep the streak alive

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Those listening to Jim Rome’s syndicated sports-talk show (locally, KLAC-AM 570 from 9 a.m. to noon) understand what the headline above means.

Seven shows in a row that Rome has hosted (taking Monday off for President’s Day) have included a guest named Rex. First, by accident. Now, through careful consideration and focus.

Starting a week ago on Wednesday:

== Wednesday, Feb. 11, No. 1:Rex Chapman (linked here), former Kentucky basketball great and NBA player now co-VP of player personnel with the Denver Nuggets. Knew more about Rome’s stake in thoroughbred horses than the host seemed to.

== Thursday, Feb. 12, No. 2: Rex Ryan (linked here), son of Buddy Ryan, new head coach of the New York Jets.

== Friday, Feb. 13, No. 3: Red Hudler (linked here), the Angels’ TV analyst and former big-leaguer, who has a new autobiography out called “Splinters” that’s for sale on his Web site.

== Tuesday, Feb. 17, No. 4: Rex Walters (linked here), former Kansas basketball standout, played in the NBA, now coaching USF, a rival of LMU and Pepperdine in the WCC.

== Wednesday, Feb. 18, No. 5: Rex Lee (linked here), plays Ari Gold’s assistant, Lloyd, in HBO’s “Entourage”

== Thursday, Feb. 19, No. 6: Rex Peters (linked here), head basketball coach at UC Davis, a former Dodgers draft pick, Cal State Fullerton grad and Chapman University head coach. Not to be confused with Rex Chapman.

== Friday, Feb. 20, No. 7: Rex Hoggard (linked here), a senior writer for GolfChannel.com with the column “On Second Thought.” He dropped the word “capricious” that had all the listeners impressed.

“Rex No. 8 is booked for Monday; I won’t jinx it by mentioning it now,” Rome said as he signed off today’s show. “I’m focused on DiMaggio’s streak. On Ripken’s streak. On UCLA’s streak. On the Lakers’ streak.”

Not part of the streak yet, despite listener suggestions:

== Rex Grossman, (linked here) Chicago Bears current backup QB.

== Wreckx-N-Effect, a swing hip-hop group from the early ’90s (linked here)

Got a favorite Rex who’ll work here? Comment, fool.

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Our Daily Dread: Check out that package

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The USC basketball team’s arrangement to have Daniel Hackett attend as a walk-on, with his father, Rudy, on Tim Floyd’s staff as a strength and conditioning manager, apparently sends up a red flag to the whistle blowers at ESPN, who will investigate that as part of a Sunday “Outside The Lines” story on “Package Deals” in college sports — where a college hires a recruited player’s relative, former coach or associate in return for getting the player to sign.

The show (6 a.m. on ESPN/9 a.m. on ESPNEWS) says that “the NCAA has told ESPN that it is ‘looking into’ the Hackett arrangement. In 2005, USC hired Rudy as its coach. A year later, Daniel committed to USC. Since Rudy is a university employee, Daniel gets free tuition. And since he is considered a walk-on, USC does not have to use one of its 13 scholarships allowed by the NCAA.

Another part of reporter Darren Lyn’s piece is on Kansas — last year Mario Chalmers took Kansas to the national championship with his father, Ronnie, watching on the bench as director of basketball operations.

Says NCAA associate director of enforcement LuAnn Humphrey, quoted in the story as she’s involved in the USC case (and speaking of “package deals” in general): “In the past, we have had a difficult time addressing that issue, but in the last several months since the formation of the basketball focus group we have tried to become smarter about the basketball recruiting environment. I think that snowball is rolling down the hill and we need to stop the bleeding.”

After USC’s win over Washington State on Thursday, Floyd offered a preemptive strike to the story (linked here):

“All I can tell you is that that bridge was crossed three years ago with the NCAA, with the Pac-10, with our compliance office and we have not done one thing wrong. As far as Rudy Hackett being at this university as our basketball coach, he was here a year before Daniel Hackett got here and he’s far more qualified than 95 percent of the assistant coaches in the United States of America. He played in the NBA, he played on a Final Four team at Syracuse, coached and played in Italy and was highly recommended by the number one team in Southern California. (Pat Barrett, president of the AAU Southern Cal All-Stars) recommended him, I hired him and I’m very glad we did. That’s all I got to say.”

