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Savoir-Faire on Satch

By Michael K. Savit

For the past four winters, Tom Sanders served as Harvard's basketball coach. In that capacity, he led the Crimson to 40 victories against 60 defeats, a feat so meaningless that last June, Sanders was appointed assistant coach of the Boston Celtics.

Two days ago, the Celtics fired head coach Tom Heinsohn and replaced him with Sanders--who, in his new role, should be wished the best of luck.

Based on his performance in Cambridge, Sanders easily qualifies as the ideal replacement for Heinsohn. The legacy that Satch left on the fourth floor of the IAB won't soon be forgotten. Anyone who witnessed Harvard play during Satch's era can't help but applaud the Celtics for naming as their new coach a man whose intensity and involvement in the game is so great that he usually falls asleep on the bench by halftime.

Who can forget that during Sanders's Harvard tenure, his teams specialized in full-court communication lapses, low-key foul shots, lackadaisical dribbling and an otherwise uninspired brand of basketball?

Of course, now that he'll be coaching in the pros, Satch will have to refrain from those heated tirades he used to fire off at poor Ivy League officials. Once, after a particularly vehement display of anger, Sanders had to be reprimanded in front of a packed IAB crowd of 23 (parents and girlfriends and players excluded).

"Tom"--the ref is reported to have said-"if you keep this up, we're going to have to hit you with a technical foul. It's simply rude to snore when the other team is attempting to shoot foul shots."

Another time, Satch is believed to have begun fantasizing on the bench. In his dream, Harvard was on the verge of winning an important game. Then the ref blew the whistle in his ear, and Sanders arose--only to find that, alas, it was only a dream.

Satch could afford to let his mind drift off every so often while at Harvard. None of the players paid full attention to the game, so why should he?

Besides, Satch and his ballclub had a perfect understanding with each other. Each understood that neither could communicate with the other. So it makes sense that one of Satch's initial tasks with the Celtics will be to restore communication between the coach and the players, a task for which he's as perfectly suited as a sportcoat from Robert Hall.

Sander's real forte, though, is an ability to motivate his players. During his stay in Cambridge, he motivated at least half a dozen or so to take time off or to play intramurals rather than perform for him on the varsity.

Of such credentials are professional coaches made, so don't be surprised if the following events occur in the near future:

* The Celtics trail the 76ers by a point late in the game. Boston calls time-out, and the players huddle around Sanders to discuss strategy. "Well, gentlemen," says Satch, "does anyone have any ideas?"

"Hey, Coach," replies John Havlicek, "could you speak up a little?"

* Sanders calls off practice for the next month so the players can study for exams.

* Half a dozen Celtics decide to follow Dave Cowens's 1976 lead and take the second semester off.

* JoJo White transfers to Boston College.

* Sanders calls a team meeting on a Thursday night. "Well, gentlemen," he says, "we have a tough weekend ahead of us. Penn and Princeton are always tough."

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