BEST TOURNAMENT EVER

By Dave Barend

Here’s an actual email that I received at about 4:30 p.m. on March 12, 2020: “Dave, are you alive?” . . . You see, the cancellation of the NCAA Tournament had just been announced. And I’m a little nutty for the Tournament. You know, much like Bill Nye is a “little nutty” for science

(This article was first published by Basketball Times as “Avenging The Grinch who stole the NCAA Tournament” – 5/2020)

Here’s an actual email that I received at about 4:30 p.m. on March 12, 2020:

“Dave, are you alive?”

In case you are wondering, the answer was yes. I’m not sure what the expected response would have been had the answer been no.

But within minutes my inbox became filled with similar concerns for my mental well-being.

“Dave, are you catatonic – like Ferris Bueller’s friend Cameron?”

You see, the cancellation of the NCAA Tournament had just been announced. And I’m a little nutty for the Tournament. You know, much like Bill Nye is a “little nutty” for science.

For example, as an attorney I filed many motions to continue cases due to a “religious obligation”. I failed to mention that the “religious obligation” was actually the NCAA Tournament. I swear that is true. Unless you are a member of the Board of Bar Overseers, then I swear it’s not true. 

The Tournament is, without question, a holiday in my house. My daughters say it’s second only to Christmas. They are wrong. It’s number one.

We actually exchange gifts and decorate every inch of the house with wall-sized brackets. My neighbors can’t understand why we take the time to put them up. Whereas I can’t understand why we ever take them down.

My daughter once wrote in her first grade class journal, “This weekend we will be celebrating Selection Sunday.” But her teacher did not follow college hoops. So that Monday we received a call. “This is social services.  Have you joined a cult?”

Then that damn COVID-19 hit. 

As I sat nearly comatose, my youngest daughter tugged on my shirt.

“Daddy, why don’t we be like the Whos?”

“Huh, I do like The Who.”

“No the Whos”

“Whose what?”

“Not what, Whos.  You know, from Who-ville.”

“Where?”

Clearly I should have added “First base.” But instead, like the stellar parent I am, I said, “What the hell are you talking about?”

“Don’t you remember Who-ville and the Grinch who stole Christmas from the Whos?”

“I’m really not in the mood . . .

“Well the coronavirus is kind of like the Grinch, and we could be like the Whos.”

Then all of a sudden I had a wonderful idea – we could be like the Whos!

(With apologies to Dr. Seuss  . . .)

            To heck with that Grinch called COVID-1

We’ll have the best Tournament the world’s ever seen!

            Yeah there’s no brackets, which is quite a pity.

            But we’ll be our very own selection committee!

            We’ll come up with something that’ll be fun you’ll see

            And it will keep our minds off the lack of TP.

            It’ll be a big party, one hell of a bash.

            But don’t tell Mom I ate the last can of Who-hash.

            Now let’s put up decorations to get in the mood

            And prepare for the arrival of the Selection Sunday Dude.

Uh Dave, what’s the Selection Sunday Dude? 

As I’ve told my daughters many times, the Selection Sunday Dude brings presents to children every year. But not to all of them, just the good ones. 

You know, who watch no less than 8 college basketball games per week.  And most importantly, they have to live in my house. 

See, he’s much like Santa. But instead of coming on Christmas Eve in a sleigh colored red, he comes on Selection Sunday Eve in a van that says Amazon.

And come he did with gifts, all college and basketball related, piled under our Fisher Price hoop. This led my wife to openly question whether the Selection Sunday Dude stuck to his budget. No. No he did not.

But we had gifts and were quite happy, just like those Whos from Who-ville.

“Uh Dave, weren’t the Whos from Who-ville happy even though they had no gifts?”

That makes no sense.

So I started calling my girls Cindy Lou 1 and Cindy Lou 2. (There may be evidence that I need to reread some Dr. Seuss.) 

I then told them that just like the Whos from Who-ville sang “Welcome Christmas” we should sing “Welcome Selection Sunday.” I got them started. 

“Fahoo fores dahoo dores . . .” 

And then they did what they do best –  ignored me.

The real gift on Selection Sunday, however, has always been the revealing of the bracket of 68 teams. So I came up with another wonderful idea. A wonderful, amazing idea: I’ll create a way to play all the games in a bracket that I’ll make myself! The response from my family was unanimous.  

“That’s an awful idea.” 

A wonderful, awful, idea? 

“No, a completely awful idea!”

Apparently they all wanted to participate. This led to another family holiday tradition – fighting.

