Friday, November 22, 2013

The Fun That is Grinnell, Iowa College Basketball

Rick Reilly:
I drove five hours in the rain, one way, to see The Scoring Machine score three points.
Can I get my toll money back? 
Jack Taylor of Grinnell College scored three points, total, in the Pioneers' 88-79 win over Wartburg on Wednesday night. The two games before he'd scored 71 and 109, which is 61 points per game the hard way. 
Taylor did have three assists, two steals and two guys (sometimes three) draped on him every second of the game, including bathroom breaks. It was one year to the day after he scored 138 in one game, the all-time college record. He came up only 135 short.
Thirty-five field goals last game. Zero this time. 
"I can't remember the last time I didn't have a field goal," he said afterward. "Maybe ... never?" 
Maybe this will shut up all the buzzkill columnists who say Grinnell's program is a sham and an embarrassment and an obscenity to college basketball. 
"Of course it's a sham," says Grinnell's irrepressibly fun head coach, Dave Arseneault Sr. "We're as surprised as anybody. It's a sham in the sense of we really emphasize having fun. Everybody else takes sports so seriously. We're just having fun." 
It's more than just fun, even when Taylor is clamped down. It's basketball and madness thrown into a Pyrex beaker, shaken up and spilled out on a Division III basketball court. 
Tell me this isn't fun: 
1. During practice, every player has to shoot 100 3s, while music blares. 
2. During games, Arseneault is miffed if they don't get a shot off every 12 seconds, preferably a 3, Taylor or no Taylor. 
3. "I get yelled at if I don't shoot," Taylor says. How many coaches ever do that? 
4. Fifteen Grinnell players got in the game Wednesday night, 12 for double-digit minutes. Most teams are lucky to get their 15th guy on the floor once a year. 
5. Grinnell's pregame locker room ritual is a bizarre Buddhist-style chant, followed by a song about Yao Ming, followed by everybody slamming each other off each other's lockers. 
6. Arseneault doesn't even sit anywhere near the team. He watches three feet from the far end of the bench, sometimes with his granddaughter on his lap. His son, Dave Jr., does the coaching. The manager does all the substituting. Yes, the manager. 
7. Grinnell (3-0) presses full-out, full-bore, all the time, which is why it subs five guys at a time every 35 seconds, like a hockey team. If it can't get a new line in, the manager holds up a fist, which means "Foul somebody." 
8. The banners showcasing Grinnell's 18 national scoring titles are five times bigger than any of their Midwest Conference Championship banners. "OK, maybe I made those a little big," Dave Jr. says. 
9. The Grinnell student body cheers wildly when the opponent dunks. As one fan in a wig told me: "We don't get to see many dunks." 
10. Before Arseneault Sr. happened on his "system" that everybody in the country seems to think is the end of civilization, Grinnell had 27 straight losing seasons. Since the 1993 season, when Aresenault installed his current style of play, they've only had four losing seasons. "We wanted to make our gym a place people wanted to be," Arseneault said. After Taylor's 109 points on Sunday, 50 new recruits sent in their tapes. 
Which would Arseneault rather have -- fun or wins? 
"Oh, fun, by FAR," he says with a huge laugh.
Read the rest.  It's quite refreshing.  

No comments: