Finally, Haskins offered them some brews to get them to go, and they did, quietly. "Once in a lifetime," he said, leaning back with a last beer. "You know, this is once in a lifetime." A friend pointed out that Haskins was young and that there would be other Final Four teams for him to coach. "No chance," he said. " Mr. Rupp is 64 and he made it a lot, but it's probably going to be just once in a lifetime for me."
Student athletes. In 1942, three members of Stanford's NCAA title-winning squad were sent final exams, to be administered by coach Everett Dean at the championship site in Kansas City. In 1980, Louisville's Wiley Brown left his artificial thumb on the breakfast table the morning of the championship game in Indianapolis; it was later retrieved from a garbage dumpster. In 1974, Marquette's Bo Ellis tapped the grotesque and enormous cardboard head of the female member of UCLA's mascot tandem, Josephine Bruin, and inquired, "Hey, if you be cute, how 'bout a date?"
Was Cinderella a Mormon? In 1944, Utah was led by freshman Arnie Ferrin, the great-grandson of a pioneer who had struggled across the mountains with Brigham Young to found Salt Lake City. Initially, the Utes had turned down the NCAA tournament—the Final Four was to be held at New York City's Madison Square Garden that year—to accept a berth in the more lucrative NIT, also at the Garden. But they were beaten in the first round of that tournament. Because an auto accident had caused the Arkansas squad to withdraw from the NCAAs, however, Utah was once again invited to fill the NCAA field. This time Utah accepted, and the Utes went on to win the NCAAs. Ferrin, dazzling blond hair flashing through the Garden haze, scored 22 points in the 42-40 overtime championship victory over Dartmouth. Then the Utes beat NIT winner St. John's in the annual Red Cross "Champion of Champions" face-off in the Garden.
The Utes' victory was the second of three straight for the NCAA champ over the NIT champ. By the following season, after Oklahoma A & M's 7-foot Bob (Foothills) Kurland outsmarted DePaul's 6'10" George Mikan in history's first Duel of Titans and the Aggies completed the trifecta, the NCAA tournament had achieved runaway dominance.
Contrasts. 1983: North Carolina State coach Jim Valvano on reaching the Final Four: "Awesome...the promised land.... It's akin to a religious experience.... Just saying it, the alliteration, the Final Four, is great.... Ring the doorbell at my house and you hear the last 44 seconds of our championship game.... If anybody enjoyed it more than I did, everything about it, it had to be sinful."
1982: Eric Smith of Georgetown, whose team was quartered in Biloxi, Miss., 85 miles from the Final Four site, was asked if he missed being in New Orleans. "I don't know what I've missed. Can't you see? I ain't here."
Trivia. Name the two players who participated in the Final Four for two different schools. Answer: Bob Bender, Indiana (76) and Duke ('78), and Steve Krafcisin, North Carolina (77) and Iowa ('80).
The Referee. Hank Nichols, chairman of the education department at Villanova in civilian life, has worked in six Final Fours and was a standby in three others. "I don't know if the phenomenon of the tournament can be explained," he says. "In 1974—the first time I was a standby—I remember the look of disbelief on the faces of the UCLA players. They couldn't believe anybody could beat them. In 1975 the semifinal between UCLA and Louisville was a smooth-flowing game, maybe one of the best I've ever officiated. It came down to the end and the Louisville kid [Terry Howard] hadn't missed a foul shot all season long. A lefthanded kid, he was in to dribble, pass and get fouled. But he missed the front end of a one-and-one that would have given Louisville the game. It was kind of sad.
"In the final that year, UCLA-Kentucky, I reported a technical foul on Dave Meyers, and John Wooden got up hollering. I couldn't believe it. I turned to one of my partners and said, 'I always thought he was a real gentleman.' But his eyes were rolling and he wanted to get me. [Wooden screamed at Nichols, 'You crook!'] That was kind of a shocker.
"Then there was 1982, North Carolina-Georgetown. I remember calling goaltending on Ewing on the first five or six North Carolina shots. I turned to my partners and said, 'I wonder how long he's going to do that? I wonder if he thinks we're not going to see it?' Then I called a foul that John Thompson didn't like and I knew he was going to give me guff, so when the Georgetown cheerleaders came on court, I got right in the middle of the biggest guys and hid so he couldn't find me.