Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2009 | 2:07 a.m.
Mark Wade was a great point guard for our 1987 Final Four team.
But he couldn’t shoot the ball, and we didn’t want him to shoot it.
He only took 60 shots in 39 games that year. The television announcers would say, ‘Tark needs to tell him to shoot.’ But why would I want him to shoot when I knew he would miss?
Mark didn’t take many shots, but he was a great defender and he fed the ball to everyone. When we lost to Indiana in the Final Four it was because Mark got in foul trouble and we had nobody to guard Steve Alford.
I remember we were down by 19 at halftime against Iowa in the Elite Eight and the players thought I was going to go into the locker room and raise hell.
But Mark spoke up first and said, “Don’t say anything coach. We know we goofed up and we’ll be ready in the second half.”
I told them that they didn’t goof up. It was my fault. I tried to outsmart Iowa.
Iowa was the leading rebounding team in the country. Its whole front line was NBA guys and we only had one big and strong guy — Armon Gilliam. Gerald Paddio and Jarvis Basnight were 6-foot-6 and 6-7, respectively, and both were thin guys. Armon was the only rugged guy we had.
So, in our practice the day before the game, I thought we could outsmart those guys. I tried to get tricky on defense and it backfired because it got us away from what we did.
It made us not aggressive. It has always been my philosophy that the more your make players think, the slower they get.
In the second half, I told them to switch on the screen and deny them the ball. We held them to 19 points and made it to the Final Four.
I was so glad for the team. Those were some great kids. I always say that we were undefeated going into the Final Four because the one game we lost was by one point to Oklahoma and we had a 3-pointer they only counted as two.
I loved that team. Guys like Mark Wade, Freddie Banks, Gerald Paddio and Armon Gilliam were great Rebels.
I remember taking Gary Graham to the press conference before the Iowa game. All of the talk with the media was how we couldn’t beat them because they came out of the Big 10 Conference.
A reporter asked a question about how Iowa had an edge because they played in a bigger conference. Gary raised his hand and said, ‘Coach, let me answer the question.’
He made the most beautiful statement. He said that it might be true that Iowa plays a tougher schedule but that doesn’t scare him at all.
He said that he couldn’t imagine Iowa working as hard as we did in practice.
Whether it was true or not, it was great to have the players believe.