St. Louis —
The minute it became apparent Indiana State had punched its ticket to the NCAA Tournament with a 60-56 victory over Missouri State on Sunday, I reflected on all of the moments in the previous seven years of covering the Sycamores that led to this.
Admittedly, most of the game didn’t leave much of a chance to reflect. It left plenty of opportunity to get stressed out. On a scale of 1 to 10, the last four minutes of that game rated a 100 in tension.
For ISU coach Greg Lansing, his immediate thought once the win was secured was for his team.
“Really, all my thoughts were basically I wanted it so bad for these guys. They deserve it. Like I said, there’s never been a more deserving group of guys, and that they get to enjoy this means the world to me,” Lansing said.
Once I saw the Sycamores celebrating on the floor, I also knew there were others who should share in this moment as much as the Sycamores themselves did. There are a lot of Sycamores, past and present, to spare a thought for.
Spare a thought for former ISU head coach and current Oregon assistant coach Kevin McKenna. Since his departure last June, McKenna has sort of been a forgotten man, but he shouldn’t be. McKenna laid the groundwork and was obviously responsible for either recruiting or keeping every single Sycamore on the current roster.
McKenna also set the tone to redshirt incoming freshmen. ISU has depth and experienced youth because of that philosophical decision.
To me, McKenna’s greatest legacy to the ISU program was his decision to redshirt Jordan Printy, Koang Doluony, Jake Odum, R.J. Mahurin, Logan Eitel and Lucas Eitel.
Somewhere in Eugene, Ore., I hope McKenna enjoyed this as much as the Sycamores did in St. Louis.
Spare a thought for former ISU head coach Royce Waltman. The last ISU coach to take the Sycamores to the NCAA Tournament brought Greg Lansing to his staff in 2006. Waltman played a role in the recruitment of Aaron Carter and Printy, and is sort of the spiritual guide for Lansing as he’s gone through his first season.
Spare a thought for all of the former assistant coaches who played a role in Sunday’s victory. Matt Mardis, whose place Lansing took in 2006, recruited Carter. Stan Gouard and Dick Bender were also assistant coaches that either were on staff when current players were recruited or who coached them directly.
Spare a thought for Indiana State Director of Athletics Ron Prettyman. He hired McKenna and he hired Lansing. He could have gone another direction when McKenna left, but stayed the course. In the end, it turned out to be the right path.
Spare a thought for ISU athletic trainer Brad Yeargin and the rest of the ISU training staff. Yeargin’s been with the Sycamores for two years. ISU has had plenty of injuries to overcome, including several over the course of the MVC Tournament weekend, but in the end, all of the Sycamores were healthy and they contributed.
Spare a thought for retired Terre Haute South boys basketball coach Mike Saylor. Yes, Mike Saylor. When Odum originally agreed to come to ISU as a walk-on, Saylor — believing Odum deserved a Division I scholarship — helped keep the pressure on and pleaded with ISU that Odum was deserving of being more than just a walk-on.
Had Saylor not done that, and had ISU not acquiesced, it’s possible Odum might have played elsewhere when he began to attract more attention during his senior season with the Braves.
Spare a thought for former Iowa coach Todd Lickliter. Without his cooperation, it would have been much tougher for Jake Kelly to play for the Sycamores.
Spare a thought for all of those names you never know in the background who made this possible, from former team managers to graduate assistants to support staff. They share in this, too, and along those lines, it was great for me to see ISU Sports Information Director Ace Hunt get one of those MVC championship medals. He deserved it.
The list goes on and on, and I’m certain I’ve unintentionally left too many people out who also deserve mention.
The players and coaches celebrate, but there’s a lot of cooks who worked in the Sycamores’ MVC championship kitchen. I have no doubt that they feasted on pride during their Sunday celebration.
Todd Golden is sports
editor of the Tribune-Star. He can be reached at email@example.com or at (812) 231-4272. Read his blog at blogs.tribstar.com/down