Calm before the conference season
By Aaron Sharockman, Special to CNNSI.com
The 11 Big Ten teams have stalled their schedules in the past two weeks engulfed instead by finals and the holidays.
While Purdue is still pushing through a tough pre-conference schedule, the rest of the Big Ten is taking it easy. The teams are catching their collective breaths after a fierce pre-conference schedule, logging plenty of practice hours to prepare for the Big Ten season that begins next week. Iowa's Lisa Bluder is catching her breath from a trip home last weekend:
A saddening returnBluder hoped to return to Drake last weekend and beat the Bulldog team she recruited with the Hawkeye team she inherited. She hoped to leave the Knapp Center, the site of so many of her best coaching memories, all smiles.
Instead, she walked off the floor Saturday night nearly in tears. And it had nothing to do with her team's 73-58 loss.
Bluder's return to Drake, where she had spent the last 10 years, was overshadowed by the news that Drake freshman Mandy Kappel has a brain tumor. The news came just four days after the Drake players learned that sophomore Martha Chaput has Hodgkin's Disease.
Bluder had recruited both players and all of the Bulldog team. After the game, the teams huddled at center court to pray for Kappel and Chaput. Bluder said a prayer for Drake's Erin Richards, whose mother died this past summer as well.
"As you want to celebrate a victory, it's only a game," said Drake coach Lisa Stone to the Associated Press. "In the grand scheme of things, it's only a game, win or lose. There are a lot of emotions going on right now with our team."
It was Stone's first game against her alma mater. She played point guard for the Hawkeyes in the mid-80s.
Kappel, a 5-foot-7 South Dakota native had complained of dizziness earlier in the week. An MRI diagnosed the tumor Saturday morning, but Kappel asked Stone not to tell the team until after the game.
One dynamic duo ends, but it almost never startedWhen Dick Bennett, the men's coach at Wisconsin retired two weeks into the season, the best known father-daughter coaching duo had come to an end after 12 seasons. The two had made history as the only father-daughter tandem to take their respective teams to the NCAA tourney in the same year.
However, for all the history the two have made, Kathi almost never coached a basketball game. For the longest time, she didn't want pick up the family trade, and ironically, it was because of the same reason her father hung up his whistle after 36 years on the bench.
Seeing the stress pile on Dick while coaching Wisconsin Green-Bay in the mid-80s, Kathi was alienated from coaching basketball.
"I will never forget the struggles when I was in college and my dad was taking over the Green Bay program," said Bennett, who is 9-1 in her first season at Indiana. "It was around Christmas time, and they were struggling. I was up in the stands, and I almost got into a fight with someone ... they were screaming 'Bennett you're a bum,' and 'what did we bring you here for.'
"I remember going home after the game and he was sitting at the table; pure red, with his veins sticking out, and I remember telling my mom I thought he was going to die. It was a scary time for our family."
Dick had acknowledged the stress had gotten too great at UW, and had contemplated retirement for over a year. Kathi hopes her dad will be spending a lot of his free time in Bloomington, helping out in her first year in the Big Ten. Dick has promised to be in attendance when the Hoosiers travel to Madison in January.
"Her mother and I always worry about her," he said. "She's been on her own so long. She has to be a little worried about things. I'll try to be in a very inconspicuous spot, watching."
Aaron Sharockman is a reporter for the Indiana Daily Student, the student newspaper serving Indiana University.