Cindy Lou 1: Iowa should have a much better seed.

Cindy Lou 2: Can you even spell Iowa?

I stopped the fight there because I feared a response of no.

We were all able to agree to include our favorite teams. I chose my alma mater, St. Bonaventure. My wife chose hers – that other Catholic school, you know, in South Bend. My daughters also chose St. Bonaventure, you know, because they love their dad.

Then we concocted a way to actually play the games with dice and with team cards that note the results of each possession.

“Uh Dave, that sounds a lot like Dungeons and Dragons.”

No. Dungeons and Dragons was a game dorks played with dice that determined the results of . .  Ok, maybe it was a little bit like Dungeons and Dragons.

Though actually it was more akin to the old Strat-O-Matic or APBA baseball games. My mom always thought I was wasting time. Little did she know that 25 years later I’d use what I learned from those games to, well, waste more time.

But first, we had to fill out the brackets. This very much confused my wife.

“Why would we fill them out before we play?”

“Because making the picks is the fun.”

“What about the games?”

“Well that’ll be fun too.”

“That’s good to know because I was afraid that playing 60-some games might just be insane.”

After I finished my brilliant bracket, I took a peak at my wife’s picks. I tried not to scoff when I saw she had New Mexico State besting Dayton in round 2. I should have tried harder.

“You do realize that Dayton has Obi Toppin?”

“You do realize that Obi Toppin will not be rolling the dice?”

My wife then made another seemingly keen observation.

“This basketball game you’ve created appears to be missing something – basketball.”

“Have no fear. The Selection Sunday Dude has us covered!”

I pulled out a huge stack of brand new basketball movie DVDs. You name it, the Selection Sunday Dude brought it: Hoosiers, Fast Break, White Men Can’t Jump, and even Slam Dunk Ernest.

“Did the Selection Sunday Dude know that we could have watched them all for free on Prime and Netflix?”

No. No, he did not.

But it was time to let the first play in game begin which pitted my beloved St. Bonaventure Bonnies against my wife’s Notre Dame Something-or-other. ND really needs to a get a more memorable and masculine nickname, you know, like Bonnies.

It did not go well. Before the first half ended the Bonnies trailed by 25 points. Reports that I accused my wife of cheating are not wholly unfounded.

I will, however, dispute any assertion that I overreacted when she rolled the dice off the table. See, she has a history of doing so at a place where doing so is frowned upon – Vegas.

Yes, she rolled the dice off a craps table, and not once, but twice in a row. Well it turns out that when someone rolls the dice off a craps table in Vegas – twice – the pit boss and security will promptly arrive. And when they asked her who she was working with the correct response was nobody. Yet she opted to point at me.

Unfortunately, my dice rolling proficiency was not assisting my Bonnies. Mid-way through the second half, ND still led by 20. We desperately needed a stop. So I did the only logical thing – I looked my wife dead in the eye, stood up, and slapped my hands on the floor.

“What is wrong with you?”

“You’d think someone from Notre Dame wouldn’t have to ask obvious questions.”

And then the Bonnies went on a roll. (Pun not intended or even noticed until the third rewrite.)

After draining three on top of three, St. Bonaventure made the greatest comeback in the history of the NCAA Tournament – Dice Version. My daughters and I broke into a raucous and Purell-less round of high-fives.

            Yet the joy miraculously continued somehow, someway

            For Villanova and Auburn, the Bonnies would also slay.

            They then beat KU and UK to make the Final Four.

            “Unbelievable!” my girls yelled. “Have they ever been there before?”

            “Only one time prior.” I said with much glee.

            It’s time to party like it’s 1970!

            They then made it past Baylor to face mighty Duke.

            The pressure was too much, I thought I would  . . .

            (If only there was a word that rhymed with Duke.)

            Though the Bonnies would try, it would all be for naught.

            Yeah that’s exactly what I originally thought.

            But somehow, someway St. Bonaventure proved too strong.

            Because, as my wife likes to say, I’m often wrong.

            Shouting, “They won! They won!” we ran upstairs and slid down railings.

            I then said sorry to my wife for Selection Sunday Dude’s budgetary failings.

            She simply gave me a kiss and said, “Whatever.             Honey, this has been the best Tournament ever.”

DAN DAKICH IS BETTER THAN TAYLOR SWIFT

By Dave Barend

I’m guessing you may have a couple questions like: “Why on Earth would anyone compare Dan Dakich and Taylor Swift?” Or, “Who the hell is Dan Dakich?” Well, the answers to those questions, as well as indisputable proof that Dakich is better than Swift, can be found below – I think.

