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Uncle Andy's Blog Archives for 2014-03

UnPossible


 

If you were to push the words unbelievable and impossible together you just might get “unpossible.”  It’s the only way I can describe the 1983 NCAA basketball upset of N.C. State over the University of Houston.

Jim Valvano, known as Coach “V,” was a young, loud, brash, New York Italian basketball coach who owned enough nose to mind everybody’s business; if he ever fell face first, it would two days to dig him out.  Likeable and excitable, Valvano initially became known more for splitting his pants while jumping up and down during a game than winning.  My mother, Edith Purvis, worked at N.C. State for over 25 years.  She introduced me to Coach Valvano.  He had so much energy; it was like meeting three people at once.

Television and radio loved the guy; he was two-thirds con man and one-third coach.  Let’s just say he was different.  Jim loved people, food, and basketball and ate life in large gulps.  Basketball allowed him to enjoy and share his passions, and generating the greatest upset in college basketball history would insure that he be remembered.  His coaching style allowed his team to practice cutting down the nets one day a week, instead of working on stopping the back-door cut.  They talked about dreaming instead of baseline defense, about playing with confidence instead of implementing the half-court trap.  They worked hard, played hard, and had fun; but more importantly, they learned to trust one another while listening to their vagabond coach, who could take any defeat and turn it into dessert.  He was contagious, believable and could sell M&M’s to a diabetic. 

Head Coach Jim Valvano and Assistant coaches Ed McLean, Ray Martin, and Tom Abatemarco, would lead the Wolfpack to a 26-10 season record which included an 8-6 ACC record.  N.C. State would end their season ranked #14 in the Coaches’ poll and #16 in the Associated Press poll.  Just being invited to the dance would require them to win the ACC Tournament.  The Wolfpack would defeat Wake Forest 71-70, the Michael Jordan, Sam Perkins, and Brad Daugherty UNC team 91-84 in overtime, and then Ralph Sampson and The University of Virginia 81-78, in succession.  State would receive the ACC Trophy and a #6 seed from the committee and was promptly sent out West to be discarded.

The NCAA Tournament started on March 2nd and ended at “The Pit” in Albuquerque, New Mexico, on April 4, 1983.  Only fifty-two schools participated in the tourney at that time, and the lowest seeds became the #13’s.  There was no shot clock or three-point line.  The field would be expanded the following year.  No one had any idea at that time that the real Cinderella would come to the party dressed like a wolf.  The Pepperdine Waves led by 6 points with one minute to play, in regulation.  It would take two overtimes for the Wolfpack to shake Pepperdine by the final score of 69-67.  Waves’ Head Coach, Jim Harrick, still does not believe they lost.  Dead ahead lay Jerry Tarkanian’s UNLV bunch that had only lost two ballgames that year.  Sidney Green and UNLV led by 13 points with ten minutes to play.  State would prevail 71-70 in another nail biter.  N.C. State would now prepare for their Sweet Sixteen match-up with the Running Utes of Utah, coached by Jerry Pimm.  N.C. State was being held in high esteem by the press as a “team of destiny.”  In Raleigh, they referred to the team as “The Cardic Pack.”  The Wolfpack would win in a laugher 75-56.  It had been their first easy win.

They say what goes around comes around.  Up next awaited Goliath, the college player of the year, Ralph Sampson, and his 29-5 Wahoos of Virginia.  Coach Terry Holland and his team were looking to avenge their ACC Tournament Championship loss to the Wolfpack.  But it was not to be.  Virginia was up by 7 points with six minutes to play.  State won 63-62 by fouling Virginia with seconds to go, in a tie game, on purpose.  Who fouls late in a tie game on purpose?  “I couldn’t believe my ears when V started yelling ‘foul’ with the game tied” said Wolfpack forward, Thurl Bailey. 

After N.C. State returned from their victory in the regional, 5,000 people showed up to watch the Wolfpack practice in the Reynolds Neal Coliseum.  Valvano was on top of the world, and everyone lay at his feet.  “Survive and Advance” became his motto.  The Final Four would pit Georgia against N.C. State and #1 Louisville against #2 Houston (The Doctors of Dunk vs. Phi Slama Jama).  Hugh Durham’s Georgia Bulldogs had upset UNC, the 1982 National Champs, and thought they were prepared to take on the Wolfpack.  N.C. State won 67-60 and then waited to see who they would play.  The game they watched with the rest of the nation was incredible. 

