Originally created 04/02/04

Sons follow in dads' footsteps



SAN ANTONIO - John Lucas Jr. threw both arms around his son and pulled him close, turning back the clock.

"You think of the little boy you saw down on the floor praying, or putting up posters of Allen Iverson and Kobe Bryant in his room, or waking up at 6 a.m. to take 1,500 shots," Lucas said Thursday.

What about the jumper John Lucas III hit with 6.9 seconds left to beat Saint Joseph's? What was dad feeling when son squared up to take the biggest shot of the NCAA Tournament?

"Oh, it happened too quickly," the former NBA star said, laughing. "I didn't have time to think."

Their giant bear hug behind the bench at the Meadowlands after Oklahoma State's 64-62 win Saturday became the most touching moment in a tourney full of famous father-and-son combos.

For Cowboys coach Eddie Sutton, keeping an eye on his son during this Final Four is even easier. Sean Sutton is one of his assistants.

"Sean has been with me ever since he was a 4-year-old and heard those halftime, pregame, postgame talks at Arkansas," the elder Sutton said. "He sat on the end of the bench."

Too bad for Darryl Strawberry and Ernie Grunfeld, their sons came up short of the Alamodome.

D.J. Strawberry, the son of the former All-Star slugger, missed a pair of short shots in the final seconds for Maryland in a 72-70 loss to Syracuse in the second round.

Dan Grunfeld, son of the former NBA player and general manager, missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer, and top-seeded Stanford was upset by Alabama 70-67 in the second round.

A few others did it like dad in this year's 65-team field.

Austin Ainge, a BYU redshirt freshman, and Kansas reserve Omar Wilkes both have fathers who played well in the NBA - Danny and Jamaal. North Carolina center Sean May comes from prominent pedigree: His father led the undefeated 1976 Indiana team to the championship.

Not that every father-son story in recent tournaments has been so sentimental.

While Sacramento Kings guard Mike Bibby was leading Arizona to the 1997 title, he rejected any references to Henry Bibby.

Henry Bibby helped UCLA win three straight titles, won an NBA championship with the New York Knicks and became the coach at Southern California. But a bitter divorce left him estranged from his son.

"My father is not part of my life," Mike Bibby said at the time. "I'd rather they put nothing behind my name."

Lucas also had his struggles.

He went through a very public battle with cocaine and substance abuse. Little John III often grabbed onto him at home and held on.

"I knew he wouldn't go out and do anything bad when I was with him," the Oklahoma State point guard said.

Dave Hudek, Lucas' coach at Bellaire High School in Houston, recalled watching the young man blossom into a top player.

"His father was a famous man. John fought that through his whole high school career," Hudek said.

"He lived under his dad's shadow. Not from his dad. He was one of the most remarkable parents I ever dealt with."

These days, Lucas is content to sit back and watch his son play.

"I've taught him everything I could, all the traits," Lucas said. "I'm not worrying that I should've shown him this or shown him that. He waited his whole life for that shot. I'm just glad he made it."