I’m guessing you may have a couple questions like: “Why on Earth would anyone compare Dan Dakich and Taylor Swift?” Or, “Who the hell is Dan Dakich?” Well, the answers to those questions, as well as indisputable proof that Dakich is better than Swift, can be found below – I think.

So you know that great feeling when you’re driving and a song you love comes on the radio? Today that feeling did not find its way to me. A song stared to play, I soon found it unbearable, and I changed the channel. This brought on immediate mutiny from my two teenage daughters. “Dad! That’s Taylor Swift!” “Who?” No, I didn’t ask that. I instead opted to avoid a cavalcade of disbelief.

“Come on Dad, who would you rather listen to?” They then mockingly added, “Dan Dakich?” At that point the feeling I had was, of course – pride. Yes, pride: I have two daughters who know who Dan Dakich is! I think this is the same kind of pride that normal parents feel when their kids come home with straight A’s. Yeah, they might not know the pythagorean theorem or the capital of South Dakota, but my girls know their college hoops. Now I just need to explain to them the obvious: Dan Dakich is better than Taylor Swift. (drop a rung)

Though first, I may need to explain to any of you non-college hoops nuts who Dan Dakich is. He played his college ball for Indiana, then became the head coach of Bowling Green, and is currently an analyst for ESPN. Now, if I need to explain who Taylor Swift is, well, you should probably think about selling that real estate you own under a rock. Anyway, here are the reasons why Dan Dakich is better than Taylor Swift.

Dan Dakich Has A Better Voice Than Taylor Swift.

Yes, that might seem like a tough contention to make. Taylor Swift has a whopping 10 Grammys, and Dakich has, well, let’s say, been snubbed. But to be clear, I’m not comparing singing accomplishments, just voice. And I steadfastly maintain that Dan Dakich’s voice is better. He kind of goes from low pitch to high pitch, and slow to fast when making a point. That’s an unquestionably enjoyable and quite distinctive cadence, “‘I’m telling ya”, as Dakich would say. Then there’s Taylor Swift’s voice which I have found far from distinctive. And I support this claim with quotes from other conversations with my daughters:

Me: “Is this Taylor Swift?”

Daughters: “No Dad. It’s Selena Gomez.”

Me: “Is this Taylor Swift?

Daughters: “No Dad. It’s Ariana Grande.”

Me: “Is this Taylor Swift?”

Daughters: “No Dad.  It’s Justin Bieber.”

Dan Dakich Provides Better Words Of Wisdom Than Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift seems to have lots to say about ex-boyfriends. I, however, have no ex-boyfriends. My daughters have no ex-boyfriends or boyfriends either, well, as far as I know. I assume they don’t, and as a good dad, I ignore any possible evidence to the contrary. So Taylor Swift’s words are of no use to me.

Dan Dakich, in contrast, has said so many wise things he should be called college basketball’s Confucius.  Amongst the pearls he has dropped are: “Ball don’t lie,” “He’s tough on tough”, “Water finds its level”, and “If the dog didn’t stop and take a dump he would have caught the rabbit.” I’m nearly certain that no such nuggets of wisdom can be found in any Taylor Swift lyric.

Dan Dakich Is Funnier Than Taylor Swift

There’s no denying that Dan Dakich can be really funny. He once proclaimed, “Including my own kids, I wouldn’t listen to anyone in their 20s”. While talking about college baseball coach, Erik Bakich, he said, “He’s one letter from the greatest name ever.” But my favorite was when he complimented Michigan’s John Teske’s soft hands by claiming, “He uses Jergens.” There’s no doubt Teske’s friends found another meaning.

I must admit that Taylor Swift does have two lines that absolutely crack me up: “Hey kids, spelling is fun” and “To the fella over there with the hella good hair.” Unfortunately, I can’t tell you the lines that follow those. I’m always laughing so hard I never hear what comes next. 

Dan Dakich Is Classier Than Taylor Swift

A contention could be made that Dan Dakich can be slightly caustic at times. He may have pushed an envelope or two, and arguably said a few things that could be considered less than appropriate for polite company – all of which I love, by the way. But I have never heard him utter one of the most vile, offensive and disgusting words in the English language – that, of course is the word “lover.” When you introduce someone as your “lover” you aren’t just saying this is my boyfriend/girlfriend. You’re saying this is the person I’m doing it with. “Hey, have you met my lover, you know, my bang buddy.” I mean, if you use the word lover, you might as well follow it up with all of the positions you just used. Dan Dakich is simply too classy to use that word. (And his wife, a former college softball coach, would likely clock him with a Louisville Slugger if he did so.)

