Orley: Remembering 1996 Final 4 and before
Just breezin’ on a cloudy Friday …
It was another Friday, back in March of 1996. We’d been bused across the Hudson River from Manhattan to New Jersey, to the arena where the Nets played, for the show practice.
Mississippi State, coached by Richard Williams, was to play in the Final Four against Kentucky, Syracuse and UMass; in other words, against Rick Pitino, Jim Boeheim, and John Calipari. The teams were to practice for an hour each in front of the press. Pictures for the papers, interviews for local TV and CBS.
So I’m standing at the end of the court shooting the breeze with State’s head manager, Ryan Irving, soon to become my nephew-in-law, when Jack Cristil, carrying bags and apparently fresh from the airport, came striding across the court, his head about to explode.
“Bleep bleep bleep, those bleep bleep bleeps,” Jack said.
Finally, he says, “Hi, Orley, how ya been?”
“Bleepity bleep bleep …”
The New York papers were filled with long stories about 1963, when Mississippi State’s basketball team snuck out of the state under cover of darkness to play in the NCAA tournament, which — oh my God! — included black players.
“I’m so bleeping tired of hearing about that,” Jack said. “Can’t they think of any better …”
No, they couldn’t, because it was the best Mississippi State basketball story going. Still is.
Ex-Clarion-Ledger sports writer Kyle Veazey will sign copies of his new book that chronicles that remarkable time in Mississippi history, Champions for Change, at 5 p,m. Monday at the Hall of Fame.
At 6:15, Kyle and the great Bailey Howell will be joined by 1963 Bulldog teammates Doug Hutton and Larry Lee for a panel discussion about the getaway and the famous game State played against eventual national champion Loyola of Chicago.
Be there or be square.
If I still had a Heisman vote, it would go to Johnny Manziel. I can’t remember a football player who was more fun to watch. Jake Gibbs? Archie? D.D. Lewis? I’d pay to watch.
Makes a guy wonder, Bret Bielma leaving Wisconsin for Arkansas. He led the Badgers to three straight Rose Bowls. Does he really think he’s going to come in and dominate the SEC West? Good luck with that.
Haven’t gotten a good look at Ole Miss basketball yet. Can’t wait. This may be the team that really gets it done for Andy Kennedy. Rebs play at Middle Tennessee State Saturday at 4 p.m. There’s live streaming on ESPN3.
With the Saints about out of the playoff picture, I’ve pretty much lost my NFL buzz. Maybe this’ll be the weekend I clean the dead summer plants out of the flower beds. OK, maybe not.