Thursday, December 1, 2016

Another notable no-show

That was some show they put on last night, down there in Red Heaven. Kyle Schwarber -- Chicago Cubs World Series darling, and a guy who launched a few rockets in Bloomington, too -- returned as an honorary basketball captain. The Hoosiers launched No. 3 North Carolina 76-67. And at halftime, Assembly Hall rose and banged its mitts together for IU's 1981 national champions, 35 years after their big moment.

One of my favorite people of all time -- Ray Tolbert -- was on that team. Randy Wittman was. Landon Turner, Jim Thomas, Isiah Thomas: We all know the names.

It was a team that found its sea legs late, destroying a good Maryland team in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in Dayton to set the tone. I covered that game for the late, great Anderson Daily Bulletin, and I have one specific memory of it. It's Maryland coach Lefty Driesell calling timeout in the midst of the cave-in, kneeling in front his team and drawling "OK, gahs. You wanna lose bah 30, or whut?"

Great memory. Great team. Great night in Bloomington.

Too bad you missed it, Bob Knight.

No one really expected Coach to be there, of course, because for Coach it's all about ancient and cherished grudges, grudges he nurtures like Fabrege eggs. All the actors in the docudrama of his ousting at IU are long gone or dead, and no one else but him cares about any of it anymore. They all just want him back.

"Come home," Isiah pleaded, when it was his turn at the mic.

He will not, of course. He will not even for the sake of players he claims to love. He will not even for Landon Turner, whose career was cut short by a car accident that left him paralyzed, and that Knight later admitted shook him to the core. He has been there for Turner since.

But not last night. Not if it could possibly be interpreted as Coach finally letting go his grudges, or recognizing that, as badly as it was or wasn't done, he bore responsibility for the way things ended in Bloomington, too.

And that is sad beyond measure, because his players would have embraced him. Tom Crean would have all but lifted him onto his shoulders. And Assembly Hall would have shook with the sound.

It shook anyway, of course. But the one man for whom it would have shook loudest wasn't there to hear it.

 Sad. So sad.


  1. The 1981 Hoosier win over Dean Smith's kids was much different than the shellacking NC took Wednesday in Bloomington. I was high up in the seats at The Spectrum, having Amtraked it out to Philadelphia with a buddy. I had seen Al Maguire out-coach Smith in '77 in ATL , and get his Warriors ahead so Phil Ford couldn't run that hated Four Corners stall game; I was hoping the Hoosiers could also maintain a lead so Smith could not go into that stall. It all worked thanks to two fellas named Thomas, one from Florida and one from Chicago. Dale Brown became a favorite of mine, giving the press boys plenty to write about, but IU subdued LSU methodically. NC was just plain better than Virginia, setting up Monday. Then Reagan was shot by Hinckley on Monday, but the game went on. As I recall Indiana had lost seven games that season, but yes indeed, they had jelled in March. Isiah left school for the pros, and a new team hit the hardwoods that fall, 1981.

  2. Great memories. If I recall Indiana was ranked in the top five early in the season then slumped in January and dropped out of the top 25. Hardly anyone thought they'd make much of a dent by the time the tournament rolled around.