The cliche about seeing smoke and sensing a fire already turns to smoldering stench around the program that arose less than a year ago, when ESPN reported (story linked here) some funny business about how O.J. Mayo received money and gifts while on Floyd’s USC roster for one season (remember those courtside Laker tickets from Carmello Anthony?). It caused an ESPN columnist, Pat Forde, to go so far as to say (story linked here) that the Trojans deserved a “death penalty” punishment soon.

But more related to this latest hunt, in 2006, Floyd caused even more eyebrows to raise when he got 14-year-old Dwayne Polee Jr. to verbally accept a scholarship before he had yet to play a high-school game at Westchester.

A year later, Dwayne Polee Sr. was named Floyd’s new director of basketball operations.

A reverse package deal?

“I think he’s more qualified than 90 percent of the assistants that come into college basketball based on his playing experience and what he can bring to the table for us at SC through his contacts in our area,” Floyd said of hiring the 44-year-old Polee, a former high school legend at Manual Arts High more than 20 years ago before going to Pepperdine and playing for the Clippers.

The “package deal” situation isn’t illegal by NCAA standards, just creepy. It should be investigated. Loop holes should be closed. Advantages that one program has over another need to be monitored and assessed.

And then what? Make the kid pay for the adults’ missteps? That’s what ends up happening. No wonder some may want to just bypass some of these tangled webs and go straight from high school to the NBA, which has its own set of land mines one must avoid.

What has Floyd done wrong here? Nothing, apparently. And everything, if you’re the other 300-plus D-I basketball programs who hasn’t already tried it and failed.

He’s made it a family affair at USC, one more conspiracy theorists say grows like a sequel to “The Godfather.” Another of his walk-on players is James Dunleavy, the son of Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy. Another of his walk-on players is J.J. Meyers, the son of Lakers play-by-play man Joel Meyers. Does that mean Floyd is laying the groundwork for even more hirings on his staff and broadcast team?

Does Oprah have a kid eligible yet?

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And what do people out there make of Lil’ Romeo sitting on the Trojans’ bench (story linked here), where it’s assumed he was only part of another “package deal” with star freshman forward DeMar DeRozan.

It only makes Percy Miller want to prove everyone wrong. And, at the same time, stay out of the NCAA’s hyprocrical swipe at finding justice.

“One day I saw him wearing a warm-up suit and I told him I liked it,” Floyd said in that story linked above. “He said, ‘Coach this is my own line of clothes. If you want one, I could give you one.’ ”

You don’t think there’d be even more NCAA folks on his tail if he accepted that gift?

Give us your take here or at thomas.hoffarth@dailynews.com.

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You make the call: L.A.’s TV and radio game analysts need your love

Our picks in today’s 17th annual Daily News best and worst of L.A. TV and radio analysts — hardly a surprise.

The Kings’ James Charles Fox Esq.has the top spot, again, after … we’ve stopped counting. It’s gotta be at least eight years running.

The Dodgers’ Steve “Psycho” Lyons goes low, again, for the Bottom 5. We may name the award after him.

But don’t mind us. Make your own educated guess:



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The Media Learning Curve: Beyond what the analyst will tell you of the local golf and NASCAR events this weekend

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We’re pleased to report the 11-year-old daughter of Angels TV analyst Mark Gubicza is on her way to a normal, healthy life after her recent surgery to try to prevent more seizures.

Rory Markas, Gubicza’s broadcaster partner on the FSWest and KCOP Channel 13 games, knows far too much about brain surgery, having had his for a stroke last November, right before Ashley Gubicza had her proceedure.

