by Andy Weddington
Monday, 20 March 2017
Show class, have pride, and display character. If you do, winning takes care of itself. Paul Bryant
Reared in the Piedmont of North Carolina, passion about basketball I get. Fanaticism is more like it.
In truth, I don't know that I ever fully recovered from North Carolina's (UNC) loss to UCLA in the 1968 national championship game.
I remember it as if yesterday. Still at least a couple years from being a teenager I was allowed to stay up past bedtime (night game on west coast) to watch - what proved to be not a close game.
Disappointing. A hero of youth, Larry Miller (44), was not superman.
More so than the score, what I remember to this day is the class of UCLA head coach John Wooden. He did not pace the sidelines hollering instructions to players. He did not rant and yell at the officials. Rather, he sat on the bench and watched the game. He was thinking what next to do. And during timeouts he taught.
Might that be the reason his teams won? And won. And won. National championships - year after year after year.
The Wizard of Westwood - John Wooden.
And UNC's head coach, Dean Smith, went on to become a wizard (of the hardwood) in his own right.
Since Thursday past I've watched a little basketball.
Passion tempered, I want to see competitive games; no matter the teams. More so I want to see coaches who behave and teach (like Coach Wooden). Mostly, I want to see sportsmanship - particularly in the face of agonizing defeat.
I watched a little PGA golf over the weekend, too.
What if the sportsmanship, expected and offered, in golf, of the PGA (too full of passionate athletes and families driven to win) carried over to NCAA basketball?
This morning I read about some shocking court-side behavior during a game.
The poor behavior, lack of sportsmanship, not coming from a head coach, assistant coach, player, nor run-of-the-mill fan.
No sir, the bad actor was the wife of a head coach.
Ironically, the head coach of the Wichita State University Shockers.
The Shockers lost - 62-65 - to the Kentucky Wildcats.
Apparently, the game was too much for head coach Gregg Marshall's wife Lynn.
Her loud, profanity-laced mouth - targeting players, coaches, and refs - necessitated security intervene. She was escorted from prime court-side seating.
Photographs of her, clad in a Wichita State basketball jersey, accompanying articles are all over the Internet.
Was she sober? Not according to some reporters present who were tweeting about her.
So, there's at least something in extenuation and mitigation but not alibi for defense.
Might there have been something else, not reported, going on?
Is this the sort of publicity that benefits any university on the national stage?
One would think not. And hope not.
What's between Mr. and Mrs. Marshall is their business.
But it's entertaining to imagine what Wichita State's President, John Bardo, might have to say to Coach Marshall ...
"Coach, we're all passionate about and proud of our basketball team. Congratulations on a terrific season and for getting us into the tournament. Those young men, your team - champions indeed - made us all proud to be Shockers. Now, our university was counting on this national exposure to boost our image and recruiting efforts but I'm certain your wife's, shall we say, unrestrained passion during the Kentucky game was not part of our publicity master plan. So let's remember who we are, what we stand for, and why we are here at Wichita State. Looking forward to big things next season. Thank you for your work."
Jim Courier's thought sums the matter up ...
"Sportsmanship, for me, is when a guy walks off the court and you really can't tell whether he won or lost, when he carries himself with pride either way."
Well, that goes for players, coaches, fans, and yes, even wives of coaches.
It's also known as professionalism, class, example, character and leadership. Coach Paul "Bear" Bryant knew a bit about those things. His (football) teams at the University of Alabama won.
Back to the opening ...
The UNC Tarheels play on. Still a fan, I'll follow them. If they make the championship game, I'll stay up late to watch, pray, just as in 1968, for a win, and win or lose behave with civility.
After all, it's a game.