ClarkCountyToday.com Editor Ken Vance points out the class, character and integrity displayed by a pair of college basketball coaches in the past week
I think most of you know, I cut my teeth as a journalist covering sports. I started covering high school athletes and teams in 1987, covered some college sports and then spent most of my career covering the Portland Trail Blazers and the National Basketball Association.
Professionally, I don’t cover much sports anymore. Reporter Paul Valencia is the best in the business when it comes to Clark County sports and I’m thrilled to have him with us here at ClarkCountyToday.com.
In this space, I usually opine about issues outside of the sports world, things such as my frustration with the traffic congestion on our freeways or with what our lawmakers are doing in Olympia. But, please indulge me, I’m going to share some things from the sports world that moved me in the past week, not so much as a sports fan, but as a person who likes to feel good about life and those who live it the right way.
The NCAA basketball tournaments, both the men and the women, never disappoint. They always provide special moments, from the upsets on opening day to the Final Four, championship game and then the heart-tugging finale known as the CBS production of “One Shining Moment.’’
I’m very provincial, which means I root for the home teams. In this case, for me, that was the Gonzaga Bulldogs in the men’s tournament. The Zags lost to previously unheralded Texas Tech in the Elite 8. The Red Raiders then went on to face Virginia in the championship game, losing an overtime thriller to the Cavaliers.
After the championship game, Texas Tech coach Chris Beard — whose team just lost the biggest game any of the players and coaches had ever participated in — gave one of the classiest interviews I’ve ever witnessed in sports. Here’s a link to that short interview, courtesy of CBS and USA Today:
Everything he said was total class, but the part that really pulled at my heartstrings was this:
“In terms of our players, I’ve never been more proud of a team that I’ve coached,’’ Beard said. “I think what these guys have accomplished this year, Big 12 Championship, Final Four, National Championship Game, we’ll graduate all five seniors here in a couple months, and these guys will go on to be great pros and fathers and husbands. Just never been more proud of a group. A lot of emotion in our locker room right now, and it’s real, just guys that care about the guy next to them. But this is life.’’
Beard then wrapped it up by talking about how much he loves his players.
“Just–man, just told them I loved them,” Beard said. “You know, our relationship is just getting started. I’ll be at those guys’ weddings one day and hopefully when their kids get born and do everything I can to talk them out of getting into coaching so they don’t ever feel like this. You know, I just love those guys.”
If you’re not a sports fan or never been involved intimately in a team sport, the words may not connect with you the way they connect with me. Some of my favorite people in this world are coaches I played for, teammates I played with and athletes who I coached.
No post-game prayers on CBS
Texas Tech and Coach Beard were also involved in another telling moment during the NCAA tournament. It came after the Red Raiders’ victory over Michigan State in the Final Four.
CBS had its cameras in the Texas Tech locker room to catch the postgame celebration of the players and coaches. Beard had to do a postgame interview on the court so he was the last one to join the rest of the team in the locker room.
The CBS directors were holding the shot on the Texas Tech locker room, anticipating the moment when Beard would join his team for the celebration. The first thing Beard did when he got to the locker room, was invite his players and coaches to kneel with him in prayer. CBS immediately cut away from the scene and went back to meaningless commentary from its broadcast crew so they didn’t subject the nation to a group of players and coaches giving thanks for what they had just experienced together. Heaven forbid that image should be broadcast on national television.
Here’s a link to that video, courtesy of CBS and Breitbart:
Kudos to Baylor women’s coach
The NCAA women’s tournament also didn’t disappoint in many different ways. First of all, Oregon advanced to the Final Four, which was an incredible feat for a team from our region. The Ducks were joined by perennial powers Baylor, Notre Dame and Connecticut.
Baylor ended up edging Notre Dame by one point in the championship game. It was the third national championship for the Bears under the guidance of coach Kim Mulkey.
A few days after her team won their title, Mulkey said she would welcome an invitation for her team to be honored at the White House by President Donald Trump. If you’re not aware, there has been a trend during Trump’s presidency for championship teams, mostly professional teams, to refuse an invitation to the White House, often declining the invite even before one was extended.
Trump tweeted out his congratulations to Mulkey and her players after their win.
“Congratulations to the Baylor Lady Bears on their amazing win last night against Notre Dame to become the 2019 NCAA Women’s Basketball National Champions!” Trump said.
Mulkey visited the White House with her championship team in 2005 when George W. Bush was president and again in 2012 when Barack Obama was in office.
“I’ve been every time for every president,” she told the Associated Press at the WNBA draft Wednesday night. “It’s not a political issue for me. It’s an honor to go to the White House. I want everyone to say they went to the White House. Not many people can say that. I hope [the] Virginia men go and I can meet [coach] Tony Bennett.
“We were honored when President Bush was in the office. We were honored when Barack Obama was in the office. We’d be honored if Donald Trump invited us. With politics aside, we should go to say we went to the White House.”
I wish more coaches, and athletes for that matter, had the class, character and integrity displayed this past week by Beard and Mulkey.