(One of the last and hardest cuts from the manuscript ...)
Beaux Jones had a seat about three-quarters of the way up student-packed Section 128. His father had played for the Baltimore Colts of the National Football League, and he had come to Davidson from Louisiana to play football. He was loud and excitable, and in the stands at basketball games he wore a red and black Mexican wrestling mask.
Before the Kansas game, he had tailgated with his Phi Delt fraternity brothers outside Ford Field, doing shirtless pushups and drinking Bud Light from cans. They had walked two Detroit blocks to the building, 40 or so of them, arms locked, double file.
But now, inside Ford Field, in this moment, he got quiet.
He stepped out into the aisle, away from the others, away from the swell of the sound and still in his Mexican wrestling mask, and he felt an odd sort of calm. He looked down at the court. He looked at all the other fans in red.
Could they make a shot to win?
Did they even need to?
The thought confused him. It made him angry for thinking that way. As a football player he had been known as a serious competitor. In his freshman year, Davidson lost 56-0 to the University of San Diego; in his senior year, against the same team, Davidson lost by only three points. That’s how far he and his teammates had come, others told him, and how much they had improved. But he didn’t want to hear it. Moral victories were not victories. Moral victories were still losses, and athletes were supposed to win.
There was a book written not long ago about one of his father’s football friends. It was called Season of Life, and was about former Colt Joe Ehrmann, who used to volunteer as a high school football coach and had an atypical pre-game pep talk.
“What is our job as coaches?” he said to his boys.
“To love us,” they all said back to him.
“What is your job?” he asked.
“To love each other,” they all said.
Beaux Jones had scoffed. Ridiculous schmaltz, he thought. But now he stood in the aisle in his wrestling mask and came to a conclusion that surprised him. He had learned something from watching this basketball team that he had not learned in a lifetime as an athlete himself.
Good stuff from Gregg Doyel: Curry is the face of Davidson -- he’s the face of college basketball -- which means the spotlight finds him and, and for the most part, him alone. And still his teammates adore him. That was clear during Davidson’s remarkable run to the Elite Eight last season, when Davidson gave eventual champion Kansas its second-best game of the tournament. Curry’s teammates weren’t concerned about the points or attention being accumulated by Curry. They loved it.
1. It’s a coach’s Hippocratic Oath of sorts to prepare his players, and to give those players a chance, the very best possible chance, to compete and to win. That is not what happened here. Jimmy Patsos did not do that. Maybe he thought at some point, the day before the game, the morning of the game, at the start of the game, that this was in fact his team’s best chance to win -- that’s totally possible -- but he HAD to realize by at least halftime that it wasn’t working. Davidson finished the half on a 35-8 run. Not working.
2. Seasons and the games that add up to seasons are all about adjustments. One team does this, the other team does that, the one team does something different, the other team tries to counter, and so on and so on. It never stops. To do one thing, and only one thing, for a full 40 minutes -- no matter what that thing is -- is a pretty good way to lose. I once was having beers with an attorney whose cases I used to write a good bit about and I asked him what made somebody good in his line of work. A malleable mind, he said. A good thinker is a flexible thinker. Loyola was losing 39-17 at the break. It got worse from there: 46-22, 52-24, 60-31, 71-38. And STILL: two men face-guarding Stephen standing in the corner. Rigidity is stupidity.
From Brenda Barger at DavidsonNews.net: “Want to relive the Cinderella story? Michael Kruse, a Davidson College grad in 2000, has written a book about the 2008 Wildcat team -- a story of hope, trust and togetherness called ‘Taking the Shot.’ It will be available mid December just in time for finding a place under the Christmas tree for the sports enthusiast in your family.”
Bucky Neal, a.k.a. No Intro 77, pointed out on the board tonight that Stephen had passed Dick Snyder on the career scoring list last week in the James Madison game. Considering I just posted a little something from the way-back book, well, I wasn’t going to post anything else.
A blue-chip recruit before such a thing was specifically defined, Dick Snyder could have played just about anything just about anywhere he wanted. He was All-American on the gridiron, a six-foot-five mobile quarterback with a cannon for a right arm -- the National Football League prototype in 1999, but an absolute freak of nature in 1961. In the spring and summers, he earned all-state in baseball as a dominant pitcher and outfielder. Based on the pure power and potential of his arm alone, he was drafted by professional teams a number of times following high school seasons. Basketball, believe it or not, was his worst sport. He only earned honorable mention all-state accolades.