Taylor Swift, however, not only says the word lover regularly, she sings it in a song grotesquely entitled – “Lover”. What makes it even worse is that my girls are now singing a song entitled “Lover”. And as a guy who can’t even picture his daughters with a boyfriend, I sure as hell don’t want to envision them with a “lover”.

And there you have the reasons why Dan Dakich is better than Taylor Swift.

Sorry about that, Taylor. Might I suggest you just shake it off? Though maybe not with your lover.

Finally, I must concede that my super-mega-Swiftie daughters, who have begged Santa for tickets to see you (again!!), remain unconvinced of Dan Dakich’s superiority. In fact, I’m pretty sure that they’d even take you over Santa – especially if he doesn’t come through with those tickets. But if they are going to feel that way about anyone other than their dear old dad, (or, of course, Dan Dakich) I’m happy it’s you.

Merry Christmas and “sweet dreams of holly and ribbon”.

Post Christmas Postscript

Moments after the opening of the last “big gift”, the house became filled with screams of two teenage girls. “We’re going to Taylor Swift! We’re going to Taylor!”  If only Santa had filled my stocking with Advil.

A few hours later while I tried to find the living room under a pile of used wrapping paper, my oldest said, “Thank you again for the Taylor Swift tickets.” “No problem.”   Yeah, that’s right – I lie to my kids. “Well I know you spent a lot of money on them, Dad.” Hmm. we now have another reason why Dan Dakich is better than Taylor Swift  – Dan Dakich is free!

She then asked, “Why didn’t you get Final 4 tickets instead?” “Well, because the gift was for you not me.” Though I understand her confusion seeing that my big gift from her mother was a new duvet cover.

“But we could have done both.” “Honey, right now we just can’t afford to do both.” “Didn’t you know that Taylor Swift is going to the Final 4 to do a concert that and the best part is it will be FREE.” I’m not sure what happened next because once I heard FREE, I passed out. But I have a faint recollection of hearing my girls say, “Dad. Come on Dad. Shake it off.”

(Note to Dan Dakich:  Sincere thanks for the really kind words about this article on Twitter. I’ll continue trying to get my wife and daughters to adopt the Dakich family motto of “Sack Up.” It’s clearly better than Shake It Off.)

GREG KAMPE: PASSIONATELY PURSUING THE TEAM SPORT OF LIFE

By Dave Barend

Prior to my interview with Oakland University’s Coach Greg Kampe, College Insider provided a bit of instruction: Delve into how his team was a lock for the NCAAs until some of his best players unexpectedly and devastatingly transferred. Geesh, it seems like the subject of transfers might not be Coach Kampe’s favorite.

By Dave Barend

(This article was first published by CollegeInsider.)

Prior to my interview with Oakland University’s Coach Greg Kampe, College Insider provided a bit of instruction: Delve into how his team was a lock for the NCAAs until some of his best players unexpectedly and devastatingly transferred. Geesh, it seems like the subject of transfers might not be Coach Kampe’s favorite.

My guess is it would be easier to ask how he felt during his latest colonoscopy. Or maybe as an icebreaker I could start with, “Let’s talk about the day your dog ran away.”

Turns out I forgot another thing that College Insider mentioned – Greg Kampe is a great guy. Within minutes we formed a plan: Mix some intriguing ways to deal with the transfer issue within fun-filled facts about his life and times for a hopefully entertaining read. Here goes.

I learned that Greg Kampe cares about, well, what he cares about, and he cares about that quite passionately. Like important things such as – Dr. Pepper.

While heading to his team’s shoot around at Green Bay, he saw a pallet full of Dr. Pepper and reacted as if he just happened upon the Mona Lisa. Such a sight compelled him not only to take a picture but post it on Twitter so as to best share the apparently indescribable beauty. Who stops to photograph Dr. Pepper, other than maybe Mrs. Pepper? Coach Kampe, that’s who. Someone responded to his tweet by asking, “How’s the shoot around going?” He replied, “Don’t know.  I’m loading Dr. Pepper on the bus.”

Among the coach’s passions, you know, other than Dr. Pepper, are his family, friends, sports, school and, of course, his players. Then there’s the transfer issue. Yeah, he cares about that too.