Houston outlasted Denny Crum’s Louisville Cardinals, led by brothers Rodney and Scooter McCray, in what most thought was the championship game.  This up-and-down-the-floor playground basketball, with exclamation points provided by rim-rocking dunks, held the basketball world in awe.  The winner of this game would surely be crowned National Champ on Monday night.  The final score:  Houston 94, Louisville 81. 

 The next day during their press conference, Valvano claimed they would hold the ball against Houston.  “If we get the opening tip on Monday night, we may not take a shot until Tuesday,” exclaimed Valvano.  “Even my mother took the eight points and Houston.”

Head Coach Guy V. Lewis, with great players like Clyde Drexler, Larry Micheaux, Hakeem Olajuwon, Reid Gettys, Benny Anders, Michael Young, and freshman Alvin Franklin, waited to claim their rightful title.  I found it interesting that both Guy and Jim both used the “V” in name recognition and both teams’ colors included red and white.   

Before the game, Valvano did what he does best, “Talk.”  He also made it clear to his team that they were not going to hold the ball in front of 50 million people who would be watching on TV.  N.C. State missed ten shots in a row at the start of the game, but still led 33-25 at halftime.  Houston stormed back to lead by 7, with ten minutes to go.  Wolfpack strategy included not letting the Cougars dunk and fouling to get the ball back.  In short, it worked.  Freshman Benny Anders was fouled in a tie game with seconds left, as Guy Lewis hid his eyes in his red-and-white checkered towel.  Anders missed.  N.C. State now with the ball, moved up court.  The ball went into the corner to Bailey who returned it to Derek Whittenburg as time was running out.  Whittenburg launched a 30-footer that appeared to be on target, but short.  Time stood still for everyone but Wolfpack forward, Lorenzo Charles, who jumped up, caught the ball and dunked, all in the same motion.  It was over; N.C. State 54-Houston 52.  “If we win, pigs will fly, and pink elephants will drive Cadillacs,” said Valvano before the game.  Can anyone say “Unpossible?”

I should have known that my pal Dotson Lewis was seated courtside with Blackie Sherrod, the senior sportswriter for the Dallas Morning News.  When I asked Dotson for his thoughts, he said, “What a shocker.  I thought Guy Lewis had fainted when the game ended,” said Dotson.  “He was one of the most underrated coaches in college basketball.” 

At the end of the 1983 season, several Wolfpack starters were drafted.  They are as follows:  Thurl Bailey was drafted by Utah Jazz, Sidney Lowe by the Chicago Bulls, and Derek Whittenburg by the Phoenix Suns.  Lorenzo Charles and Cozell McQueen would later be drafted in 1984, by the Atlanta Hawks and Milwaukee Bucks, respectively.

N.C. State won their last nine games of that 1983 season; and in seven of those games, they were behind on the scoreboard with one minute to play.  It was as if this team had been touched in some special way.  Was it divine intervention or luck?  Who cares?  Sometimes things happen in sports that bring attention to real life experiences.  I believe that Jim Valvano’s ESPY speech would not have had the same impact without his upset victory and later his bout with cancer.  The Jimmy V Foundation for Cancer Research still continues twenty years after his death to lead the nation in money raised.  In short, Valvano’s seven simple, yet powerful, words will live on, “Don’t Give Up, Don’t Ever Give Up.”  True heroes never surrender. 

 

 

Andy Purvis is a local author.  His books "In the Company of Greatness" and "Remembered Greatness" are on the shelves at the local Barnes and Noble, at Beamer's Sports Grill 5922 S Staples, and online at many different sites including Amazon, bn.com, booksamillion, Google Books, etc.  They are also available in e-reader format.  Contact him at www.purvisbooks.com, or purvis.andy@mygrande.net.

Thirty Two


 

There has always been something special about the #32.  I can’t explain what it is but I can tell you that it has been worn by many of the very best athletes in all of sports.  The first time I noticed the #32 was as a kid watching the great Jim Brown run for the Cleveland Browns.  Then Billy Cunningham made the #32 popular at the University of North Carolina before playing for the Philadelphia 76ers.  Sandy Koufax and Steve Carlton, both Hall of Fame pitchers, wore #32, while “Magic” Johnson, Kevin McHale, Bill Walton, Scottie Pippin, and Karl Malone also earned Hall-of-Fame status in the NBA wearing that number.  Don’t forget O.J. Simpson who also wore #32.  Buck Leonard of the Negro Leagues made the #32 famous, and he has also been inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.  Dale Hunter of the Washington Capitols, Jason Kidd with the Phoenix Suns, and Sean Elliot of the San Antonio Spurs all wore #32.  Edgerrin James and Ricky Watters are also on the list.  But there is one fellow who slides under the radar when speaking about the #32.  His name is Elston Gene Howard, the first African-American to play for the New York Yankees.

