FEINSWOG: Mike V - Always a cub

One night during the 1989-90 LSU basketball season that produced the most derision ever from the populace - yeah the team that Wimp Sanderson said simply, "LSU's so good even Dale can't screw them up," the team with Shaquille O'Neal, Stanley Roberts, Chris Jackson and Vernel Singleton that lost in the second round of the NCAA Tournament - we met an infant before one of the home games.

It was a four-month-old tiger cub, about the size of your basic mid-size house dog, full of energy and a coat that was so fluffy.

 

And it was so beautiful and cute and we actually got to pet it. Think about that: We petted a tiger.

 

The cub was young Mike V, who was making his LSU debut and was introduced to the crowd as the next mascot who would replace the retiring Mike IV later that year.

 

I honestly can't remember the game, but the LSU records show that the Tigers beat Alabama (Wimp was right that night) on February 21, 1990.

 

LSU went on to a pretty good season, beating Villanova in the first round of the NCAA Tournament before losing to Georgia Tech, which would make it all the way to the Final Four. But 23-9, 12-6 in the SEC, was considered an underachievement by many, despite the challenges presented by Roberts, who lasted only that season at LSU, and Jackson, whose baggage was well documented.

 

All that came to mind the other day with the news that Mike V had died.

 

It's a special thing, having a Bengal tiger on your campus. I have always made it a point, whenever I'm on campus and not rushing, to stop for a second and see how the Tiger's doing and say hello. Once in a rare while he'd grunt back.

 

Actually, as nice as the new habitat is, it was easier to get closer to Mike in his old home, where he could hear you and you could actually smell him and see his chest move while he slept, which he often did. And, by the way, Tigers don't smell that good.

 

On that happy note, a few more LSU notes as we muddle our way through the most beautiful spring imaginable in Baton Rouge.

 

If LSU's talent is as bad as educated observers maintain, then I maintain that LSU baseball coach Paul Mainieri should be national coach of the year.

 

At this writing, LSU's posteason fate was hanging on the final day of the regular season, a bid to the SEC Tournament at stake with a subsequent chance to get into NCAA play. Regardless, Mainieri was obviously a fantastic hire by Skip Bertman and things look good for the future.

 

Speaking of hires, Bertman also came up big by getting Van Chancellor to run the women's basketball program for a few years.

 

He brings big-time credentials and a maturity and stability that the Lady Tigers need at this time.

 

Stop gap? Perhaps, but a darn good one and one that could last longer than people think.

Speaking of Lady Tigers, the softball team is poised on this day to win one game and advance to a Super Regional. Maybe then they'll get their anticipated home tournament and, all things considered, wouldn't you rather have that for the Super Regional than the first round?

 

And speaking of more Lady Tigers, since our last issue, the women's track team is ranked No. 1 in the nation after winning the SEC title, while the men are ranked No. 2.

 

The women's basketball team will be fine after all it went through. The track programs obviously are super despite losing their longtime coach a few years ago.

 

And one of these days LSU will introduce a new Tiger and things in the Mike Habitat will be good, too. But it's not likely we'll get to pet him.

 

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Baton Rouge sportswriter Lee Feinswog is the host of the weekly television show Sports Monday. He's covered LSU athletics since 1984. His book HoopDaddy is available at www.HoopDaddy.net. Contact Lee at sportsmonday@aol.com or (225) 926-3256.


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