Smart, who had written the storyline eight years earlier, took his team, appropriately named the Bad News Hoosiers, to the camp championship game, officiated by Miller himself. And the kid once ordered to stay out of everyone's way found himself toeing the free throw line with everything in the balance. He shot his coach a look that said, What do I do?
"Take your time," Smart called out. "Bend your knees. Get it up!"
The camper sent both shots through the hoop to win his team the camp title. Smart floated away feeling as good as he'd felt in years, if only because he now knew how he wanted to spend the rest of his life.
Smart hopes to coach in the NBA someday. But as he was that night in New Orleans, he's content to let time slow down. He speaks often with NBA front-office personnel, developing relationships. He served as an assistant with the U.S. team at the 1999 Pan Am Games. He's also a participant in the NBA's coaching development program. "I look at it as a gradual climb," says Smart. "If you rush through it, you miss so much."
Over time, too, even those incinerated mementos have regenerated themselves. Dozens of people who read about the fire rooted through their attics and rec rooms and passed memorabilia his way. An old girlfriend, living in Houston, had kept a scrapbook of Smart's career and sent the whole thing along—in part, she confessed, because her husband thought it was strange that she had a remembrance book of an old flame.
"That shot forces me to stay ahead of everything," Smart says. "When people come 'round to do those where-are-they-now stories, I don't want them finding me in some clinic, depressed. It was a long road from not malting my high school team [as a junior] and not getting recruited. But I learned you have to do as well as you can wherever you are. 'Bloom where you're planted,' as my mom always said."
Like a basket that follows from a timely pass and a good look, life is equal parts what fate throws your way and what you make of it. "One year you make it," Smart says. "The next year, with a chance to tie, you don't."
What's important is to take it. Can't make it unless you do.