"How can the world's greatest athlete be so bad at golf?" asked Gearhart.
Schlump. Kerplop. Havlicek's sand shot took off nicely but landed in a pond by the green. Havlicek raised his club into the air as if it were a standard.
"I'll tell you a story," said Knight. "At Indiana we were playing Providence after we'd lost in the NCAA semifinals. Playing for third place. John suddenly appeared at our team meal. He went around introducing himself, as if my players did not know who he was. Then he told them, 'You have to play for third place tonight. It's the best you can do. So you should do your best.' Later, after we won easily, a writer asked me how I got 'em so keyed up for a third-place game. I said I hadn't."
At the Havlicek banquet that night the menu included Boston Celtic parfait, and a group of ladies in green and white uniforms who called themselves the "Havlicettes" sang a medley of
Havlicek, Super Celtic Handy and
Give John's Regards to the Buckeyes. There were film clips of key games and TV commercials John had made—Diet Rite among them—and a nostalgic reel or two of his wedding. Perhaps accidentally, the pictures of his high school football games came on the screen upside down.
People influential in Havlicek's life got up to pay him tribute. His old high school coach told the audience that whenever he sees John on TV "I tell my son, "That's John Havlicek. I coached him.' It's the greatest honor I could have." Fred Taylor said that Havlicek was probably the only man in Ohio who could bring such a crowd together "on the eve of oblong ball season." Bobby Knight said he wished he had Havlicek's money. When John's mother was called on to be recognized from the floor, John, on the podium, stood up and the audience followed. Mrs. Havlicek's blush could be seen across the room.
Then the occasion himself came to the microphone. He said in his familiar, pleasing baritone that it was "hard for me to accept compliments very well," and that the only reason he was there was that there were children who needed help. After that he and Beth passed out the door prizes—balls, posters, etc.—that John himself had donated.
When it was over and the dance band was whipping up a rock tune, Knight and a small knot of old Ohio State players and friends gathered around Fred Taylor near the podium. Taylor said he had called Havlicek after the final NBA championship game with Milwaukee. "I got him out of the shower. He said, 'Fred, it's the only time I ever won anything by myself,' meaning without a Lucas or a Russell to take the spotlight. I said, " John, you've been winning all your life."
"You know, I had a call just the other day, one that I seem to get all the time. The guy said, 'Fred, I have a prospect for you. He's another John Havlicek.' I stopped him right there. I said, 'Don't ever tell me that. There's no such thing. There's only one.' "