On Banning Court Rushings and the Silliness Of It All…

Posted by Kenny Ocker (@KennyOcker) on December 11th, 2015

Kenny Ocker (@kennyocker) is a national columnist.

I was a participant in one of the most dubious court-rushings of all time. Nothing says “We’re on top of the college basketball world!” quite like taking to the floor in celebration of not going winless in the conference season. In my defense, I was a freshman at the time. Two years – and seemingly a world – removed from an Elite Eight berth, Oregon had only bit players and overhyped freshmen on hand in 2008-09, and that motley crew led the Webfoots to a cool 14-game losing streak to start the Pac-10 season. All was not well in Eugene. On top of the terrible season, rumor had it that venerable McArthur Court was in its final year. (A series of missed timetables kept society from the Rorschach-blotted court of Matthew Knight Arena for another season and a half, however). But when Stanford rolled into town on February 21, Oregon’s defense showed up for the only time that season. Thirty-nine minutes and change later, a whiteboard was held up in the student section that read “We’re storming the court.” And that’s what we did.

After the 68-60 Ducks win, the Pit Crew leaped over the row of courtside chairs and headed to center court, pregame-giveaway Ping-Pong balls in tow, and mobbed the Fox Sports Net cameras. Nearly six years later, this remains one of my paramount memories of college basketball – the other involves some heckling of former Washington State forward Deangelo Casto, but you had to be there – and of college. I can recount my experience from that game better than I can recount pretty much anything I learned in a freshman year class – the only thing I had to look up was the date. Consequential game or not, this is the experience students have when they rush the court after a team’s big win (as they define it at the time). To curtail it would leave these exuberant celebrations, these spontaneous releases of positive energy, on the sidelines, with students feeling less like a part of the college basketball experience, to which they are vital. (Disagree? Look at how many times rushed courts end up on highlight reels; how many frames of crying students show up during the NCAA Tournament; how much value there is to playing at home.) Read the rest of this entry »

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Monmouth’s King Rice Talks Bench Celebrations and Basketball

Posted by Kenny Ocker on December 4th, 2015

Kenny Ocker (@kennyocker) is a national columnist.

That bench. Those big upset wins over major conference teams. That bench.

Monmouth has had a surprising start to the 2015-16 season, beating UCLA in overtime at Pauley Pavilion (where even top-ranked Kentucky fell last night), and then Notre Dame and USC on a neutral court in Orlando during a Thanksgiving week tournament. And the Hawks have had a ton of fun doing it, with their bench becoming nationally known for their hilarious and diverse set of celebrations. We talked with fifth-year coach King Rice about where his program’s been, where it’s going and (on accident) where he plans to retire to when he hangs up the whistle.

Where did this season-opening run come from?

We’ve been going after this for a while. This is my fifth year as the head coach. Every year, we’ve played high majors. My first three years, the average margin of loss was 36 points. We played three or four of them a year, and everybody told me, “King, you’re crazy for playing schedules like this. What are you doing? What are you doing?” I just thought it was the right thing to do. Last year, our average margin of loss was nine points, and last year we played West Virginia, we played Maryland, we played SMU and Rutgers, so I felt like we were getting closer.

But to have this much success this early, no one could have imagined that. But we do have an older team now, most of our guys are juniors, and we’ve been in those situations for three years – and now it’s time for us to have a chance in those games.

You have that experience, yet you only have one senior…

I don’t want you to tell anybody that, because I don’t know if people understand. We’ve been building this program – this is our fifth year – and when we first started, we didn’t have a lot of success. My athletic director, Dr. Marilyn McNeil, believed in what she was seeing and what we were doing. And now it’s time for us to have some success, and the program is set up for us to be in a good place, because we do only have one senior. And then the following year, we’re going to lose five or six guys, but the guys that are in the program that will still be in the program are getting valuable minutes right now. So we truly feel like we’ve set it up the right way so we won’t be a one-hit wonder.

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