—————————————————–

TRANSFER MESS SOLUTION #1 

Somewhat Serious Idea:

The school getting the player must pay a “buy out fee” to the school losing the player. Though Coach Kampe came up with this idea well before our interview, I swore to him I had the same exact thought. At no point did he say he’d like to share the credit.

Hopefully Humorous Idea:

Have every player who wants to transfer enter a tournament. America loves a good tournament. But it won’t be basketball It’ll be Hunger Games.

——————————————————

Coach Kampe grew up in Defiance, Ohio, which he has quite proudly labeled, “the point guard capital of the world.” When pressed to defend that assertion he said, “You see, nobody in Defiance is over 6 foot tall. So it has to be the point guard capital of the world.” And there you have a passionate defense of his hometown with indisputable logic.

Another native of Defiance, Ohio is Jessicka Havok – a 6 foot, 240 pound professional female wrestler. I asked the coach what his strategy would be if he had to wrestle her. Without missing a beat he said, “Run.”

Back in high school, however, his answer would have been a little different. He excelled at and loved basketball, football, track and pretty much all sports. In fact it appears the only thing he was more passionate about than sports was himself.

“I wanted attention before it was vogue.  I used to wear a towel.”

“You’d wear a towel?”

“Yeah, I’d wear a towel.”

“What if the towel fell . . .?”

As I began that question I recalled another directive from College Insider – don’t write anything that could offend anyone. So I opted to stop. I’m sure you’d like to know the answer. And I’m even more sure that I don’t want to get fired.

I did attempt to bond by noting that I also ran track – long distance in high school, but the 400 in college. I explained that my coach moved me to the 400 to, well, substantially decrease chances that I’d get lapped. Kampe then informed me of his time in the 400 which led to a shock-induced silence. “Holy crap, I think you could have actually lapped me in the 400.”

“Nah.” he said, “But back then I did think I was Hercules.” And there you have the first time anyone has referred to themselves as Hercules and been modest.

He got recruited to play football, basketball and track by colleges such as Michigan, Michigan State and Notre Dame. Heck, Kentucky even recruited him to do the decathlon – and he had never even done the decathlon. All of a sudden every high school decathlete who never got recruited, now feels a little bit worse.

He chose Bowling Green because they’d let him play both football and basketball. Yes, that’s right he was Neon Deion before Deion Sanders. He was Bo Knows before Bo Jackson. Fame and fortune should have been his too. Oh, if only there was a decent word that rhymed with Greg.

One other little problem existed – he stood a mere 5 foot, 9 inches. While considering legitimate NFL free agent offers, he apparently looked in the mirror and decided to go another direction. (Note my deft decision not to revisit the towel issue.)

———————————————

TRANSFER SOLUTION #2

Somewhat Serious Idea:

Decrease the number of graduate transfers by not letting player red-shirt.

Hopefully Humorous Idea:

Decrease the number of graduate transfers by not letting players graduate.

——————————————-

Kampe chose a path that required a new passion – others. Coaching in college he says, “is about turning 18-year-old boys to 23-year-old men.” I should clarify that he did not specifically reference Boyz II Men. But I still blame him for the three days that “MotownPhilly” ran through my head.

At the mere age of 28 he became the head coach at Oakland. And for a whopping 36 years he has thrown his heart into his mission as a “maker of men.” Though with three sons, he might consider ceding that title to his wife.

He recalled when one of his players got in a fight during a game they lost at Valparaiso. On the way home, the team stopped for dinner at a Hardees. (Not sure if that’s because they lost.) While in line, Coach Kampe explained to this player that he can’t act that way if he wants to be respected. Then the teenager behind the Hardee’s counter looked at the player and exclaimed, “Wow! Aren’t you the guy who just beat the crap out of someone on Valpo?”

He also had a player who had lost the love for basketball, and voluntarily gave up his scholarship. Weeks passed and Kampe convinced the player to just come back and practice with the team. And wouldn’t you know – the kid’s love for basketball returned, all because Coach Kampe didn’t give up on this yet-to-be-a-man. “Or maybe he realized that college is expensive”, the coach deadpanned.

But wait there’s more . . . Fast forward to the final seconds of the conference championship game, and this player has the ball in his hands. What the heck kind of a coach has a player leave the team and then even lets that guy back on the floor? A coach taking Oakland to its first NCAA Tournament, that’s who.

Yup, the shot went in. So I asked Coach Kampe, “When you close your eyes and think of that moment, what do you see?” The smiles on his players faces? Tears in the eyes of his family? “I see myself swearing at my manager who was running on the floor, preening for ESPN, with a second still on the damn clock.”