Elston Howard was born in St. Louis, Missouri.  “Ellie” was a big strong guy who usually played the part of peacemaker.  He owned a great smile that displayed the gap between his two front teeth.  A four-sport letterman in high school, he is now in the Missouri Hall of Fame.  Howard tried out for the Cardinals in 1948, as an outfielder.  He was never called back.  Ellie later joined the Negro Leagues, the K.C. Monarchs.  His manager was Buck O’Neil, and he roomed with Ernie Banks.  “If I had a boy, I would want him to be like Elston,” said O’Neil.  Howard later signed with the Yankees and was sent to their Minor League team known as the Kansas City Blues.  He spent three years being converted to a catcher, by Bill Dickey.  The Yankees already had an African-American power hitter by the name of Vic Power in the Minors, but felt that Power was too flashy to fit the Yankee mold.  Power was traded in 1953, leaving Howard on deck.  Howard was sent to the International Leagues where he not only hit .331, but was voted the MVP of the league.  He was ready but the American League integrated much slower than the National League.  In 1954, New York did not win the American League pennant, which may have helped Ellie.  In 1955, there were still four teams that did not have an African-American player.  One of this those teams were the Yankees, who brought Howard up in 1955.  Yes, New York needed an African-American player but they also needed a Yankee.  His first game was April 14, 1955, and he did not disappoint.  Ellie hit .290, 10 home runs and 43 RBI’s, while platooning with Yogi Berra and Johnny Blanchard.  He also became the sixth player in MLB history to hit a home run in his first World Series at-bat, against the Brooklyn Dodgers.  Howard played about 100 games in 1956 and 1957.  In 1958, Elston Howard became the first African-American to be named a World Series MVP, as the Yankees beat the Milwaukee Braves.

In 1960, Howard started more games at catcher as Yogi played in left field.  Ellie would knock a pinch-hit home run in Game One and hit a smoking .462 in the World Series, against the winning Pittsburgh Pirates club.  Casey Stengel was fired after the Series, and Ralph Houk took his place.  The first move Houk made in 1961 was to designate Elston Howard as the Yankees’ starting catcher.  Howard swatted .348, and the Bombers never looked back.  “I’m very fortunate to be with the Yankees,” said Howard.  “This is the greatest thing in my life.” 

The year 1963 was huge for Ellie.  Not only did he win the Gold Glove Award for the catcher’s position, but he basically carried the team as Maris and Mantle were hurt most of the year.  For his contributions, Elston Howard would become the first African-American to win the American League MVP Award. 

In August of 1964, the Yankees held an Elston Howard night at the stadium.  Words like pioneer and “instrument of change” were used.  The newspapers wrote, “He may be one of the most important Yankees ever.”  Teammate Bobby Richardson said, “Ballplayers know who the greatest players are, and they all knew Ellie Howard.”

Howard injured his elbow later on, which required surgery.  Unfortunately, he was still unable to straighten out his arm.  He would never be the same.  To his dismay, Howard was traded to the Boston Red Sox in the middle of the 1967 season.  There he led the Red Sox to the World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals and helped Jim Lonborg win the American League Cy Young Award.  After fourteen years, Howard retired from playing at the end of the 1968 season.  In 1969, Howard became the first African-American coach in the American League with the Yankees and should have been the first African-American manager in 1973, but the Yanks chose Bill Virdon.  “If Elston had played for any other club, he would be in the Hall of Fame,” said Bobby Richardson.

 

In 1978, Ellie was diagnosed with a rare heart disorder and suffered from inflammation of the heart muscle.  He joined Phil Rizzuto in the broadcast booth as he was unable to fulfill his coaching duties.  “I never felt like I had it made.  I always played like I hadn’t got there yet.  It’s been a long battle for me.  When I look back on the years I can see where I earned whatever I got.  Nobody walked up to me and gave me anything.  I’m really proud of that.  I’m really more proud of trying than I am of anything,” said Howard.  Elston Howard died at the young age of 51 on December 14, 1980. 

The New York Yankees retired Howard’s #32.  He had played in a total of ten World Series.  “He is the one person I really miss today,” said Ernie Banks.  It has been said, there is no footprint to small too leave an imprint on the world.  History will remember #32 Elston Howard.