And as you can see here, Markas, on the right looking like Jerry Doggett, and Gubicza know how to keep things light. This was during the Angels’ ’70s Night promotion last May. Gubicza looks as if he’s going to help Starsky and/or Hutch make a bust. We fear that Rory actually had that stuff in his closet and didn’t have to look more than a couple of minutes to decide how he was going to deck himself out that night.

The story in today’s print editions (linked here) has the best and worst of the L.A. analysts, so there’s no real surprises other than … naw, there’s no real shockers if you’ve seen the list the previous 17 years. A couple have unfortunately dropped off — Mike Montgomery went back to coaching basketball at Stanford, so he’s no longer doing USC games fo Prime Ticket, and Jerry Reuss’ services are no longer needed with the Dodgers’ radio team on the 40-game road package.

Some of the other things you’ll need to know if you’re trying to keep up with all that’s out there this weekend:

== Rain forcast for Sunday may mess — again — with NASCAR’s 2009 season. After Matt Kenseth won his washed-out Daytona 500 last week, the California Auto Club Speedway in Fontana takes on the AutoClub 500 on Sunday (Channel 11, 2 p.m.. Kenseth won the race in ’06 and ’07.
Chris Myers is the prerace host with Jeff Hammond and Darrell Waltrip. Mike Joy calls the event with Waltrip and Larry McReynolds, turning to the Dick Berggren, Steve Byrnes, Krista Voda and Matt Yocum in the pits.
Saturday, Fox has the NASCAR Truck Series’ San Bernardino County 200 (Channel 11, noon), with Joy, Waltrip and McReynolds.

== NBC is using Paul Sunderland, Tim Daggett, Elfi Schlegel and Andrea Joyce to cover the American Cup gymnastics event from Hoffman Estates, Ill., (Saturday, 1-3 p.m., Channel 4).

== The latest HBO Sports doc, “Battle for Tobacco Road: Duke vs. Carolina,” debuts Monday at 9 p.m. with many replays. Among those interviewed to talk about the Blue Devils and Tar Heels’ hoops rivalry are, of course, Mike Krzyzewski, Roy Williams and Dean Smith, plus Michael Jordan, James Worthy, Charlie Scott, Larry Brown, Phil Ford, Mitch Kupchak, Grant Hill, Jay Bilas, Alaa Abdlenaby, Mike Gminski, Johnny Dawkins, Brian Davis, J.J. Redick, Jeff Capel and Christian Laettner. HBO’s own Jim Lampley, a North Carolina grad, also puts in his buck-thirty-five cents.

AND THE CLOSING ARGUMENT:

== From The Onion Sports (story linked here):

Scott Boras Able To Get Manny Ramirez $20 Billion In Economic Stimulus Money

WASHINGTON–After a series of closed-door talks, Scott Boras, the agent known for representing the highest-paid players in baseball, set another record for the game’s largest contract when he finalized Manny Ramirez’s $20 billion agreement with the United States federal government on Thursday.

“Manny’s .396 batting average last season with the Dodgers, as well as his playoff performance, proved that he is as important to this country as infrastructure projects, health care, and renewable energy development,” Boras said during an interview, adding that Ramirez is especially satisfied with the indefinite length of the contract.

“He’s promised to cut 47 hours of antics this year and to make necessary attitude adjustments in order to remain solvent. Any criticism Manny receives for this contract is simply what comes with getting a huge amount of money from the government during a time of crisis.”

A clause in the contract states Ramirez could receive an additional $6 billion if he successfully saves the American auto industry.

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OMG: We apologize — You gotta have Hartman as the real bestest sportscaster in the entire world of L.A.! :)

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It shouldn’t take more than an unscientific poll that can be manipulated through an email blast to all the pals of an befuddled sports-talk show host/weekend TV sports anchor to make us admit we were dead wrong about the value of Steve Hartman to the Los Angeles media market.

After posting last week’s poll asking readers to vote for their favorite and least favorite L.A. anchor/reporter/studio analyst (linked here), the results show …

No, wait, there’s been a change. So, never mind about that headline above.

