Columbia--Some random thought on the state basketball tournament.
From a historic perspective, my very first trip to the state basketball tournament was way back in 1972. That’s a very long time ago.
The record books show that Bud Lathrop and his Raytown South Cardinals beat Denver Miller’s Kirkwood Pioneers, 52-48 in the large school title game.
That was long before “Show-Me Showdowns” were ever conceived.
Miller made it to the championship game four times in a 43-year career, having never won the first-place prize including one sudden death overtime loss. As a sports writer, I was greener than green at that stage of my career.
That title game was held in musty old Brewer Field House, presently converted to a lavish student recreation center for the University of Missouri students.
I have not covered every state tournament since ’72, but most of them including a 12-year run in the Hearnes Center in Columbia.
Changing of the guard
It has become quite evident, coaching has become a younger person’s sport and in many cases, positions are filled by those with prior college and professional playing experience. The days of the old phys ed teacher turned coach are long gone.
Case in point: Stipo brought the Westminster girls to Columbia in Class 4. Tony Irons brought Imagine College Prep to Columbia; same went for Justin Tatum of Soldan International Studies and of course, Randy Reed of McCluer North, the Class 5 back-to-back champs.
Tatum played on the same CBC championship team in 1997 with Larry Hughes, and they joined forces to play at Saint Louis U. for one year before Hughes skipped to the NBA.
Reed’s story is special. He played for the great Floyd Irons at Vashon, went to Forest Park Community College to learn from the master Bob Nelson then had a splendid career under the late gentleman Jack Hartman at Kansas State.
Reed has taught his North Stars well. Addressing the media after winning the 2012 title over Nixa, he said his players listen attentively and have bought into his program.
Reed’s infectious love for the game has served McCluer North perfectly. In some cases, his players come from single-parent households often making him a father figure when one parent is missing.
I marvel at Reed’s ability to coach, communicate and connect with the players as they become productive young adults. His stars are going on to make their marks at big time college programs like Arkansas and Auburn.
Stipanovich has whipped the Westminster girls into one of the most respected programs in the county. As the school continues its upward growth spurt, girls basketball has definitely become a rallying point for their school community.
Tatum and Irons have brought their city programs a long way towards successful conclusions.
One more thing:
Third place games
The Missouri State High School Activities Association ought to seriously consider getting its coaches to vote out third-place games. They are meaningless. Ask coaches and players. They hate playing for third place, moments after seeing their dreams of winning a state title vanish after crushing semifinal loses.
These games are just pointless. Sure, during the early going and at Christmas time, third place and consolation games take on significant meaning. Then, teams need more practice and playing time. However, that’s not necessary at the end of very long seasons.
Third place games should vanish like the dust in long-gone Brewer Field House.