Bibby proud of his role in USC's tourney run

Posted: March 22, 2007

One of the unlikely success stories in this year's NCAA tournament has received a major boost this season from 76ers assistant coach Henry Bibby.

USC (25-11), the No. 5 seed in the East Regional, will face top-seeded North Carolina (30-6) in tomorrow's Sweet 16 matchup at the Continental Airlines Arena in East Rutherford, N.J.

While the Sixers will be hosting the Charlotte Bobcats tomorrow, Bibby could be forgiven if his mind drifts momentarily to the Meadowlands.

USC advanced by scoring an opening round 77-60 win over Arkansas and then ruined many NCAA pools by upsetting No. 4 seed Texas and its player-of-the-year candidate, freshman Kevin Durant, 87-68.

While coach Tim Floyd has justifiably received credit for reviving the basketball fortunes at USC, Bibby takes pride in his role during the Trojans' current NCAA run.

In December 2004, Bibby was fired just four games in to his ninth season as head coach of USC. He had a 131-111 record and had guided the Trojans to NCAA tournament appearances in 1997, 2001 and 2002.

Three of the players on the current team, 6-6 junior Nick Young, 6-4 junior Gabe Pruitt, and 6-4 senior Lodrick Stewart, were recruited to USC by Bibby.

"I am elated that these three guys that I brought in are doing so well," Bibby said yesterday after the Sixers went through some light shooting and film study at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine. "I'm happy for USC. It's been a football school for so long, and I think I did a lot to bring basketball to SC."

Those three recruits that Bibby brought to USC are the Trojans' top three scorers.

Young is averaging a team-high 17.6 points. Stewart is averaging 13.8 points, while Pruitt averages 12.4.

"People weren't recruiting those kids, and they kind of fell through the cracks," Bibby said. "Lodrick Stewart can give you three-point shooting every night, and Gabe Pruitt can give you defense and outside shooting, and Nick Young can do all of it."

Bibby says he harbors no resentment toward Mike Garrett, the former Heisman Trophy winner and current USC athletic director who hired and fired him.

"Mike Garrett brought me from minor-league coaching into college and I can't say anything bad about somebody who gave me an opportunity that nobody else would," said Bibby, who was a coach in the CBA and overseas before landing the USC job. "When we departed Mike said he wanted to go in another direction, and that is his prerogative."

Bibby said that if USC were to upset North Carolina, he would be in attendance for Sunday's regional final at the Meadowlands. The Sixers will be in Miami on Saturday evening, but then don't resume action until Wednesday in Washington.

After Bibby was fired, he was replaced on an interim basis by assistant Jim Saia for the rest of the 2004-05 season. Floyd, who had NBA head coaching stints with Chicago and New Orleans, took over before last season.

"Tim Floyd has done a great job developing those kids and making them better than they were when I got them," Bibby said.

Bibby was a starting point guard for three NCAA championship teams at UCLA, but he said that if his alma mater met USC in the championship game, there is no question whom he is pulling for.

"USC, because that is the school that gave me my [college coaching] job," Bibby said. "I have probably pulled for UCLA more this year than I have, but SC is the team I am rooting for just because of the kids I had in the program."


Contact staff writer Marc Narducci at 856-779-3225 or mnarducci@phillynews.com.

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