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Whereas Hartman did have the lead at one point Thursday afternoon, we now must reveal that as of 7 p.m. on this 19th day of February in the year 200-and-9, it’s Petros Papadakis — he of the Fred Roggin “Challenge” and Prime Ticket’s “Gauntlet” — who has surpassed Hartman, the sidekick on KCBS Channel 2 originally named SportsCentral, with 147 of the 374 posted votes (39 percent) for the best overall dude. Hartman has unceremoniously fallen to second with 29 percent. Jim Hill is a distant third with 15 percent of the votes.

Still, with that strong a showing, it must be true: Hartman is full of No. 2.

As for who garnished the most response to be king of the worst TV dudes? Again, it’s Papadakis over Hartman, 34 percent (52 of the 153 votes) to a meager 12 percent.

Which means, in the two polls we’ve put up so far, Papadakis is both the best, and worst, sports-talk show host and TV studio analyst in all of L.A. He’ll be on the ballot again, for game analyst, early tomorrow. Can he make it three-for-three?

If you know of his play-by-play talents, let us know. We can also include him on the final week’s ballot.

Of course, the poll for this TV sportscaster poll isn’t closed. It’ll never be finished, for that matter. Meaning anyone still has time to mobilize the troops, Twitter the nitwits and scream from his rooftop until their hair plugs burst into an embarassment of flames.

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Riviera and the TV coverage you are about to receive

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After Golf Channel’s first- and second-round coverage of the Northern Trust Open from Riviera Country Club today and Friday (noon to 3 p.m., repeated at 5:30 p.m.), CBS brings in its crew for the last two rounds (Channel 2, Saturday, noon to 3 p.m. and Sunday, noon to 3:30 p.m.)

Jim Nantz and Nick Faldo are in the big tower. Peter Oosterhuis calls at 17, Gary McCord is in his familar spot at the par 3 16th, with Ian Baker-Finch at the 15th. David Feherty and Peter Kostis are roaming the course for celebs sitting under Boggie’s Tree or whatever other hot spots.

Says Kostis on Japanese teen sensation Ryo Ishikawa making his PGA Tour debut this weekend: “I have not seen him play in person and not many Americans have. It’s the first time he is playing over here. He’s going to be on stage as there will be a huge contingent of Japanese press following him around. Ishikawa is another in a long list of kids like Rory McIlroy and Anthony Kim who are the next generation who grew up with Tiger Woods as their idol. At 17-years-old, he was six or seven when Tiger came on Tour. It will be interesting to see how they react and play, and the style of play, especially since Tiger is their role model.”

As for the performance of defending champion Phil Mickelson, Kostis says: “The only thing consistent about Mickelson’s game right now is his inconsistency. Clearly he didn’t put enough time in preparing in the off-season. It seems like he would have found some answers. He is changing equipment almost weekly and it’s hard to really develop your golf swing when you always have different sets of iron and clubs in the bag. You need to pick something and stick with it.”

Along with Mickelson, Kostis says he hopes to see Ernie Els and Vijay Singh – “the staples of our Tour haven’t played worth a darn this year” — make some kind of move.

“We need some veterans to step up and challenge the young guys,” Kostis said. “Kenny Perry did in Phoenix, but the big names have not showed up.”

Rain may show up, as usual, on Sunday. Be prepared.

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Our Daily Dread: The spin cycle of Lance Armstrong’s big adventure

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The A-Rod vernacular of the week seems to dance around the proper way to cycle in or out of Tic-Tacs as a means of strengthening your forearms, as well as your resolve, when it comes to avoiding a rush to judgment about what actually happened back in the day when the Texas Rangers threw all that money at the free-agent shortstop and made him and his fictional cousin do stupid things. Stuff they’re not sure they can admit to, even though they’ve denied it in the past to other TV interviewers.

