Love and Basketball

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You’ve heard the story or knew the girl: Well-liked, beautiful, pure. Everyone looked up to her for her integrity and kindness. And then HE stepped in and smooth-talked her and RUINED her–tarnished her reputation and left her broke and damaged. And after that, it was hard for everyone else to see her the same way. She was DONE.

Well, that’s how I feel about Indiana basketball: What was once the epitome of integrity and pride was ruined by one man in less than two years.

I grew up on Indiana basketball. I went to Dakich Camp, a basketball camp ran by Assistant Coach Dan Dakich. I had a Damon Bailey jersey, and then an Alan Henderson jersey. I viewed (still do) Bob Knight as a great coach and man (although I know several disagree). He was hard on his players, but because he cared about them He wanted them to work as a team and to stay focused on school. And I respected him for that.

When it was time for me to go to college, I knew I would go to Indiana. There wasn’t a question about it (although I did toy with the idea of going to MIT or Rose-Hulman for awhile–NERD ALERT). I went, and the first day on campus I walked down to Assembly Hall and got myself a job working for IU Athletic Outfitters. Because I loved Indiana basketball.

Then, within the first week of classes controversy arose and Bob Knight was forced to leave over some prick who didn’t show him the proper respect (if you know someone has a temper, why would you set them off?! I’m not saying his reaction–if it truly went down that way–was warranted, but COME ON). The student body rioted, and I was there every step of the way. (The best was knocking over a goal post!)

After the initial devastation, the team banded together–as a TEAM–and stood behind Assistant Coach Mike Davis. Unless he was made coach, they would leave. And so Davis became coach. And I liked Davis. In his second year he lead the team to the NCAA Championship game, but then didn’t do much after that to back it up . . . so he was gone.

And in game Kelvin Sampson. The man who singlehandedly RUINED the Indiana basketball program. Within MONTHS he was incurring sanctions from the NCAA. And kept violating the rules. And he wasn’t just hurting himself: he was dragging the team down with him. All in less than two years. And–thank God–the University (led by one of my good friend’s dad, President McRobbie) told Sampson to take a hike midseason, leaving Dakich (MY former coach!) in charge.

But the taint cannot be erased. The school is on a three year probation. Before Sampson, there were NO violations, let alone probation. And now it’s hard to look at the program the same. Sampson is gone, but his “touch” isn’t.

I haven’t watched a game all year. And it’s not on purpose. My heart is just not in it. And it’s not fair that I’m taking it out on the current team, when it was Sampson who broke my heart and ruined something that was important to me. Over time I may get over the pain and begin to look at the team with the same light, but for now . . . I’m hurt.

On the bright side, here are some fun pictures/memories of the times that were good:

When I worked for IU Athletic Outfitters/Varsity Shop, one of the big perks was getting paid to watch the games. I took this during one game.

I took this one at the Bob Knight “goodbye speech.” I ditched everyone I was with (sorry Erin!) and squeezed my way up to the very front. I had one picture where you can see a tear falling from his eye, but that is too special for me to post. ;)

And here is one tasty morsel from one of the 2002 March Madness riots. That “branch” was a tree that was uprooted from Showalter Fountain, then carried down to Kirkwood Avenue. People had ripped off branches and ignited them–like something out of Lord of the Flies.

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So, yes, I’m hurt and my pride has been burned. But the past can’t be taken away and hopefully we will build a strong enough future to make those two, terrible years more of an afterthought.
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