This wasn't a good year for most South Florida head coaches. Pat Riley's championship vision fell out from under him. Dave Wannstedt's game planning was plagued by second-guessing. And four out of five South Floridians can't even name the Marlins' or Panthers' coaches. The only consistent winner has been the University of Miami Hurricanes football team. Insiders know that the most important factor in the Canes' 35-2 record over the past three seasons has been their offensive line, the most dominant in college football. The big guys don't get a lot of glory, but they get plenty of respect. So does Art Kehoe, offensive-line coach and an ex-UM lineman himself. The year the Canes won it all, their golden-boy quarterback, Ken Dorsey, was sacked just three times the entire season, a national record. Over the past three seasons, the offensive line also cleared the way for three straight 1000-yard rushers. When Kehoe speaks, the squad listens or else; the discipline he demands is legendary, which helps explain why he's produced nearly a dozen NFL linemen. But he is also one of the most lovable guys in the locker room, a true player's coach.

Readers Choice: Pat Riley

Cuban immigrant Gerardo Gonzalez was one of the most popular boxers of the Fifties. As "Kid Gavilan" he won a world title against Johnny Bratton in 1951 at Madison Square Garden. He was inducted into the Boxing Hall of Fame in 1990. Gavilan was notorious for overwhelming his opponents with flurries of punches coming from all angles, and coined a notorious strike called the "bolo punch," a potentially lethal uppercut. He retired at age 32 with a record of 107 wins and 30 losses (28 KOs). In 1958 Gavilan returned to revolutionary Cuba only to have his property confiscated. Like so many others he escaped to that intermediary land of Miami, where he remained a vital source of information and energy in the boxing world. Gonzalez died of a heart attack February 13, 2002, in Miami. He was 77 years old. Papers in England, Scotland, and Australia wrote obituaries commemorating his career.

It's about time Kwiat received recognition as a one-man repertory company. A chameleon of an actor who appears regularly in many local theaters, Kwiat is a director's dream. He can take the tiniest role and turn it into a perfectly realized character. Some of his recent work was memorable -- the brooding Irish drinker in The Weir and the embittered Yiddish actor in Smithereens, both at New Theatre; as well as his hilarious cameos in Comic Potential at Actors' Playhouse. But it was GableStage's Dirty Blonde that really turned into a Kwiat riot as he rolled out one carefully etched characterization after another.

Even with an injured hand, Lamar Murphy, native son of Overtown, continues to win professional lightweight bouts. At a recent Miami Fight Night, the 30-year-old brawler dominated Colombian rival Isidro Tejedor, landing vicious left jabs and uppercuts. Despite an injured right, his fleet feet and stubborn resolve scored the points he needed. With a 29-6 record, the 135-pound Murphy is ranked top contender in his weight division by the U.S. Boxing Association and number twelve by the International Boxing Federation. Twice he's fought for championship belts, narrowly losing one decision in 1996. Now he's clawing his way to the top again, angling for a chance at another title match. When that right hand fully heals, watch out.

As anyone who has schlepped from parking lot to parking lot on a "historical tour" of the city knows, history in Miami is written by the pavers. The Olympia Theater at the Gusman Center for the Performing Arts is a stunning exception. A show-stopper since opening as a silent movie palace in 1926, the theater was rescued from an asphalt fate by Maurice Gusman, who donated the palace to the City of Miami in 1975. Nearly 30 years later the simulated night sky atop the Moorish arches and turrets had lost much of its brilliance; the once twinkling stars had dimmed. Then a concerted effort by the county Department of Cultural Affairs and the Miami Parking Authority (which runs the theater) brightened up the place last year with a $2.1 million restoration. Additional work will be required to update the Gusman as a fully functioning, modern performing arts facility. But for now the theater's cloud-casting lantern is spinning again and a proud stuffed peacock is perched upon a Moorish balcony, a rare symbol of the Magic City's architectural memory.

