Originally created 12/14/01

Harrick returns to scene of happiest coaching days



LOS ANGELES -- If Jim Harrick felt the blues, he'd look out from his perch on the Malibu hillside and see the waves rolling in. The sight cured him every time.

That was Harrick's view from 1979-88 as the coach at Pepperdine. He described those years in his 1995 book as a "vanilla life. ... smooth and perfect."

Since then, he has won a national championship at UCLA, been fired for lying about an expense report and revived his career at Rhode Island and now Georgia.

The Bulldogs (6-1) visit Pepperdine (4-3) on Monday night in Harrick's second coaching trip to Malibu since he was fired in Westwood five years ago. He brought a Lamar Odom-led Rhode Island team to California three years ago, and lost to the Waves.

"It's one of the real good places in America because the people are so good," Harrick said in a telephone interview. "There's no other place like Pepperdine, where people actually like you and the job you do and they treat you properly."

Harrick's got it good in Athens, Ga., too. He recently signed a five-year contract, having guided the Bulldogs to the NCAA tournament last season.

So far this year, they have wins over Minnesota, Colorado and Georgia Tech.

"I work for an unbelievable athletic director and one who understands the game and sports and treats people properly," Harrick said in what might be regarded as a dig at UCLA athletic director Pete Dalis, who fired him.

"UCLA is a great place, just some of the people in it aren't so great," Harrick said.

Harrick had a 192-62 record in eight years at UCLA, second only to John Wooden's 620-147 mark over 27 years. Harrick is the only coach other than Wooden with a national championship banner hanging at Pauley Pavilion.

"I think the emotion and the pressure of him being at UCLA wore on him because there were such expectations," said Jim Harrick Jr., who didn't work for his father at UCLA but is his No. 1 assistant at Georgia.

"UCLA is always going to be magical in his eyes. But he's having much more fun than he ever had. The people in Georgia just absolutely have taken to him."

Harrick enjoyed a similar rapport at Pepperdine, where he was 197-97 and took the Waves to four NCAA tournaments.

"Nobody bothered me, the administration treated me with great fairness, and the fans appreciated what we accomplished on the court," he wrote in his book "Embracing the Legend: Jim Harrick Revives the UCLA Mystique."

Beside Monday's game, Harrick plans a reunion with some of his former players from Pepperdine and UCLA as well as Morningside High in Inglewood, where he began his coaching career in 1964.

Among those he expects to see are current UCLA assistant Gerald Madkins and Bob Myers, who played on the 1995 national championship team.

"There's going to be a lot of people I know when I walk in," Harrick said.

"We're going to get 150 tickets, and we need 450 tickets," the younger Harrick said.