AMERICAN TROOPS SERVING in

Kuwait, a country that shares a border with Iraq, will get a much-needed taste of home next week.

Notre Dame basketball coach Mike Brey will coach the troops in Operation Hardwood IV,

a tournament aimed at giving the troops a

diversion from their daily duties.

Brey, who shipped some Fighting Irish

uniforms to Kuwait, will be joined by Wake Forest coach Skip Prosser, Georgia coach Dennis Felton, Army coach Jim Crews, Citadel coach

Ed Conroy, Vermont coach Mike Lonergan and ESPN

analyst Fran Fraschilla.

Instead of the cushy hotels they normally inhabit on road trips, the coaches will live in the barracks and eat chow with the troops.

Brey said the trip has special meaning to him, because he has friends and family who have served in the Middle East.

"I'm thrilled and honored, excited, anxious,

a little bit of everything," he said.

The trip is sponsored by United Service Organizations and Armed Forces Entertainment.

"People tell me when they play that national anthem for the opening ceremony in that setting, in that gym, if you're not emotional in that, you're not human. It's just a powerful thing," Brey said.

Well, Dallas, you still have T.O.

Dallas Mavericks fans, no doubt, must be just tickled over all the awards Dirk Nowitzki is racking up.

Dallas Mavericks fans, no doubt, must be just tickled over all the awards Dirk Nowitzki is racking up.

He reportedly won the MVP award and

yesterday was selected NBA player of the year by The Sporting News.

He deserves the awards, which are based on regular-season performance. It's just that his

top-seeded, 67-win Mavericks were routed

in the first round by the eighth-seeded Golden State Warriors in six games. *

- Chuck Bausman