But he wanted to give it a shot in college. He didn’t like the general wear and tear that came with football. The plan was to get an education before ultimately signing with a professional baseball organization. The thing was, though, few schools gave baseball scholarships at the time. So Snyder figured basketball was his way of paying for school. The pigskin powers of the Big Ten, however, didn’t see it that way. Most of the Big Ten schools, including nearby Ohio State, offered Snyder a football grant-in-aid. So did the service academies.
Soft-spoken, pensive, almost shy back then, and even still today, Snyder never really let it be known that football was not what he wanted to do. Had any of the smaller schools in Ohio -- Miami, Kent, the schools that now make up the Mid-American Conference -- attempted to offer a basketball scholarship, Snyder said in November 1998 at his home in Arizona, he almost certainly would have remained in Ohio. Only Lefty, though, thought to ask.
Don Davidson’s dad saw Snyder rush for four touchdowns one night in an Ohio high school football game. He contacted Lefty. Lefty contacted some high school coaches in the area and got his hands on some game film of Snyder on the basketball court. The kid looked like a decent athlete. Down the road, he thought, this Snyder might fit into the Wildcats’ basketball plans. In the late spring of 1962, Lefty was coming through Ohio on a recruiting trip. On a whim more than anything else, he called Snyder. Had he made a college choice? No, Snyder said. His plans were somewhat up in the air. Not anymore. He soon was in Davidson for a visit.
“I felt very comfortable down there,” he said. “At the time, the basketball program was nothing. I knew it was a good school and I would get a good education. I had no idea our basketball team would be a top-ten team. To be honest, I didn’t know it was capable of playing at that level. But I fell in love with the campus. I was just looking for a place to play basketball because I liked it so much. And I thought I’d play pro baseball after my schooling. I figured, Hey, it’s warm down there. Baseball season is pretty long.”
The minute he set foot on campus, Snyder was a physical specimen unlike Davidson had ever seen before. Snyder compiled a record 633.8 points on the mandatory freshman fitness test, shattering Don Davidson’s mark from the year before of 547.6. In the softball throw, he heaved the ball some 288 feet -- 12 feet shy of an entire football field. During the first week of school he won the traditional freshman-class cake race.
One day before a baseball game, legend has it, Snyder tried the hop, skip and jump -- now known as the triple jump -- and set what would have been a Southern Conference freshman record and came within five feet of the national mark. And he did it wearing baseball pants and spikes. Jim Hyder, a student manager of sorts for the 1966 basketball team, remembers punting a football with classmates Ronnie Stone and Snyder. Snyder would kick it 70 yards, Stone 60, Hyder 50. “And here comes Bill Dole, the football coach,” Hyder recalled in an interview in Louisville, Kentucky, “and you just knew what was going to happen.”
From the old book (the one that wasn’t finished or published), not this book (the one that was) …
(This was written literally a decade ago.)
(I was barely 21.)
(Please don’t judge.)
Longtime Davidson trainer Tom Couch and Lefty once were on a recruiting trip in Virginia over Christmas break. Perhaps pushing the Wildcat Buick a bit too hard, Couch got pulled over by a state trooper. Not to worry, Lefty said. After all, this was the coach’s old stomping grounds. Lefty began to make his case. It didn’t work. “Look,” the cop told Lefty, according to Couch, “I don’t give a damn who you are. You better sit down and shut up.” Said Couch: “That’s the first time I ever saw Lefty intimidated.” But with troopers out of the way, Lefty, who sold encyclopedias on the side when he was a high school coach, could recruit better than just about anybody back in that era.
Case in point: Terry Holland, his first land at Davidson, the initial inclination that he wasn’t blowing smoke, that he could attract top-rated talent to Davidson, that the Wildcats could be a success story in the major college ranks. In front of a basketball who’s-who at an Atlanta dinner in December celebrating Lefty’s 700th coaching win, Holland, now the athletics director at the University of Virginia, told his story.
He was all but a Demon Deacon, the 6-foot-7 Clinton, North Carolina, high schooler grappling with his college decision. Len Chappell and Billy Packer were the duo that made Bones McKinney’s Wake Forest squad the cream of the Atlantic Coast Conference. His next-door neighbor was the student manager for the Deacons. He had friends in Winston-Salem.
