Saturday, March 22, 2008

Postgame thoughts from Michael Kruse (published on

(By Michael Kruse, not me)

Dear America,

It was, up until now, a hopeful but hypothetical conversation. We’ve had it over beers in bars. We’ve had it on cell phones from Boston to San Francisco, from New York to Atlanta, from Charlotte to Tampa. We’ve had it in the fall and in the winter, and in the spring and summer, too. We’ve had it for years.

What if?

What if we won in the tournament?

It’s SUCH a good story, we said to each other –- little school, big dreams, cute town, smart kids. People, we kept saying, WANT to tell this story. They just needed a reason. They needed us to win.

This tournament is a series of finite 40-minute windows of opportunity. Seize one and you earn another. Win and you get another two days of news cycle. Win and you get to tell your story.

You have to understand something about us and our school. I don’t know if it’s Southern gentility or Presbyterian humility, but we’ve always been institutionally reluctant to say, Hey, look, look at us. It’s just not what we’ve done and so it’s not what we do.

But we want so badly for people to know.

So we’ve looked to Bob McKillop and his basketball team.

He went 4-24 in his first season at Davidson. That was 19 years ago. He has taken us from the Southern Conference tournament to the NIT to the NCAAs and now to a win in the NCAAs. He built this. He didn’t leave us when he could have. He has raised his family in a house across the street from campus. His oldest son played for him. His youngest son plays for him now. His daughter went to Davidson and is engaged to a Davidson man. He tears up when he talks about this.

His team went to the NIT in ’94.

His team lost in the conference finals in ’96 after going undefeated in league play. Another NIT.

In ’98, a conference tournament title, a trip to the NCAAs. It seems so, so long ago, but not really, and we were giddy. That felt like this feels. Really it did.


There were trips back, in ’02, in ’06, in ’07.

Close, close, close. But never that win.


Make no mistake: We beat a good team today. This was not about the bounces or the breaks. No. We beat a really good team that played really well because WE played really well.

Because we got a ballsy gutsy late three from Max.

Because we got 13 rebounds from Andrew.

Because we got two huge buckets late from Rossiter.

Because we got nine assists and 15 points from Jason.

And also, of course, because we got 40 from Steph. Not just any 40. An 8-for-10-from-three 40. A 14-for-22 40. A five-steals 40. A first-round-record-setting-40. A forever 40.

But this whole thing is less about how it happened and more about what it means.

After the game, Joey Beeler, the men’s basketball media relations guy, was looking frazzled. His life just got crazy. He said his phone started going off right as the buzzer sounded.

The story. Let it be told.

We are one of the smallest schools in Division I.

We are 1,700 students in Davidson, N.C., just north of Charlotte, that’s it, all undergrad.

We are NOT Davidson University.

We are ranked ninth in the U.S. News and World Report and 23rd in the AP poll.

We keep in touch with our professors after we graduate.

We watch basketball games on grainy Web video from wherever we live.

A couple weeks ago, at the Southern Conference tournament championship game, there was a man with a sign, and the sign said:





And they do, and in a way that’s much, much more intimate than most other Division I programs, and certainly most other programs that are playing this weekend for a spot in the Sweet 16. This program, our program, is now big enough to matter but still small enough to touch.

After the game on Friday, in the locker room, there were the lights, the mics, the pens and the pads, the bigness, and there was Steph, surrounded by a scrum three- and four-deep, saying what he said, tired, happy, as always the faintest of facial hair on his chin and his upper lip.

We see in the peach-fuzzed face of this pretty kid from Charlotte the potential of what happened today.

The hypothetical is no longer hypothetical.

He helped make our conversation real.


Michael Kruse
Davidson College
Class of 2000

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you MJK. Love, OCG.