Talent Consultant Pete Newell of the Golden State Warriors, everybody's favorite basketball coach, is among the majority of experts who think Virginia's Ralph Sampson has the ability to turn a losing NBA franchise around.
''Although I've heard some of the same negative things about Sampson that were once said about Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (not aggressive enough; doesn't have an NBA body), Ralph won't have any trouble making the switch from college to pro ball,'' Newell said. ''Sampson is smart; good defensively, plus an excellent shot blocker. If Ralph comes into the NBA with a team that plays its center under the basket, then he'll also be a great scorer. But if he were to somehow wind up with the Utah Jazz, for example, which posts their center up high so they can feed Adrian Dantley down low, then you're looking at more like 15-17 points per game. So far, because of Virginia's offensive style, Ralph hasn't had the chance to develop the one-on-one game that Kareem had when he was in college.''
Asked why Abdul-Jabbar isn't nearly the rebounder he was as recently as 1979 (his last season over 1,000), Newell replied: ''As players get older, they have a tendency to pace themselves in the NBA. Mainly that is what has happened to Kareem. The talent is still there, only now he picks his spots.''
Newell, who coached at the University of California for many years and piloted the US basketball team to a gold medal in the 1960 Olympics, points out that we'll not only have to be concerned with the Soviet Union in '84, but also Yugoslavia, which has finished ahead of the USSR in the last two Games. ''And if we get any Iron Curtain referees in the finals,'' Pete added, ''we're really going to have to watch ourselves on defense.''
OFF THE CUFF. . .The Philadelphia Flyers, once known as the National Hockey League's Broad Street Bullies, are being more selective in taking penalties this season after giving up a record 102 power-play goals last year. Coach Bob McCammon, who has now retooled the Flyers to the point where the emphasis is more on hockey than rough stuff, has ordered his players to blend intelligence with their aggressiveness.
The Pittsburgh Steelers are the only team that has never lost a regular season overtime game since the National Football League adopted the rule in 1974 . Pittsburgh is 4-0-1; with wins over Cleveland (twice); New England (twice); plus a 35-35 tie with the Denver Broncos. Actually there have been 70 overtime games since 1974, and in 50 of them both teams had possession of the ball at least once before a winner was decided. There have also been six regulation-time ties in post-season games, all of which (under NFL rules) had to be played out until somebody won.
General Manager Al Campanis of the Los Angeles Dodgers, who is often more polite than newsworthy during interviews, gave LA beat writers some information recently they probably did not expect to hear about the ex-world champs. ''I agree with Tommy Lasorda that the Dodgers should have won another pennant this year,'' Campanis said. ''This was not a typical Dodger year. We had too many defensive lapses; too many times when we missed the cutoff man, threw to the wrong base, or stood around while balls that should have been caught were allowed to drop in both our infield and outfield. I'm the guy you blame for that , because I'm the general manager. Then you blame Tommy and after that his coaches. Because veterans tend to drift away from fundamentals after a while, especially if they get the idea that a .300 average is the answer to everything, I think players need a refresher course in fundamentals every three years. That's one reason we'll be going to spring training earlier than usual this season. The other reason will be to give our pitchers a bigger jump than ever over the hitters, which is what Atlanta did last year when they opened the season with 13 straight wins.''
AS I SEE IT . . . The New Jersey Nets, having found center Darryl Dawkins as much a Rubik's Cube as the Philadelphia 76ers did, reportedly offered Dawkins to the Houston Rockets for Caldwell Jones and got turned down. Dawkins, who drives a Stutz Bearcat that once belonged to Muhammad Ali, continues to start because no NBA owner pays a player the money Darryl is getting to sit on the bench.
Dealing strictly with the positive sense of the word, the Oakland A's may have gotten themselves a ''sleeper'' as a manager in Steve Boros, who spent his last two years in baseball coaching for the Montreal Expos. While ''Boros Ball'' probably won't have the same flair as ''Billy Ball,'' Steve could accomplish more in the long run with his teaching than Billy Martin ever generated with his yelling . . .I find it difficult to understand legislation that outlaws cockfights and dogfights in the United States, but permits two boxers to beat up on each other in front of millions of television viewers. You don't suppose it could be all that money?