Couple that with an episode of “House” I happened to come across the other day (summary linked here), on USA Network, from season two in 2005. The story is about a pro bike rider who falls over during a race, caused a huge pileup, and he’s taken to the hospital unconscious. House immediately though the guy was doping, and would lie about it, so he’d never figure out what really caused his condition. One of the doctors thinks the guy may have cancer — so the cyclist’s manager goes to the press with it in hopes of gaining sympathy, knowing there’s more to it than that. House figures out the truth. We won’t spoil it for you.

The name of the episode, appropriately, is “Spin.”

Spin forward to this weekend as we try to get our padded seat around this bike race that’s heading our way. Listen … can you hear it?

Lance Armstrong is living strong again. He’s already shouted down a reporter named Paul Kimmage, a former cyclist who has ridden in the Tour de France and is now writing for the Sunday Times of London, who accused him of setting the sport of cycling back years by his appearance in this week’s Tour of California (tour site linked here). That was a week ago, before Stage 1 in Sacramento. Kimmage called Armstrong as the “cancer” returning to the sport. Armstrong said Kimmage wasn’t worth the chair he was sitting in. NPR’s Tom Goldman did a great job reporting that story last week on “Morning Edition” (linked here, listen to the 4-minute piece). A-Rod’s name comes up in this story somehow.

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How will Sir Lancelot be received around here? The cancer survivors, like Tim Bruno here in Fresno, have shown their support in many ways so far.

Today, the pack cruises from Visalia to Paso Robles. It starts at 10 a.m. and ends about 4:30 p.m. Follow it live on Versus (site linked here).

Friday, it’s Solvang, where Stage 6 is a time trial in a place that’s kind of home turf for the Austin, Tex., native, to train out here.

During Stage 7 on Saturday morning, he’ll be in the pack going from Santa Clarita to the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. Then it’s onto Stage 8 to finish it up on Sunday. And then we’ll get an even better way to gauge whether he’s in any shape to challenge again for the Tour de France title this summer.

The other day I asked Phil Liggett, the TV voice of the sport and about as recognizable to cycling as Dick Button is to figure skating, how the Tour of California actually ranked on the world stage of cycling. He put it in the top five, just ahead of the Tour of Switzerland, with the Tour de France obviously No. 1. Then, in his Trevor Denman South African accent, he rattled off a couple of other races that I didn’t quite catch before he got to ranking this nine-day, 800-mile event that’s only a couple of years old now.

Pretty quick jump on the fast track of cycling’s radar, I’d say. With or without the Armstrong factor. There’s enough of the world’s top names included with current leader Levi Leipheimer, Italy’s Ivan Basso , George Hincapie and the return of Floyd Landis, stuck in 37th place as we pedal forward from this point.

But with Armstrong in the loop, already it’s a must-at-least-pretend-to-be-interested thing to follow, either on TV (where most of it is live) and in the rest of the existing media.

Liggett calls the Armstrong factor “debatable,” but he was at the Tour Down Under in Australia last month and witnessed the record turnout.

“It was unreal, they were beside themselves,” Liggett said of the Aussies, which, in that part of the world, we’re not sure how the gravity affects one being beside oneself, or if that’s even possible with the South Pole so close by.

Although Armstrong currently resides in fourth place, about 30 seconds off the lead, the only real news he’s made was by stupidly allowing his bike to be stolen early on. We can already see this shaping up into a sequel to “Pee-wee’s Big Adventure.”

Maybe Lance meant to do that.

Next stop, the Alamo.

Grease up your opinion of where this race fits on L.A.’s sporting landscape this weekend at the Daily News poll, and give your comments here or at thomas.hoffarth@dailynews.com.

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Our Daily Dread: Loyola High hoops — the Gathers and the Westheads — and the circle of life

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The Loyola of L.A. boys basketball team (school site linked here) takes its 20-5 record into the first round of the Division II-A playoffs as the No. 3 seed, playing a home game tonight at 7:30 p.m. against J.W. North of Riverside, sporting a less-than-impressive 7-20 mark and tied for seventh in the Big VIII.

Take a look at the photo above of coach Jamal Adams’ Cubs team.

Standing on the far left, No. 23 … Jordan Gathers. A 6-foot-3 junior guard, one of the top players on the squad.

