FEINSWOG: BIG WEEKEND

The LSU basketball past meshed in a magical way last weekend with the Tigers of the present.

On Friday, members of the 1986 team that went to the Final Four got together for the first time in 20 years.

John Williams, as good a player for that one season as college basketball has ever seen, stood before his teammates and made a heartfelt apology for leaving after his sophomore year for the NBA. There wasn't a person in the room who didn't think about what could have been, especially considering the 1987 Tigers were a game shy of a repeat Final Four performance.

One by one they got up and talked about their fondness for each other and their love and appreciation for Dale Brown, who sat and watched with a warm smile throughout the evening.

The laughs were hearty as they teased each other as only teammates can.

Bo Bahnsen, then an assistant coach and now an LSU athletic director who organized the entire reunion gathering, left nothing to chance. He even finally awarded Edwin Wilson, a 1986 reserve who is now a Baton Rouge attorney, his varsity letter jacket.

And everyone remembered fondly the late Don Redden, represented by his parents and sister Roxanna, a former LSU basketball player herself.

Roxanna, a tremendous pure shooter in her day married to a doctor and living in Mississippi, has four kids. Her second, a son, is a 5-year-old named Don Redden Cofrancesco. Just the thought of that brought tears; they flowed when Bahnsen pointed to Don's No. 44 jersey that was on display all night and told Roxanna he was giving that jersey to her son.

Before all that, current LSU basketball coach John Brady spoke to the group and said he would drop to one knee that night before going to bed and then repeat the exercise the next morning to pray that his current-day Tigers would play well the next day against Kentucky and hopefully make all these legends proud of the effort they would put forth.

On Saturday in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center, the ovations were long and loud for the 1986 Tigers, from Zoran Jovanovich, making his first trip back to America since 1989, to Anthony Wilson, who works in Marksville but beamed as his game-winning shot that beat Memphis State aired on the scoreboard screen. He was ecstatic when he was given the actual ball he shot that day, and then recreated it, sort of, and the crowd went nuts as it went through the net.

But the biggest roars were reserved for the 2006 LSU basketball team as it took a one-game overall lead in the Southeastern Conference.

Before LSU-Kentucky, Arkansas continued its late-season surge by knocking off Tennessee, which was tied with LSU.

With two games left – at South Carolina and home against Ole Miss –- LSU can win the overall league title.

Not that it means anything more than an attaboy, but in terms of NCAA Tournament seeding, the Tigers are roaring toward a No. 4 and every victory helps.

In the preseason polls, with very few exceptions, Kentucky was picked to win the SEC East, while LSU was picked to finish second in the SEC West.

Saturday's gutty 71-67 LSU victory ensured that LSU won't need a tiebreaker to win the West, but Kentucky might need some help to even finish second in the SEC East.

Kentucky, the benchmark of SEC basketball, is an enigma of a team right now and UK fans might have a similar feeling to the one they did 20 years ago, when LSU beat the Wildcats to advance to the 1986 Final Four. Kentucky beat LSU three times before that, but when it really mattered, it couldn't stop the wave of the 11th-seeded Tigers and the irrepressible Dale Brown.

We'll never know if Brady really did pray last Friday night and Saturday morning, but it couldn't have hurt.

And it was a wonderful thing that his current-day Tigers gave the old guys something wonderful to watch on their special day.

---

Lee Feinswog is a Baton Rouge sportswriter and host of the television show Sports Monday. Reach him at (225) 926-3256 or lee@sportsbatonrouge.com.

His newest book, "HoopDaddy" is available at www.HoopDaddy.net.

Tiger Blitz Top Stories