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Ode to the UC Irvine Anteaters

January 26, 2009 |  6:15 pm

Oklahoma City Thunder head coach (and ex-Anteater) Scott Brooks with Kevin Durant, left, and Earl Watson during a game last month. In another lifetime, I used to go to UC Irvine basketball games, mostly because a family member covered the team for a brief spell in the '80s.

Now that hardly qualified me as an expert. Not like good friends John Weyler and Chris Foster, who both spent time covering the Anteaters.

But it was enough to capture the vibe of the quaint Crawford Hall, the zany captain of the ship, Coach Bill Mulligan and his intriguing team, anchored by Scott Brooks and the big man Wayne Engelstad.

Funny how things develop. Engelstad is now a sheriff in Northern California, and, well, Brooks is sort of a sheriff too, acting as interim coach for the struggling nine-win Oklahoma City Thunder.

A few of us chatted with him in the hallway at Staples Center before Friday night's Clippers game and he spoke about the faith he had in his own abilities even as a wee freshman at East Union High School in Manteca, Calif. He joked that his mom "raised a crazy guy."

One of the few early believers was the Register's Art Thompson III, who covered Brooks in high school when he was a sportswriter for the Modesto Bee. It was pretty cool to see the old friends, Thompson and Brooks, talking about the long-and-winding career path.

"For some crazy reason I felt I was going to be in the NBA," said Brooks, who had a nine-year playing career in the league.

-- Lisa Dillman

Photo: Oklahoma City Thunder head Coach (and ex-Anteater) Scott Brooks with Kevin Durant, left, and Earl Watson during a game last month. Credit: Layne Murdoch / NBAE via Getty Images

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