Obviously, all this talk about winning back-to-back conference crowns and a scarcity of NCAA tickets represents quite an achievement for a school of 1,200 cadets that had to beat The Citadel in overtime to gain that single victory in 1971. Those Keydets played so poorly that the coaching staff put together the Funny Film, so called because it contained classic game footage of VMI missing open layups, kicking the ball out of bounds and bumping heads on defense. The producer of this epic and, ironically, the man who eventually masterminded last year's 22-10 comeback—the Keydets' first winning season since 1941—was Bill Blair who claims to have been "the worst cadet in VMI history." When Blair left VMI after last year's heroics to become head coach at Colorado, his assistant, Schmaus, stepped in.
"I recruited all these guys you see here," says Schmaus, whose VMI career scoring record was broken by Bynum and Krovic on the same night earlier in the season. Schmaus' rebound mark will soon belong to Montgomery, a junior, and the coach will eventually rank fourth in scoring when Carter, another junior, takes over the lead. "But VMI isn't the easiest place to sell," Schmaus says. "I remember thinking that if I had known all the harsh realities of life when I visited, I probably would not have come. Yet my philosophy has not been to recruit military types who are good basketball players. They don't exist. We try to attract good athletes who can accept the military way of life. Maybe we don't tell recruits the whole truth all at once, but we don't lie, either. I found that if you can get through your first year without cracking under the pressure, you can really enjoy yourself here."
Bynum, a private first class who has made no attempts to gain a higher rank, concedes that athletes have an easier time than non-athletes at VMI. "We don't have to march to dinner or supper during the season," he says. "We can sleep in on game day if we don't have a class and, of course, we get to leave the post a lot for games, which is a relief. But the corps accepts this a lot better now that they've started getting something out of it. When we beat DePaul last year to make it to the finals of the regionals, classes were called off on Friday and Saturday, even confinements were canceled."
Carter, on the other hand, is a master sergeant who wants to become an Air Force pilot. He was in charge of making sure that dress uniforms were cleaned and pressed in preparation for the presidential inaugural parade in which a corps of VMI cadets marched. Carter would have taken part himself if he hadn't been busy scoring 20 points and pulling down 10 rebounds in an 88-79 Keydet victory at the University of Richmond that evening.
"I like VMI," he says. "I get a little tired of fans on the road yelling 'Hup, two, three, four' at us like we're a bunch of soldiers. But it's O.K. We're always killing their team at the time."