—————————————————-

TRANSFER SOLUTION #3

Somewhat Serious Solution: 

The transfer portal needs to be altered so that coaches are not finding out that a player wants to transfer while sitting on a beach drinking a nice Dr. Pepper.

Or, as Coach Kampe more succinctly put it, “Get rid of the damn transfer portal and go back to the way it was.” 

Hopefully Humorous Solution: 

Change the transfer portal to a transfer port-a-potty. Any kid who wants to transfer must enter a port-a-potty and stay there until another team picks him. Coach Kampe wanted it known that this idea was not his. And I want it known that this idea made him laugh.

—————————————————

Kampe readily admits that not every coaching decision has been stellar. There may be evidence that his first year he got a technical or two. Or three or . . . “I think I had like 16.”

Then there’s the alleged incident at a school we’ll just call Nameless State. After OU fell behind by 6 at half, both teams discovered their abutting locker rooms were locked. This, by the way, would never happen at Oakland where Kampe knows all of the janitors. “It pays to know the guys with the keys.”

Anyway, the Nameless State’s coach decided to lambaste his own team for only being ahead by 6 against a team that stinks. Yes, all within arms length and earshot of everyone on Oakland. When finally inside the locker room, Kampe implored his players to go and kick Nameless State’s ass. Then he added, “And after you do – I’m going to kick that coach’s ass!”

Turns out his team managed to keep their end of the bargain. Kampe’s assistants tried hard to explain that this would be one of those situations where breaking a promise was ok. So when it came time to shake hands, Coach Kampe politely

pointed his finger at the coach and said, “If you ever . . .” Cut to black. What? Yup, the game tape stopped right about there.

Coach Kampe could neither confirm nor deny that he had a copy of the full tape. I guess this missing footage will simply go down in history with Zapruder and Nixon.

So has Coach Kampe’s passion sometimes gotten the best of him? Sure. But it seems as if he’s learned to achieve balance, so to speak, with another passion: about things he does not care. Huh? Yes, there are things about which he passionately does not care. The guy is a walking, talking paradox. Imagine being the poor fool who tries to write an article about him.

Now, for example, he passionately does not care about his appearance. Which has worked out fine for him since he has made not one but two lists of Sexiest Div1 Coaches. And both of those accolades came with a post-towel wearing physique. He maintains that his sexiness comes from his “roundness.”

“I have a well-rounded figure. I laugh. I shake.” That’s right, he believes he’s sexy like Santa.

If you are sensing a bit of a self-deprecating sense of humor in Coach Kampe, you are wrong. There’s a huge self-deprecating sense of humor in Coach Kampe.

“Before I became a coach, I pretty much had my way in life. Coaching is humbling.” So to recap, he went from a semi-selfish boy to a pretty selfless man. Huh, sounds a lot like a path he preaches. Ok, all together now, “Boy II Men are going off . . .”

Coach Kampe’s own transformation has led him to passionately not care about something else – what other people think. “You know, there are coaches who sit in their offices until 2 a.m. not because they need to but solely because they want other people to think they are. That’s not me.” Instead, he feels quite comfortable walking around every Wednesday at 2pm in red, orange and blue shoes. I should probably clarify that he does so in a bowling alley. “I love it and I suck.” Did I mention he’s a paradox?

He also no longer seeks attention, especially for the massive amount of charity work he does. “I really don’t tell people about that.” Until then I was nearly convinced that Coach Kampe knew I was a person.

A large amount of that charity work is for the American Cancer Society. He has a brother with cancer, and lost a good friend to it this past May. He says his desire to help “came from tears and love.” It also ties in with his motto of “Life is a team sport.” A motto everyone should adopt, except maybe a tollbooth worker.

——————————————–

TRANSFER SOLUTION #4

Somewhat Serious Solution: 

Give the coach the opportunity to convince the kid to stay.  “Let me have the chance to explain that life is a team sport. The way the NCAA has it, I can’t do my job of turning these kids into men. I need show them that the grass is not always greener.” Coach Kampe did, however, concede that Erma Bombeck was right when she said that the grass is always greener – above a septic tank.

Hopefully Humorous Solution:

When a player transfers, hoping to find greener grass, they must reside at the new school above a septic tank. But before transferring, notice must be given to coaches, teammates and fans, who are also being abandoned. This notice will come in a packed area, and the very first words out of the player’s mouth must be, “I’ve decided to take my talents to  . . .”

