The jarring sight of Henry Bibby on Channel 2’s NCAA Tournament post-game show today reminded me this was a big weekend 18 years ago for USC basketball.
It was a Round of 32 game in 2001 when USC upset Boston College, 74-71, in Uniondale, N.Y. The hero was reserve point guard Robert Hutchinson, who made five free throws in the final 1:17 to seal the victory. David Bluthenthal had 20 points and Jeff Trepagnier 18 points. Sam Clancy had 14 points and 12 rebounds.
That game at the Nassau Coliseum was on a Saturday. I stayed at the hotel next to the arena and immediately ran into former USC coach Paul Hackett, hired as an assistant by the New York Jets, who practiced nearby. I think we said hello to each other and nothing else. He wasn’t known for being people friendly.
In the first round, USC beat Oklahoma State, 69-54 as Clancy had 22 points and 13 rebounds.
The day after No. 6-seeded USC upset No. 3-seeded Boston College came the heartwarming reward when Bibby told the team he would show them New York City. He took them to dinner at Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC).
The Trojans then took a bus Monday from New York to Philadelphia for the Sweet 16. As soon as they arrived in Philadelphia, Bibby pulled the team out of its hotel because he didn’t like it.
This was an odd Sweet 16 because USC and UCLA joined Kentucky and Duke. USC and UCLA were both in Philadelphia, 2700 miles from home.
I still remember bumping into UCLA coach Steve Lavin on a sidewalk downtown. Former USC football player John Page was the facility manager for the First Union Center arena, which is now known as Wells Fargo Center.
USC upset Kentucky in the Sweet 16 before losing to Duke in the Elite Eight.