This column appeared in the Arizona Daily Sun.
March 21, 2002
Headline: Riding the roller coaster with Indiana coach Mike Davis
By Ed Odeven
Thursday night’s shocking, game-ending sequence in the Duke-Indiana showdown was a startling reminder of what’s great about sports.
Indiana coach Mike Davis’ last-minute emotional roller-coaster was one for the ages.
There was Davis burying his head in disbelief after All-American point guard Jason Williams was fouled while nailing a three-point basket. The shot pulled Duke within 74-73 with 4.2 seconds to go.
Immediately, Davis’ disappointment was apparent as tears filled his eyes, and he paced over to the sideline and looked like he was trying to hide, trying to get as far away from Lexington, Ky., as possible. (At that moment, it seemed that Hokkaido’s Snow Festival in Japan would’ve been a better place to be.)
But remember, the free-throw line is called a charity stripe, and sometimes that charity goes to the team that isn’t shooting. And Williams, destined to be a Top 5 selection in this summer’s NBA draft, has one glaring weakness: free-throw shooting. Again, that was apparent last night.
Williams stepped to the line to attempt a game-tying shot — his only free-throw attempt of the evening. Williams missed; but teammate Carlos Boozer grabbed the rebound and his putback attempt was no good. Boozer, another probable NBA lottery selection, went 7-for-9 before that potential game-winning shot.
As the final buzzer sounded, Davis raced onto the court and jumped for joy, capping a wild turn of events that sent his heart beating faster than an Al MacInnis slapshot.
In just his second year as Indiana’s head coach, Davis has taken the Hoosiers to the Elite Eight. Give the man his due. Indiana has not made it this far in the NCAA Tournament since ’93, a horrendous drought for a program that expects to win every year. That’s what happens when a fellow named Bob Knight is running the program. In this case, Davis’ hiring was the best thing to happen to Hoosier Land in quit some time. As much as Knight meant to IU, the last years of his controversial tenure were marred by temper tantrums and early-tourney exits.
I don’t feel sorry for Duke, but I wonder how this loss will affect Williams. Some players never recover from being “the goat.” Ex-Phillies closer Mitch Williams immediately comes to mind. Others recover and are better than ever, such as the Yanks’ fireballing right-hander Mariano Rivera.
Duke is always a threat to win it. No matter how many stars depart for the NBA this summer, I still expect the Blue Devils to be a team to be reckoned with next season.
As ex-NFL coaching legend George Allen once said, “Every time you win, you’re reborn. When you lose, you die a little.”
If anything, the Hoosier program has been revived.
Before the opening tipoff, Davis told his players, “Let’s go shock the world.”
The Hoosiers did. And maybe, finally, Davis has earned the respect of Hoosier fans who were yearning for the “good-ol’ days.” Wake up, those days are now.