SIOUX CITY – Dr. Naismith, I presume?
Tack up a peach basket somewhere and …
Pretty soon, it’s Jimmy Chitwood forlornly shooting free throws at a basket with its noisy chain net eerily breaking the bleak silence.
It’s so many others, shall we dare say, dancing down that yellow brick road.
It’s the American way, Oz never giving nothing to the Tin Man … that he didn’t already own in the paint.
It’s not -- in the year two thousand and 18 – just Kansas anymore.
It’s the fiercely loyal out-of-the-way hamlet of Lamoni, Iowa, that’s already reached the Emerald City.
It’s a wonderful story, with poetic license here, about players with lifted heads singing so proud to be alive so cunning, bold and yes, wrecking even butchering everyone’s bracket.
Yes, March Madness existed even before it was merely march madness.
That said, you might be interested in hoop dreams of Graceland University, Loyola of Chicago, Kansas State, national tournaments in Our Town, even the bad dreams of No. 2s losing to No. 15s.
- Last week, Graceland University, which lost a November game to Briar Cliff, won the NAIA Division I national championship in men’s basketball.
The Yellowjackets defeated LSU-Alexandria 83-80 on a buzzer-beating 3-pointer in overtime of the title game in Kansas City’s Municipal Auditorium.
Graceland is coached by Morningside graduate Craig Doty, a self-professed bench-warmer for Coach Jim Sykes, but obviously, a keen observer of the game from his outpost well down the line from coach’s chair, but not that far from Sykes, who intensely roams the sideline.
Doty’s particular odyssey began as a celebrated high school athlete in Alcester, South Dakota.
“I was actually recruited by Coach (Steve) Ryan to play football at Morningside, but that didn’t work out and I’ve always loved basketball,’’ remembers Doty, a member of Morningside’s Great Plains Athletic Conference title team and national qualifier in 2008-09.
“Graceland winning this championship is a tribute to the hard work of our players, our administration, my coaches and the community of Lamoni,’’ praises Doty, whose coaching career commenced with a one-year stay as Akron-Westfield’s boys coach in 2009-10. “The crowd for the championship game at Municipal Auditorium was 6,377 and I’d proudly say 3,000 of them were from Graceland and our little burg has a population of 2,300.’’
Graceland, as you’re aware, is not only the alma mater of Olympic decathlon champ Bruce (now Caitlyn) Jenner, but Tom McCracken, Morningside’s men’s basketball coach in the old NCAA Division II days from 1986-90, going 45-66 in four seasons.
Lamoni, named after a king in the Book of Morman, is a town without street lights and has a large Amish population. Yes, buggy’s have the right of way in the Decatur County community just north of the Missouri line.
After Doty’s freshman year at Morningside he transferred to Minnesota West Community College, then returned to Sioux City as a junior.
The junior college experience took a grip.
After his prep stint made a couple more stops, one at Central Wyoming and then became the head coach at Rock Valley College, a junior college in Rockford, Illinois.
Now, he’s already experienced three “shining moments.’’
At Rock Valley he guided the program to three NJCAA Division III national championship games, winning two titles. Now, one year after a getting his feet on the ground at Graceland he has produced national title in his second season.
“Craig Doty is obviously a driven young man,’’ said Morningside’s Sykes. “His success shows that. Even though he didn’t play much for us he had a great sense of the game.
“We preach ‘team’ and it appears that he’s learned the value of team, too.’’
- Loyola’s surprising, to some, run to the Elite Eight of the Division I national tournament should remind one and all of the school winning the national title in 1963, spoiling Cincinnati’s bid for a third straight title, 60-58 in overtime.
The Chicago school’s story is a heart-warming one with Cinderella verse.
The school has what some might call a patron saint in 98-year-old nun Sister Jean Schmidt, a basketball fanatic and superstar charm and charmer whose prayers seem to be answered.
Going into a game Saturday with another upstart, Kansas State, Loyola had won three tourney games by four points.
- The “Game of Change’’ that Loyola won in 1963 is a bit historically flawed.
It was notable in that it supposedly broke the so-called “gentlemen’s agreement’’ among coaches and institutions that meant that no more than two (three on occasion) black players would be on the floor for a team at the same time.
Loyola’s four black starters were Jerry Harkness, Les Hunter, Vic Rouse, Ron Miller and Jerry Harkness. John Egan rounded out a starting lineup that went the distance. No subs.
The 6-foot-7 Rouse tipped in the 6-7 Hunter’s shot from close range to win it.
However, just the year before, in 1962 in the title game in Louisville, champion Cincinnati also started four black players – Paul Hogue, George Wilson, Tony Yates and Tom Thacker – in beating Ohio State.
After Texas Western’s historical lineup of five black starters changed social structure in 1966 with an upset of Kentucky it took until 1980 for another title-game starting lineup of African-Americans to appear when Louisville opened with Rodney McCray, Derek Smith, Wiley Brown, Jerry Eaves and Darrell Griffith in a triumph over UCLA.
But, in 1974 Marquette Coach Al McGuire started five black players –Bo Ellis, Maurice Lucas, Earl Tatum, Lloyd Walton and Marcus Washington in a championship game loss to North Carolina State.
McGuire also established history by being the only coach ever ejected in the finals after drawing two technical fouls.
- Iowa State should send a thank-you note to the University of Maryland Baltimore County.
Why? The Retreivers let the Cyclones (and a few others) off the hook of NCAA tournament embarrassment.
In a 2001 West Region opener Coach Larry Eustacy’s second-seeded Cyclones lost a postseason opener to the No. 15 seed, Hampton (Va.) in Boise, Idaho, 58-57.
Several days ago Baltimore County became the first No. 16 seed to ever win a tourney game over a No. 1 seed, Virginia, in the 64-68 qualifying era that began in 1985.
Along with the ISU stunner there have been seven other 15-2 upsets including Richmond-Syracuse (1991), Santa Clara-Arizona (1993), Coppin State-South Carolina (1997), Norfolk State-Missouri (2012), Lehigh-Duke (2012), Florida Gulf Coast-Georgetown (2013) and Middle Tennessee-Michigan State (2016).
In all cases the No. 15 lost its next game as did UMBC.