——————————————

So that brings us to this year’s team. You know the one that was supposed to be incredible, until a bunch of players transferred. Coach says he’s not bitter, and I said I understand. At least I think I do.

I’m just going on a hunch here, but there’s a good chance that in a few years Coach Kampe is going to get a call from some of those players. And maybe just maybe they’ll say, “Hey Coach, I didn’t get it then, but now I do.” And I’d be willing to bet Coach Kampe says, “That’s ok kid, it took me a bit to get it too.”

What is abundantly clear is that he loves the players he has with a (come on, you’ve got this) – passion. Ten of them are brand new That’s a lot of guys who need to learn a new system. Most importantly, that’s a lot of guys who need to learn to love Dr. Pepper.

They are currently 8-15. That’s just one win short of the number the team had before its run to its first NCAA Tournament. You know, when a player who wasn’t even supposed to be on the floor made the game winning shot. Well this team has a whole bunch of players who weren’t even supposed to be on the team, let alone on the court. Yet the current odds of Oakland making the NCAAs are 4.6%. I’d say head to Caesar’s pronto before Vegas figures this out.

There is, however, a definite bright spot with this team, or more accurately with the managers. They are currently #16 in the country in college basketball managers team rankings. When asked how much credit he deserves for their success, Coach Kampe says, “All of it.” “Though they’ll claim they don’t even know my name.” Should they make it to the championship game, don’t count out the possibility of him running on the court with one second left.

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TRANSFER SOLUTION #5

Somewhat Serious Solution: 

“Adapt or die” says Coach Kampe and the door to his office He gives credit for this to Drexel Coach Zach Spiker. Though it seems very much like he’s going to try to treat the transfer mess like one other thing he passionately doesn’t care about.

Hopefully Humorous Idea: 

“Adapt or die” – yup same as above. But with some credit also going to Charles Darwin and the movie Heartbreak Ridge.

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When the great Al McGuire wanted to convey victory and happiness he’d reference his childhood in Rockaway Park and say “Seashells and Balloons.” So I asked Coach Kampe is there anything akin to that for you? “Nope – just Dr. Pepper.” I’m telling you, this guy cares about what he cares about, and he does so passionately.

MY QUEST FOR BILL RAFTERY’S “ONIONS”

By Dave Barend

I should clarify that Bill Raftery does not have onions. Well, he does, but not real ones. Actually he does have real onions, I think. How am I doing with the clarification?

I should clarify that Bill Raftery does not have onions. Well, he does, but not real ones. Actually he does have real onions, I think. How am I doing with the clarification?

Let me try it this way: Bill Raftery is definitely known for onions. But he’s not the onion version of Orville Reddenbacher. Nor is he some Onion King like Abe Froman, the Sausage King of Chicago. And also unlike Abe, he’s never been famously impersonated by Ferris Bueller.

But he has been impersonated by pretty much every single college basketball fan. You see, after playing for La Salle, he coached at Seton Hall which is of no relevance at all. He, however, went on to become CBS’ number one college basketball color commentator. That was due in large part to his multiple memorable and hilarious catch phrases such as “Get those puppies organized!” and “A little lingerie on the deck.”

The man’s more quotable than the movie “Airplane.”

Surely you can’t be serious?

I am serious, and please don’t call me Shirley.

It should be mentioned that he is beloved by America’s youth. It should also be mentioned that he’s pushing 77 years old. With that combination of popularity and age, he might consider a new catch phrase: “I’m running for President.”

Bill Raftery is truly a cross between Bernie Sanders and another aged star the kids adore – Betty White. Come to think of it, he also sort of looks like a cross between Bernie Sanders and Betty White.

So what the hell does this have to do with onions? Nothing. But it has a lot to do with “Onions!” – yet another Raftery-ism. And by “Onions!” he’s referring to a part of the male anatomy, well, two idential parts that are, shall we say private and . . . Oh hell, he means testicles. Especially the ones needed to make a pressure packed shot, you know, large ones.

This requires further immediate clarification. I am not on a quest for Bill Raftery’s “Onions.”

But StreakerSports.com sells a line Bill Raftery shirts including his “Onions!” t-shirt that I do very much want. Again, just to be clear, I have no desire for a shirt depicting Bill Raftery’s testicles. No offense, Bill. I do want the one on Streaker Sports that has a basketball hoop and onions – the non-testicle vegetable style. 