But give Lefty a chance. Just recently hired, the energetic salesman already was on the road peddling his message, his vision of what Davidson could and should become -- in a way, his newest set of encyclopedias. He arrived at the Holland home. It was prom night 1960. Basketball was important for Holland, but definitely not the most important thing that evening -- after all, Ann, his sweetheart and future wife was waiting. Lefty still made his pitch. Holland’s mother liked him and Davidson immediately.
“My mother kept thinking Davidson was a great place for me,” Holland said in his office in Charlottesville. “But I just couldn’t see how we could be successful basketball-wise.”
Still leaning toward Wake, Holland tried to extricate himself from the meeting. He had other things on his mind. Lefty offered to help. “Take my car,” he said. Holland graciously accepted the keys to Lefty’s 1956 Ford and sped off.
“I got to Ann’s house and took her to the prom,” Holland told the crowd in Atlanta. “And then I realized I had left Lefty at home with my mother. When I got back, not only was I going to Davidson, but we had a new set of encyclopedias.”
“We are blessed. We are Witnessess. Not just to the greatness of one player, but to a basketball team that we dreamed of when we were children. One that we never truly thought we’d see at Davidson. Before last season, I told my daughters to savor every bit of the season because it might be the best Davidson team they’d see in their lifetimes. I was wrong. We may not make another magical run to the Elite Eight. But we have the lightning in the bottle, the lid is secured, and we get to watch the electricity crackle several times a week.”
1. So much talk obviously about Stephen at the point and not the two, going into the season, still now. I don’t know. 30 points, 13 assists, three turnovers: That pretty much works for me. It’s Steve Nash-y. Steve Nash in his prime-y. I’ve thought for months and months, spring, summer, fall, now with a handful of games so far in this new season, that one of the very few not good things about Stephen at the point is that Stephen is not also at the two. That’s not a knock on Bryant or Will -- more just an acknowledgment that Stephen at the two was an extraordinary thing. But Stephen at the point? Other than the fact that he can’t play two positions at once ... what’s not to love? Another thing to consider: John Akers of Basketball Times leaned over on press row last night and made the point that Stephen is shooting a lot of free throws, more than last year, maybe a lot more -- although I’d rather not go look up the numbers right now -- and that’s because (duh) the ball’s in his hands more and he’s exceptionally difficult to guard. That’s going to be especially true in games against Southern Conference teams. Or teams like Winthrop. How do you score 30 points on 16 shots? One way: You take 10 free throws and make nine of them.
2. Good line from Gary McCann of the Rock Hill paper: Curry, he wrote, “has made the transition from shooting guard to point guard seamless. He plays like he was born there and shoots like he believes everything is going in.”
One thing I think people sometimes forget, though, is that Stephen kind of WAS born there. That’s the position he played at Charlotte Christian, every year, before he came to Davidson and played the two because Jason played the one. Just worth remembering as we continue to watch Stephen keep improving at the point. And that IS what he will do. Because that's what he does.
3. Andrew. Taking all sorts of grief from (some) posters at DavidsonCats.com after the Oklahoma game. In the Oklahoma game, of course, he was going up against not only Big XII competition but first-team All-American competition. Against Winthrop, though -- and this will be the case, I’m thinking, in most Southern Conference games, too -- he was the mannest man out there. Rebounds? If they were anywhere NEAR him? They were his. It was one of those efforts where you looked at his final line of 20 points and 15 rebounds and you sort of said to yourself: “Hmm. Seemed like even more.”
4. Will. Forget the numbers, and forget the shooting, even though they were plenty promising. The most important thing was that there was absolute energy in him and the way he played last night.
5. First time for me last night in the new and improved Belk Arena with the Seats That Stephen Built. Strange, but strange in a great way, for those of us who were there for Monday night SoCon games against, say, East Tennessee State, with attendance checking in at an (exaggerated) 1,128 or something like that. Stating the obvious but it really is an amazing thing going on right now on our campus and in our village.
So I drove up to Davidson for the Winthrop game and I was in the Union late Friday afternoon and I picked up a Davidsonian. Former editor in chief and whatnot.