 

 

Andy Purvis is a local author.  His books "In the Company of Greatness" and "Remembered Greatness" are on the shelves at the local Barnes and Noble, at Beamer's Sports Grill 5922 S Staples, and online at many different sites including Amazon, bn.com, booksamillion, Google Books, etc.  They are also available in e-reader format.  Contact him at www.purvisbooks.com, or purvis.andy@mygrande.net.

Greatness Continued


 

Greatness Continued is the third book of what is now referred to as the “Greatness Series.”  People ask how I go about picking the folks to write about.  First, they are all attached in some way to the world of sports.  Second, it’s true that they have all passed away and, yes, these are my inspirational stories of meeting some of our heroes in person; but the truth is I don’t pick them as much as the fan does.  In saying that, you still must remember that greatness is not self-contained just in sports.  You may have been taught in school by a great teacher, worked for a great boss, or have been raised by great parents.  You may be married to a great spouse.  Greatness and great people are all around us.  We are all capable of greatness.  Most of us are competitive by nature and all the great ones seem to find something to focus on, something that reaches down inside of them and brings out that fire.  Any time someone takes the time to change themselves for the better and in so doing touches others around them in a positive way, then greatness occurs.  In life, we are all given two wonderful gifts:  awesome potential and freedom of choice.  What we do with those gifts will define us in the eyes of others, as great or just mediocre.  Everybody probably knows someone who is famous, someone they consider to be great.  Mark Twain once said, “Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions.  Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you too can become great.”  The question for us then becomes, how do others achieve this so-called greatness? 

In the world of sports, greatness comes with a daily bucket of sweat, an occasional blister, ice packs, pulled muscles, and uncertainty.  It’s disguised in repetition, born of endless effort and attention to the smallest of details.  Greatness is never given; it is earned, manufactured in the off-season, behind closed doors, in the darkest recesses of the gym, in the heat, while questions of am I good enough or am I ready, replay over and over in our minds.  Greatness is sometimes served first with a spoonful of disappointment, failure, vulnerability, or embarrassment.  Achieving greatness provides confidence, adrenaline, exhilaration, money, and a feeling of accomplishment.  For most, the reward of becoming a great athlete outweighs the risk of failure.  Most often, the process of becoming great is played out live in front of others, on a big stage, and in turn makes us feel alive, warts, and all.  The side effects of greatness are like scars that can’t be seen, but nothing takes the place of a live sporting event.  Greatness occurs when you hate losing more than you love winning, when you push your body and mind far past the point where most other folks are willing to go.  Greatness most often changes the game.

Interestingly enough, in the end we all wind up as just men or women; because in real life, it’s not about how great an athlete, coach, a writer, or announcer you were, but about how good a person you have become.  It just so happens that these folks became game changers along the way.  So sit back and enjoy these stories.  Be prepared to smile and wonder, to discover things about these heroes that you may not have known.  I hope you will be able to see these people through my words.  As a friend of mine, Dr. Tom Hollingsworth, once said, “At times we forget that inside those jerseys and under those helmets; they are all just human beings.”  I dare you to become great!    

 

Andy Purvis is a local author.  His books "In the Company of Greatness" and "Remembered Greatness" are on the shelves at the local Barnes and Noble, at Beamer's Sports Grill 5922 S Staples, and online at many different sites including Amazon, bn.com, booksamillion, Google Books, etc.  They are also available in e-reader format.  Contact him at www.purvisbooks.com, or purvis.andy@mygrande.net.

 

Basketball Jones


 

Colin Powell once said, “Great leaders are almost always great simplifiers, who can cut through argument, debate, and doubt to offer a solution everybody can understand.”  This guy was like that, smart, organized and calculating.  He was a very unique individual and a heck of a basketball coach.  You never had to guess where you stood in his eyes, he’d tell you straight up.  Like most coaches of his day, he was known to berate and verbally abuse his players in an effort to help them reach their maximum potential.  He poked them in their chests to gain their attention.  Of the 80 players he recruited to Utah only 33 stayed for four years.  The ones who stayed were incredibly loyal and very successful.  He always made fun of himself so you didn’t have to.  “Some guys smoke, some guys drink, some guys chase women.  I’m a big barbecue-sauce guy,” he once said.  He was tall, mostly bald, loved white sweaters, hated ties, and was funny beyond words; the things he said, it was like he had swallowed Don Rickles.  He could pass for John Pinette in sneakers or Louie Anderson with a whistle around his neck.  People did make fun of him for not being in shape; he thought round was a shape.  He also thought pancake syrup was a beverage and candy corn a vegetable.  He was a big, heavy-set guy; when he got his shoes shined, he had to take the guy’s word for it. 

