Davidson no longer known just for Driesell
By Mike Cranston
DAVIDSON ó Walk into Bob McKillopís office, and among the first things youíll see are the old issues of Sports Illustrated chronicling Lefty Driesellís dominant Davidson teams of the 1960s.
When McKillop returned to his office Monday morning, it hit him that heíll need to make space for the publications telling the story of this seasonís remarkable Wildcats.
iNow weíve got our own (magazine) issues,î McKillop said. iAs Lefty Driesell established a bar for us 40 years ago, we now will go down as the team that set a new bar.î
McKillop was bleary-eyed but upbeat Monday, less than 24 hours after 10th-seeded Davidsonís storybook run ended a missed 3-pointer away from the Final Four. The team returned to this town of 9,000 people after Sundayís heartbreaking 59-57 loss to Kansas at 3:30 a.m. ó only to be greeted by about 300 people.
iItís corny to talk about sports and love,î McKillop said. iBut this is a love affair.î
All over town there were signs thanking the team that won 25 consecutive games and captured the hearts of this community with upset wins against Gonzaga, Georgetown and Wisconsin in the NCAA tournament.
iBe Proudî proclaimed a sign in front of the town library. The window of the bank on Main Street had the message, iThanks Cats.î
iIím definitely proud of our team,î star guard Stephen Curry said. iWe made history for our school.î
It was a drizzly, unseasonably cool day Monday as the bundled-up students and residents were trying to figure out what it all means. Long in the shadow of its ACC neighbors, Davidson, which hadnít won an NCAA tournament game in 39 years, suddenly is a household name.
iThere will be people here at Davidson that 20 years from now will think about this run,î McKillop said.
Davidson, a liberal arts school of 1,700 students, was so close to spoiling the party of heavyweights at the Final Four.
Behind the sweet-shooting Curry, who averaged 32 points in four NCAA tournament games, Davidson (29-7) trailed mighty Kansas by two with 16 seconds left. McKillop decided to have Curry, not point guard Jason Richards, bring the ball up the court.
A day later, McKillop still felt he made the right decision.
iWe wanted Steph Curry to take that shot, and thatís why we put the ball in his hands,î McKillop said. iBecause we felt they would have kept him from the ball, almost double-teaming him, and said, ëOK, let their bigs shoot a 2-pointer rather than let Steph Curry beat us with a 3.í And we were going for the win.î
The play got bottled up near the top of the key. Curry couldnít get a look at the basket. He flipped it to Richards, who missed a deep 3-pointer at the buzzer.
McKillop stopped in mid-sentence Monday and watched a replay of the last shot on his office TV in silence. But McKillop insists the gut-wrenching end wonít dampen this magical season.
iFor our players to have this experience and for us to reach this level on a national stage, there is no greater joy for a coach,î McKillop said.
McKillop already was trying to cash in on the wave of publicity the Southern Conference school has received in the past two weeks. Dressed in a red tie, he was set to hit the recruiting trail later Monday, with new possibilities.
iA year ago, a top recruit is being recruited by Davidson and an ACC power,î McKillop said. iHe really likes Davidson. He really likes his opportunity there. He really likes the coaches. He really likes the players. But he canít walk down the hall at his high school and say, ëI chose Davidson over ACC power.í He canít pick up the newspaper that says, ëBlank chose Davidson.í
iNow people will understand why he will choose Davidson.î