Here, verbatim, from the Campus Police Blotter on page 3:
Suspicious Basketball Fan
200 Baker Drive
On Tuesday November 11, 2008 at 1518 hrs officer Heinz received a call on the officer cell phone in reference to a suspicious person at Baker Sports, 200 Baker Dr. Cell phone call advised the male subject asked about having basketball memorabilia autographed. Cell phone caller advised the subject was driving a silver SUV. Reporting officer observed a silver 1998 Lincoln Navigator parked near the Knobloch Campus Center, 207 Faculty Dr. Reporting officer found the owner of the vehicle inside the Campus Bookstore. Reporting officer advised the man of Davidson College policy that he could not walk or drive the campus looking for basketball players to autograph items. The individual complied with the investigation and agreed he would not.
I should begin by dropping a big old multi-barreled caveat to anything I say tonight: It’s Nov. 11, that was an exhibition game, it was against Lenoir-Rhyne. Also, and perhaps most importantly, I watched it on a small piece of the already not all that big screen of my MacBook. The whole thing was like watching a basketball game through a keyhole covered with some cheesecloth.
That said …
1. Stephen. He had more turnovers than he should have, and more than he will have, you can be sure of that, but I think watching him with the ball in his hands is just going to take some getting used to. Not just because he’s on the ball more now, or was against LRC, but because in that slot he brings such a different look than we’re used to. By we I mean those of us who’ve watched Davidson basketball for longer than like the last 15 minutes. Davidson basketball? On the ball is an Alpert, or an Ali, or even a Jason. Not a guy who scores 41 points on 19 shots.
About those 41 points on those 19 shots …
(Who scores 41 points on 19 shots? I mean seriously.)
Even with the keyhole, even with the cheesecloth, it’s almost laughable, what he does, isn’t it? His 24 at half looked like 10, or 12, or 15 tops. But no. The stats thing said 24. His points just pile up. Stephen just does what he does, and did what he did, and what he did equaled 24 points at half.
One thing I was reminded of tonight: Some of his jumpers, his threes in particular, tend to be what I’ll call “separaters” -- shots that make a 9-point lead a 12-point lead, or a 13-point lead a 16-point lead, etc. I don’t know if those numbers were the numbers from tonight, or any other night, but I’m just talking in generalities here. His shots seem to make leads bulge. It’s like: Stephen shot, Stephen shot, and -- boom -- the Davidson lead is all of a sudden some kind of comfy.
2. One thing the keyhole viewing didn’t totally take away: The familiar sounds of McKillop yelling instructions from the sideline.
“Tell him Stephen!”
“Guard the ball!”
“Come on Andrew!”
Sounds like basketball season. Even down here, even with my windows open and it being 71 or 68 or whatever it is this time of the evening, I can almost smell Belk on the inside, and feel the cool air on the walk up the hill.
3. This probably goes without saying but I’ll say it anyway. The bad news IS the good news: There are PLENTY of things the guys need to work on. The goal is not to be great or even good right now. It’s for them to start somewhere, see what works, see what doesn’t, and be at their best, oh, four months from now. That’s the track record. McKillop’s teams at Davidson, even his very worst ones, the early ‘90s Big South teams -- they ALWAYS played their best in February heading toward March. I don’t see why that changes now. Even if this program IS coming off an Elite Eight appearance. Even if this program IS ranked No. 20 in the country preseason. Even if No. 30 IS a preseason All-American. McKillop’s teams are always building, and building, and building, and so this is but the very, very beginning, and that’s as it should be.
4. Things I liked: Bryant’s about as shy about shooting as his roommate. Ben Allison is not the same guy. Max guarding the inbounds. Always worth the price of admission. Will Reigel in a Davidson uniform. His dad. His name. It’s good institutional karma.
5. Potentially blasphemous: Is it just me or did Sweet Caroline seem a little … tired? At this point, and this is, understand, not the song’s fault -- but at this point I associate Sweet Caroline with Davidson basketball through the lenses of Raleigh and Detroit. I know it wasn’t always this way. In my head, though, Sweet Caroline plays in the heady, gauzy backgrounds of transcendent moments … not at the second-to-last media timeout of exhibition games. Not sure how to get around that. But there it is.
6. Blue Moon bottles while watching the Wildcats in your lonely luxury apartment home in the paved-over stucco-structured paradise that is the Sunshine State taste not nearly so delicious as Blue Moon drafts at any and all times at the Brickhouse. Winthrop. Week from Friday. After the game.