Seated near midcourt, No. 31 … Nick Lucenti. A 6-foot-2 junior swingman coming off the bench.

A while back, the two may not have known much about their one degree of separation connection to one of the most memorable stories in college basketball history. They do now.

Gathers is the nephew of the late Loyola Marymount basketball star Hank Gathers, who 19 years ago next month died (story linked here) during a WCC tournament game at LMU. Jordan’s dad, Derrick, a Cal State Northridge grad, is Hank’s brother, but really doesn’t see his son play much in person, living on the East Coast. Jordan’s mother, Leaha, has a strong bond with him. Both live here in Los Angeles.

Jordan was born after Uncle Hank’s passing and never knew him.

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Lucenti is the grandson of former Loyola Marymount basketball coach Paul Westhead, who was Gathers’ coach on the tragic night.

This is a photo of Westhead, left, at an NCAA press conference in 1989 with Gathers, third from left, flanked by teammates Corey Gaines and Jeff Fryer.

Westhead’s daughter, Monica, is Nick’s mother, and the family lives in Manhattan Beach. Westhead, who coached the Lakers to their 1980 NBA title, guided the Phoenix Mercury to a WNBA championship two seasons ago and recently an assistant to P.J. Carlesimo with the NBA’s Oklahoma City Thunder until ownership wiped out the coaching staff a few months ago, lives back on the Palos Verdes Peninsula with his wife, Cassie.

Nick was born after the whole legal mess that evolved from Gathers’ death — the family filed a $32.5 million lawsuit on behalf of Gathers’ then 8-year-old son against the university, coach Westhead and the team trainers.

The Gathers’ suit included an allegation that Westhead induced Hank’s doctors to reduce Hank’s dosage of Inderal — a medicine used to treat his irregular heartbeat. Westhead then sued the Gathers’ family lawyers for $1 million in defamation after Bruce Fagel of Beverly Hills blamed Gathers’ death on Westhead.

“I still feel deeply the loss of Hank Gathers, and that’s something that’s not easy to have diminished,” Westhead said in 1991 after filing his suit. “But the recent court actions and comments specifically by Bruce Fagel have really attacked my personal integrity and I just made a decision that I cannot allow that to go unnoticed.”

Westhead was eventually dropped from the family lawsuit two years later. The scars lasted much longer.

We remember this whole legal process to be almost as tragic as Hank’s death, that lawyers stepped in and tore apart the relationships that bonded the Westhead family with the Gathers family and led to even more allegations that were really the result of such an emotionally-charged incident.

In 1991, Shelley Smith of Sports Illustrated wrote this piece on the legal aftermath (linked here). In 2000, Daily News columnist Steve Dilbeck did this story (linked here) on the 10th anniversary of Gathers’ passing, which previewed a retirement ceremony at LMU where Hank’s No. 44 jersey — as well as Bo Kimble’s No. 30 — were put up for all to see.

Earlier this season, the Loyola high team traveled back to Georgetown, in Washington D.C., to play in a tournament. Jordan Gathers’ grandmother, Lucille — Hank’s mom — came over to see him play. So did Jordan’s dad, Derrick.

Nick Lucenti’s father, Rob, made the trip with the Cubs’ team. Lucille recognized him from those days in court long ago. She saw Nick. She saw Jordan. She saw them playing together. She cried. She talked to the two boys after the game and let them know a little bit more about what happened.

“I saw Lucille in the stands with Derrick at halftime we embraced,” said Rob. “The first question Lucille asked: ‘How is Paul.’ All three of us — Lucille, Derrick and myself — were overjoyed to see each other. Lucille could not get over how much Nick looked like Paul. After the game Derrick, myself, Nick and Jordan took a picture together, one I will not forget. Lucille hugged the boys. Again, I am sure there were a lot of memories running through our heads, the boys were focused on their task at hand. But again, in the back of their minds, they know the connection.”