I don’t think you can pick out a basketball coach from a line-up.  They seem to come in all shapes, sizes, and colors.  He always thought he looked more like an 18-wheel truck driver than a coach and once said, “I go into my room and find pieces of pizza under the laundry.”  This guy started at the bottom as a student assistant.  That means he picked up towels, got coffee, and washed jockstraps.  He always believed it’s good to have the struggle.

Coach Rick Majerus owned a brilliant mind.  He could expound on politics, books, and movies with equal zest.  What made him different?  He had a “Basketball Jones.” 

Rick Majerus was born in Sheboygan Falls, Wisconsin, on February 17, 1948.  He graduated from Marquette University High School in 1966 and enrolled at Marquette University the following year.  He also walked-on the basketball team, but became a student assistant for $5,000 a year, after being cut from the team.  By 1970, Rick had graduated with a degree in history.  He found his passion by coaching eighth graders at St. Sebastian Grade School in Milwaukee and then he coached the freshman boys at Marquette University High School.  In 1971, he joined Al McGuire’s staff as a full-time assistant coach.  In 1983, Majerus became the head coach, taking over for Hank Raymond until 1986, when he left Marquette with a 56-35 record to join the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks as an assistant to Don Nelson.  He returned to the college game in 1987 when he became head coach at Ball State University.  He left Ball State with a 43-17 record in 1989 and joined the “Running Utes” of Utah as their head coach. 

Majerus lived in a suite in one of the downtown hotels in Salt Lake City.  When asked why he chose to live in a hotel instead of an apartment or house, he answered, “There are clean towels, my bed’s turned down every night and there’s a mint on my pillow, no matter what psychological or emotional crisis the maid’s going through.”  Rick had a passion for coaching and ran excellent motion offense and really defended well.

Utah lost to the Kentucky Wildcats in the 1996 Sweet Sixteen, the 1997 Elite Eight, and the 1998 NCAA Finals in San Antonio, Texas.  With all three years ending with losses to Kentucky, Majerus told The New Orleans Times-Picayune, “When I die, they might as well bury me at the finish line at Churchill Downs so they can run over me again.”  Utah participated in the Western Athletic Conference (WAC) until 1999 and then joined the Mountain West Conference (MWC).  Majerus’ combined record was 323 wins and 95 losses.  Even more impressive was his conference record which stood at 152-43.  At Utah, Majerus produced ten conference championships in 13 seasons.   

I met the man, shook his hand, and wished him luck at the 1998 NCAA Finals.  I think everyone there was pulling for Utah against Kentucky.  He held court every chance he got.  He was a quote machine for reporters.  It’s hard to accept that Rick Majerus has passed away.

He was once asked, “How do you plan to stop the Kentucky Wildcats?” in a 1996 NCAA Tournament match-up.  “Food poisoning!” answered Majerus.  When asked about the difference in talent between his team and Kentucky, he responded, “They have all those McDonald’s All-Americans.  We have four guys on our team who don’t even have a McDonald’s in their hometown.”  Keith Van Horn, Andre Miller, and Mike Doleac were all first-round draft picks from his Utah teams.  He found great success at Utah until 2004.  With this year’s Wildcat team currently at 4-3, Majerus would have loved to have played Kentucky.

Rick Majerus was a wanted man.  He had been contacted many times over the years about head coaching jobs.  UCLA, St. Johns, UNLV, Arizona State, Texas, Wisconsin, Notre Dame, Minnesota, San Diego State, and the Golden State warriors of the NBA, had all made him an offer.   

In 2004, the University of Southern California came calling for Majerus.  In December, he gladly accepted the job and acted excited.  The deal paid 5 million for 5 years.  During the press conference he announced “I hope I die here.  I hope I coach here the rest of my life.”  But life doesn’t always follow the script and within a week he reneged on his commitment and headed to ESPN as an analyst.  In a tearful news conference he referred to his health with this statement:  “I am not fit for this job by my standards.”  A devoted family man, some folks expected that the real reason he stepped aside was that the health of his mother was deteriorating quickly.  He stayed at ESPN from 2004-2007.

In 2007, Rick returned again to college basketball by joining Saint Louis University.  “His last name, Majerus, means ‘great’ in Latin,” explained the President of Saint Louis University in 2007.  Rick had just accepted their offer to become the new head men’s basketball coach.  After the press conference, Majerus told reporters, “I think it really means ‘sausage-eater’ in Latin.”  On August 24, 2012, he announced that he would take a medical leave of absence and would not coach in 2012-2013.  His assistant, Jim Crews, took over the Saint Louis University program.  His record at Saint Louis stood at 95-69.  

