It’s In the Blood

The ball is tipped and there you are,

You’re running for your life, you’re a shooting star,

And all the years no one knows,

Just how hard you worked, and now it shows,

One Shining Moment, it’s all on the line,

One Shining Moment, there frozen in time.

One Shining Moment, written by David Barrett.

As it turns out, Ryan Odom didn’t batten down every last detail of the game plan utilized to spring what is being widely described as the greatest upset in sports history.

He didn’t teach his UMBC Retrievers the lyric to “One Shining Moment.’’

“I think we kind of all wanted to be in the “One Shining Moment’’ video,’’ forward Joe Sherburne of the Retrievers said. “We were all in the locker room singing the first line because that’s all we know, but I think we’re going to have to learn the rest of the song.’’

The moment that shined brightest for me last night came after Odom and UMBC showed us something that many of us thought we’d never live long enough to see. It came after the No. 16 seed Retrievers finally quit beating up on No. 1 seed Virginia and allowed the shell-shocked Cavaliers to collect their casualties and repair to the safety of their locker room.

Nobody in the world appeared less surprised to see Ryan Odom’s Retrievers run the Wahoos out of Spectrum Center 72-52 than the man who masterminded the rout. Clear-eyed but clearly happy, Odom stood calmly on the court – hand in pocket, collar open – while courtside reporter Tracy Wolfson interviewed first the players before getting to him.

He had just pulled off an upset that is being compared to the Continental Army knocking off the British and he looked so utterly calm and matter of a fact. His demeanor was totally “I’ve got this, this is who I am, this is what I do.’’

Wolfson mentioned how his father, our good friend Dave Odom, had to be going crazy up in the stands.

“Oh I’m sure he’s a proud papa,’’ Ryan said with a slight grin, before foreshadowing his next moments with his father back at the family’s hotel room.

“Then he’ll tell me everything I did wrong,’’ he said, breaking into an honest belly laugh that told us everything we need to know about the love to be found in the Odom family.

If there’s a college director of athletics in America who wasn’t blown away by what Ryan Odom of Reynolds High School in Winston-Salem had done and how he did it, he surely wasn’t watching the Retrievers become the first No. 16 seed to knock off a No. 1.

And he certainly wasn’t tuned into the post-game interview.

There has been some good reporting by some really good friends out of Charlotte this week. I went back and found the piece David Scott wrote for the Charlotte Observer leading into the game, how Ryan Odom grew up in the game and how he got to where he was standing last night.

And the best game story that I’ve seen came from a Virginia point-of-view, written by old-pro Jerry Ratcliffe for the Charlottesville Progress.

As I wrote in my previous post, I’ve never met a sportswriter who didn’t think the world of Dave Odom, so I know that when Scotty and Hootie finally follow me into retirement they’ll cherish the opportunity they had to write these stories about Dave and his son.

The question I went to bed mulling was this: When is the last time you’ve seen a Wake basketball coach not only implement such a brutally effective game plan but have his team execute it to such perfection?

The conclusion I reached is those Odoms sure can coach.

Tony Bennett is a great coach, but he’s also one of the least accessible coaches I’ve ever seen come though the ACC. So I never got a chance to know him.

But I was impressed with how he stood in there and explained the loss to Wolfson, referencing that immortal spech by Theodore Roosevelt “The Man in the Arena.’’ And his point is well-taken. Those of us who watch these spectacles from the stands or our living room easy chairs can pass all the judgments we want to, but ultimately no one knows what players are going through but the players going through it.

The loss didn’t destroy my bracket. My hunch going in was that as dominant as Virginia was during the regular season – and in my mind, the Cavaliers were clearly the best team in the country – I wasn’t sure Bennett had this NCAA Tournament figured out.

I also wondered if the Wahoos’ grind-it-out style of play was conducive to success in mid-to-late March. So I had Virginia getting knocked out by Kentucky in the regional semis.

Here’s why.

The Wahoos, as the ACC found out, were almost impossible to beat this season. But they were also the kind of team that rarely put you away. Teams could play with them, they just couldn’t beat them. To put it in boxing terms, they were body punchers who would destroy your defenses and eventually dominate you on points. You’re bruised and bloodied, but you’re still standing.

It’s just that they lack a knockout punch, the kind we saw Duke land on Iona Friday and North Carolina on Lipscomb yesterday afternoon.

But Bennett remains one of the greatest coaches in ACC history, and my hunch is that he’ll figure it out.

What I already know is that last night was one of my favorite nights ever spent watching a sporting event. To know the Odom family and how magical the experience must have been for them has the goose bumps running up and down these old arms.

As for Ryan Odom’s next challenge of playing Kansas State in Sunday’s second round, I have only one piece of advice.

Teach your players the lyric to the song.

One thought on “It’s In the Blood

  1. I always liked Coach Odom when he was at Wake and thought he was able to do more with less as good as anyone I’d ever seen. My bet is that Ryan would be a great fit for Wake and if Wellman is smart he’ll send Manning packing soon and hire young Odom. If it means losing some of next year’s prospects, so be it.

    Dan, What say ye?


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