Sometimes a performer finds the perfect role, or the perfect role finds her. Maybe it's karma or the planets' alignment. Maybe it's sheer luck or hard work -- or all of the above. Whatever the reason, Claire Tyler was the right actress in the right role as JC333 (Jaycee Triplethree), the android actress heroine of Alan Ayckbourn's dark fantasy Comic Potential at Actors' Playhouse. Tyler's performance clearly delineated JC's slow awakening to some hidden core of humanity. Her 'droid's awkward movements began to turn into some kind of nascent grace, and her squawk-box voice mellowed into something musical. The role also had a theatrical dash, as when Jaycee went haywire, spouting bits of long-past performances that had somehow been stored in her hard drive. Tyler has been very fortunate in her short theatrical career, working with top area directors and with excellent scripts. Besides her fine work with David Arisco in Comic Potential and the recent Sherlock's Last Case, she also scored in a trio of Joe Adler productions at GableStage: The Shape of Things, Popcorn, and The Play About the Baby. But it is the android with a heart of gold who remains the most memorable role of her young career.

Now, any Presidente supermarket is inherently interesting. Something about those crowded shelves and even more crowded aisles brings all the excitement and hot tempers of an urban Latin American street market indoors. But plop a Presidente down in the midst of a huge Haitian community and you have the beginnings of a whole new language. What does the skinny teenage new arrival from Havana say to the prodigious matron from Port-au-Prince blocking the rice aisle? How does the Haitian husband picking up a sensitive item for his wife communicate this to the Argentine stock boy? The linguistic invention is nothing short of poetic. But when it comes to the cash register, there is one thing all the customers seem to agree on. It's best to speak dollars and cents in English.

Forget Howard Stern, the Jerky Boys, or Comedy Central's Crank Yankers. For sheer creativity the year's best prank telephone call came courtesy of WXDJ-FM (95.7) and Enrique Santos and Joe Ferrero, co-hosts of El Zol's El Vacilón de la Mañana (roughly: The Morning Blast). Piqued at being snubbed by Mexican President Vicente Fox, Fidel Castro had released a private phone conversation between himself and Fox -- and that was all the ammunition Santos and Ferrero needed. This past January they managed to ring up Hugo Chavez on his personal line, and, after hitting the play button on their judiciously spliced tape of that Castro conversation, lampooned the Venezuelan prez's notoriously chummy relationship with el jefe en maximo in a glorious fashion. "Did you receive my letter?" asks the disembodied Castro. "Of course I received it," Chavez replies, growing ever more confused -- yet still eager to please -- as the Castro non sequiturs start flying: "I'll do what you're asking me to.... I'm going to be harmed, I confess to you.... Everything's set for Tuesday." Finally Ferrero and Santos broke in with a few choice epithets, letting Chavez know he'd been pranked. Would that all our city's political satire were this inspired. Anyone have the number for Jeb Bush's private cell phone?

This year the nod goes to the New Theatre, Coral Gables's Little Theater That Could. It may be tiny in size but its creative vision is large indeed. Recently recognized as one of the top 50 theaters in the nation by the venerable Drama Guild of New York, the New Theatre promotes inclusion as well as excellence. It is one of the few theaters in South Florida that actively casts minorities in main-stage productions, and its policy of subsidizing student ticket prices can't be beat. Where else can a student with an ID grab a ticket to truly professional theater for just five dollars? Founding artistic director Rafael de Acha can always be counted on to deliver nuanced, elegant productions. Another asset is de Acha's eclectic programming strategy, which serves up a provocative menu of contemporary off-Broadway hits, classics (two Shakespeares are on the plate this summer), and especially new plays from a trio of talented playwrights: Nilo Cruz, Mario Diament, and Michael McKeever, works the company often commissions. It's this patient development of and ongoing relationship with writing talent that really sets New Theatre apart from the pack.

Dan normally strolls Lincoln Road, but he can also be seen on Collins up around 21st Street. He claims this award because of his attitude and his sad story. He has no problem discussing his life. Mainly the subject is what happened to his left hand. All that's left is a nub resembling a potato. He says he lost it in a meat-grinder accident working at his father's old factory. But the hand tragedy isn't all there is to Dan. He's undoubtedly the most polite bum on South Beach. Though he is smallish, and weathered in that distinctly homeless way, his stature is a sight to see when he's panhandling. He stands ramrod straight, looking positively confident. When he asks for spare change, his tone is quiet, almost meek. And if the answer is No, it's "Thank you, have a nice day," and that's the end of it. He never asks twice.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®