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That’s trainer Chip Schaefer , who now works for the Lakers, trying to revive the 23-year-old Gathers on the LMU floor that night. Paul Westhead stood just a few feet away, watching the life slip out of one of his favorite people. Many remember the aftermath of that — LMU had a surreal run in the NCAA tournament, getting all the way to the Elite Eight before losing to eventual champion UNLV. More try to forget the other residue of that incredible event.

Westhead now attends his grandson’s games and sees how Jordan and Nick are pretty good friends, for being almost two different kinds of people from two very different backgrounds. Jordan has the pressure to perform with a famous name, having been on the varsity team since his freshman year. Nick is the kid who loves to surf, a “lunch pail guy,” according to his dad, noting the difference between Jordan’s star potential and his son’s role-playing ability.

“The great thing about kids,” Rob Lucenti says, “is Jordan and Nick’s first connection is they are teammates and the special connection they have is unspoken but they both know it’s there.

“I speak to Jordan and Nick a lot about Hank. Mostly about Hank’s tenacity as a person. Hank never even thought of giving up on anything. It’s funny when I told them the story of Hank going for 46 or 48 — I can’t remember — against Shaquille O’Neal and LSU. They were in awe. I told Jordan and Nick the fact that Hank went up against two 7-footers that day, Shaq and Stanley Roberts. It didn’t matter it was another day at the office for Hank.”

For the record: On Feb. 3, 1990, a month before he died, the 6-foot-7 Gathers scored 48 points and had 13 rebounds in LMU’s 148-141 overtime loss at LSU. O’Neal, a freshman, had a triple-double: 20 points, 24 rebounds, 12 blocks. Roberts had 21 points and 12 rebounds. Kimble had 32 points and 12 boards. LSU’s Chris Jackson had 34 points and 9 assists. Most amazing that day — Gathers hit 8 of 11 free throws. (see the box score linked here). The game is still talked about, for several reasons (story from USA Today in 2008 linked here).

Next season — when it’ll mark the 20th year of Hank’s passing, and Jordan and Nick are in their senior year — this story may become even more poignant. But for now, embrace the fact these two kids have completed a circle of life, where basketball has brought their families back together again. To a place where they should have been all these last two decades.

Comment here or email to thomas.hoffarth@dailynews.com.

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Neil Everett and Stan Verrett: They not only sorta bust a rhyme, and they win the ESPN Get Outta Bristol Lottery … you’re going to L.A.!

When ESPN announced a while back that it was moving its 10 p.m. PT/1 a.m. ET edition of SportsCenter to the new facilities in L.A. Live across from Staples Center, the question would be: Who’d be the lucky dudes who’d be hired to staff it.

Meaning, no more late nights in Bristol, Conn., and a nice slot in the Pacific Time Zone to work, and then go out and get hammered at the ESPN Zone they’ve just built.

Neil Everett and Stan Verrett, your Disney cruise ship has come in.

ESPN said today those two anchors will relocate starting in April.

With all ESPN good news, of course, comes a caviat.

“In addition,” the press release continues, “Stuart Scott, who has been one of ESPN’s most prominent studio anchors for 15 years with roles on SportsCenter, and the network’s NBA and NFL coverage, will also be hosting a select number of shows throughout the year from Los Angeles, including the premiere on Monday, April 6.”

They couldn’t leave well enough alone. Had to send Mr. Boo-Yah out to cristen the launch.

Steve Anderson, ESPN executive vice president, news, talent & content operations, said in the release: “One of ESPN’s strengths is the breadth and depth of our lineup of commentators, and we’re fortunate that Stan and Neil, longtime SportsCenter veterans, were interested in making the move to Los Angeles.”

Be honest. Who wasn’t interested in the move?

“Both are terrific writers with an energetic and entertaining approach. We’re very pleased to have them as our late SportsCenter team and to lead this new, important effort.”

ESPN’s new facility will have three production control rooms, two master control rooms; eight craft edit suites, a music room, a voiceover room and two studios totaling more than 12,300 square feet. Why not just hold the Grammy Awards there next year?

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