Unfortunately, I did not make this sufficiently clear to my wife. She got me one that has nothing on it other than the word onions. Seriously, I own a shirt emblazoned with O-N-I-O-N-S. Apparently she thought I’d like to be a walking billboard for Bird’s Eye. I mean, every time I wear the thing I feel like I should get a commission from the Jolly Green Giant.

This does not happen when I wear my Bill Raftery’s “Send It In Jerome” t-shirt. This, of course, is his quote of a call he made after a slam by Jerome Lane – in 1988. Maybe I shouldn’t have gone with “of course.”

But what makes the shirt special are the rare occasions when a person recognizes it. Every once in a while someone will see my shirt, point, and chuckle. I’ll then nod, and explain to my wife that this guy’s reaction had nothing to do with the remnants of cheese doodles on my face.

“You should introduce yourself to him. You could become friends.”

I don’t want a friend; I want a t-shirt. He could have kids and then I’ll have to go to birthday parties, and graduations, and First Communions, and Bar Mitzvahs and, all right probably not both . . . And he could get divorced and I’ll have to help him move and talk about feelings, and be his wingman and . . . No! No! No! He and I currently have the perfect relationship – the three second head nod bond.

And I got to walk away with an enjoyable air of coolness. You know, that same coolness I had when I was the fist kid in school with a Han Solo action figure. Yeah, I might need a better understanding of cool.

My point is this great experience I get from my “Send It In Jerome” shirt never ever happens when I wear my shirt that just has the word onions on it. Heck, my wife might as well have bought me a shirt that says P-O-T-A-T-O-E-S!

And as opposed to Bill Raftery’s t-shirts, the t-shirt my wife got is way too thick and heavy. Then again, there is something to be said for a t-shirt that is, oh how should I say it, absorbent. So you might want to avoid the color grey if you are one who gets, you know, a bit drippy.

I must give my wife credit for getting me a blue colored Bill Raftery’s “With A Kiss” shirt. It has lips on a backboard signifying where a ball “kisses” before going in. There only two problems with it:

(1) It’s not the Bill Raftery’s “Onions!” shirt, and

(2) Every time my wife sees it she exclaims “With a kiss” and attempts to smooch my cheek. Yet she refuses to say, “Send it in Jerome”, during moments of intimacy.

But then I got mustard on it and a hole in the arm pit – which made it even better.

My wife says it’s the most disgusting thing she’s ever seen, but she knows that’s not true. She’s seen me try to eat spaghetti.

This all begs the question: Why don’t I just go to StreakerSports.com and buy the Bill Raftery’s “Onions!” shirt myself? Because married guys don’t buy things for themselves. So we try to get our wives to buy the stuff for us. It does come with some risks though. Like getting a shirt that just says onions.

Then there’s the little issue that my wife does not want to be told what gifts to get.

She says it wipes out the surprise. Whereas I say it wipes out the disappointment.

Actually, I don’t say that, out loud. Despite years of marriage I have not yet learned how to tell my wife that a gift stinks. But I learned that the wrong way is saying, “This gift stinks.”

My wife, however, is open to hints. Which means she’s fine with me being possibly happy, not definitely happy.

As for my hinting plan, I decided that before every meal I’d make multiple requests of “More Onions.” There is some irony here – I hate the taste of onions.

Again, just to be clear . . .

Yet I do very much enjoy onion rings. Well, I like the ring, not the onion. But it’s kind of awkward placing an order of: “onion rings, hold the onions.”

I still needed to be sure she got the hint. So I enlisted the services of my youngest daughter. She agreed to say “Onions!” at dinner every time I successfully put food in my mouth. Successfully? Well, sometimes I miss.

Turns out this plan had a fault as well. After about the ninth time her little girl yelled “Onions!”, my wife turned to me and asked, “Do you want to explain to her what that means?” No, no I do not.

But apparently this was going to be the first time that a t-shirt quest led to a birds and bees discussion. Then my daughter said, “I know what it means.” Oh dear God. “It’s when you hit a shot that’s so good it makes the other person cry.” I looked at my wife who was clearly reveling in my discomfort.

But like a good parent, I stepped up and said, “Exactly.”

Shortly thereafter, Christmas arrived. I had less than high expectations given my arguably sub-par anatomy lesson. Once all the gifts had seemingly been opened my wife said, “Hey what’s that over there behind the desk against the wall?” And there sat a box just big enough for a t-shirt. I felt like Ralphie when he got his Red Ryder Carbine Action BB Gun. As I opened it up, my wife smiled and said, “Onions!” She then added, “I hope you like the color. I noticed you didn’t have any in grey.” Perfect.