March: Total Hoops Heaven Month

Bob Hogue
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Wednesday - March 19, 2008
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The author/commish with Dr. Jamie Williams, Academy of Art University athletic director
The author/commish with Dr. Jamie Williams, Academy of Art University athletic director

I guess you could call this column “Travels With Bob,” because that’s what I’ll be doing all throughout this month of March. I guess it’s my own version of March Madness.

I’ve always loved this time of year - the time when the NBA season heats up, and games really start to mean something. It’s also a time when spring training baseball reminds us that another great summer and fall of baseball is right around the corner. But mostly I love this time because it means college hoops have grabbed the nation’s attention.

It’s a time when the hoops history buff in me remembers the great Lew Alcindor - still the most-dominant player in the history of college sports on a UCLA team that was the most dominant team in the history of college sports. Notice that I said “sports,” not just basketball. That’s how great those John Wooden-coached Bruin teams were back in the 1960s. It’s also a time when I think of the George Masons and the Gonzagas and the Northern Iowas and the Drakes and all the other smaller schools that have made big noise during the so-called Big Dance. As much as we all love to talk about UCLA and North Carolina and Georgetown and Kansas, it’s these types of schools that really make this month special. And which matchup of No. 5 and 12 seeds will provide the upset this year?

But this March is all the more special for me because it’s the first time that I’ll be witnessing the NCAA Regional Tournament and the NCAA National Tournament as a conference commissioner. My travels this month will take me from the Division II West Regionals in Anchorage - following PacWest schools Chaminade and BYU-Hawaii - to the Women’s Basketball Elite Eight in Kearney, Neb., and the Men’s Basketball National Championships in the birthplace of basketball - Springfield, Mass.

Just to be in Springfield, where Dr. James Naismith pounded the first peach baskets on the wall and dreamed up this great indoor sport is truly an awesome thrill. I can’t wait to walk through the hallowed halls of the Basketball Hall of Fame.

There’s a bit of a Hawaii tiein to the birth of basketball in this country. Most of us who live and drive on Oahu have driven past Gulick Avenue in Kalihi. The Gulick family was a prominent Honolulu family in the 1800s, and Luther Gulick was born in Honolulu before matriculating to college in the Northeast. It was at the Springfield YMCA that Gulick hired Naismith and directed him to come up with an indoor game that could have high participation and be popular during the winter months. The rest, as they say, is history.

Obviously, both Gulick, who was born in Honolulu and worked most of his life in Massachusetts, and Naismith, who was born in Canada and then gave birth to the sport of basketball and spread it around the United States, loved to travel, too.

It’s the travel part of my job that I enjoy the most - just seeing how different parts of the country react to their teams, their schools and how they appreciate a sense of community built around athletic competition.

That brings me to another stop on my journey through the month of March - San Francisco. It is in the downtown part of that magnificent city where I was on hand to announce the birth of a new athletic program at San Francisco’s Academy of Art University - heretofore the largest art and design university in the country, but now the home of Urban Knights of the PacWest. Athletics truly is an art form, and we’re proud to have them starting their athletic travels in a conference we consider to be the most-beautiful destination conference in the world, with schools in Hawaii, the Bay Area, Arizona and southwest Utah.

And it turns out the more you travel, the more you run into your hometown. At the press conference to announce Academy of Arts inclusion in the PacWest was David Moore, a former allstate basketball star from Kalaheo, whom I watched grow up on the playgrounds of Kailua. David came up to me after the announcement to tell me that his basketball travels have taken him to the San Francisco school, where he now hopes to make his dreams come true in both the world of art and the world of college hoops.

What a journey. Let the greatness - and memories - of March hoops continue.


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