Rick Majerus experienced only one losing season in 25 years as a head basketball coach (2010-2011).  He won more than 70% of the games he coached, winning 517 games while losing only 215.  He collected fifteen 20-win seasons and two 30-win seasons.  Majerus took twelve different teams to the NCAA tournament and four teams to the NIT.  “His Utah team beat us in 1991 in the NCAA Tournament.  He was a very good coach, very demanding; he knew basketball,” said South Alabama Coach Ronnie Arrow.  Only twice did his teams lose to a lower seed in 31 NCAA Tournament games and, in all but three of those appearances, it took a No. 1 seed to send them home.  Eleven times out of twelve his teams won at least one game in every NCAA tournament.  “I love coaching.  I have a great passion for it.  I still have a ball in the back of my car.  I love to play,” said Majerus.  He never got fired from a coaching job.

The title of this piece, “Basketball Jones” refers to the Cheech and Chong hit song.  The song was released in September of 1973, and reached #15 on the US charts.  Cheech Marin sings in falsetto and anyone who has heard the song recognizes it immediately.  Other musicians who collaborated on the song included, Carol King, Billy Preston, George Harrison, and Ronnie Spector.  The word “Jones” used in the title, song, and parody is slang for craving or addiction.  Anyone with a Basketball Jones had an undying love for the game. That was Rick Majerus.  Basketball Jones became an animated short film in 1974.  The main character is “Tyrone Shoelaces,” who receives a basketball from his mother at an early age and cannot stop dribbling.  The cartoon version was released in 1976.

Majerus began to have heart problems in 1989, after joining Utah.  At the age of 41, he underwent coronary bypass surgery six games into his first season.  Even though he swam one mile every day he continued to fight his desire to over-eat.  He had a stint placed in his heart in 2011.  Coach Rick Majerus died Saturday, December 1, 2012, at the young age of 64.  He had been in a Los Angeles hospital for several weeks with heart issues.  Rick Majerus ate life and food in large quantities.  “Like I told Bobby Knight, nothing good happens around a salad bar,” said Majerus.  He had lost his father Raymond in 1987 to a heart attack.  Raymond was the former secretary-treasurer of the United Auto Workers.  His mother Alyce passed on August 6, 2011.  Rick is survived by two sisters, Jodi and Tracy.  He was briefly married from 1987-1989.  Utah will honor Coach Rick Majerus by hanging his trademark white sweater from their rafters. 

Rick was named WAC Coach of the Year five times, UPI National Coach of the Year in 1991, Basketball Times National Coach of the Year in 1992 and 1997, and won the John Wooden Award in 1998.   

CBS Sports analyst Clark Kellogg said when he heard the news, “He sees it (college basketball) and explains it in a unique way, which I have always enjoyed.”

There I sat at the same table in the Houston Hilton with Norm Stewart (Missouri), Ronnie Arrow (South Alabama), and young head coach Sean Woods (Mississippi Valley State).  The 2011 NCAA Tournament was underway.  On a napkin, these coaches were drawing up a high-low screen off an inbounds play from the baseline underneath their own basket.  It quickly reminded me of Coach Rick Majerus’ 2000 autobiography, My Life on a Napkin.  I wondered how many games over the years had been decided just like that, on napkins in restaurants, bars, and at coaches’ clinics across the country.  They asked me why I was smiling.  When I told them, they all nodded.

Comedian Jerry Lewis once said, “There is nothing better than being nine years old.”  Majerus was a big kid at heart, teaching a young man’s game.  He once said, “I love the fans and the college students.  I like the alumni association.  I like the rah-rah and all that.  I like the band rather than that fabricated music.  I like the fact that we have students that are cheerleaders that really care, as opposed to a dancing girls’ team of hired mercenaries.”  I hope Saint Peter is ready for a little one-on-one.  Coach Rick Majerus, an off-color guy if there ever was one, will be spending his first Christmas in Heaven.

 

 

Andy Purvis is a local author.  His books "In the Company of Greatness" and "Remembered Greatness" are on the shelves at the local Barnes and Noble, at Beamer's Sports Grill 5922 S Staples, and online at many different sites including Amazon, bn.com, booksamillion, Google Books, etc.  They are also available in e-reader format.  Contact him at www.purvisbooks.com, or purvis.andy@mygrande.net.

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