The best sub in college hoops has got to be the one who comes in for Issac Gildea at the College of the Redwoods. Not only does the guy pay Issac's tuition, room and board, but he also nearly bursts out crying every time Issac scores.
In return Issac lets the guy sleep with his mom.
That's because Issac's sub is usually his 41-year-old dad, Frank, a 6'1", 172-pound sophomore guard-forward. Of course, Frank isn't as quick, strong or relentless as Issac. Frank is quicker, stronger and more relentless. At week's end Gildea & Son had helped Redwoods to a 21-12 record and the second round of the California community college tournament.
Frank not only plays like a 20-year-old, but he also looks like a 20-year-old. He has 2% body fat, a full head of hair, and he can still dunk, just like Issac, who was the Golden Valley Conference Player of the Year last season. "Girls always say, 'I didn't know you had a brother,' " says Issac, who is two inches taller than Frank. "I'll say, 'That's not my brother. That's my dad.' And they'll say, 'No, seriously!' "
No, seriously, Papa G, as Redwoods fans call him, was a stud football recruit at Kansas State in the late 1970s but blew out his knee before playing a down. He returned to the West Coast, enrolled in Redwoods in '81 and played one year of hoops for the Corsairs, bringing his baby boy, Issac, in a stroller with him to practices. Then he took 18 years off and tried it again. O.K., so he took a redshirt life.
"When he said he wanted to play again, my first thought was, Let's not steal Issac's limelight," says Linda, wife or mother of one-sixth of the Redwoods team. "But Issac knows how good his dad is. His dad still beats him one-on-one! Issac wanted him out there."
To become eligible, all Frank had to do was sign up for 12 credit hours. He took some personal-growth classes. In one of them the discussion was about "following your dreams." Imagine that.
"Sometimes, one of the kids will come up to me and say, 'Coach, I'm tired,' " says Redwoods coach Bill Treglown. "I always say, 'Look, Frank works in the mornings [as a middle school gym teacher], comes to class from 12 to 3, practices all out, goes home and plays father and husband, has dinner, then starts working on his second job [as a representative of a fireworks firm]. And he's 41 years old! Now tell me how tired you are."
Even with all that, the hardest-working player on the floor is Frank. Seventeen years ago he won Redwoods' Mr. Hustle Award, and he might win it again this year. Sometimes his game is as good as ever. One night he came out and hit three straight treys. "That's my dad," says Issac.
Still, Issac has been without a doubt the Corsair with flair, averaging 20.6 points a game to his dad's 1.4. In fact, Issac's been so good lately, Frank hasn't been getting much playing time. If you don't sit down right now, young man, you're grounded.