Monday night, the men’s and women’s basketball team fled Maryville for Hays, Kan. What did we flee from? Look out your window. If we had any chance to play our Wednesday game at Hays, we had to outrace the blizzard.
I laugh at the football coaches that are all bundled up for football practice this time of the year. Heck, we practice and play in 72 degree air, no wind chill, and never a hint of wind. However, nasty weather is a part of any basketball season. We’re sitting here in a Hampton Inn in Hays wondering if we’ll get home after the game. However, it can be a lot worse.
Bi-yearly Thanksgiving trips to Butte, Mont., always seem to bring interesting weather. As the Doane College coach, I was allowed to schedule 32 games since we played by NAIA rules. That meant playing a lot of games in a short time. Not only did I schedule the three-game classic in Butte, but we followed it with a game at Colorado Christian University near Denver on Monday. As we left Butte, a storm was quickly approaching. We gunned it over the mountain passes and arrived in Gillette, Wyo., around midnight confident we had tricked Mother Nature. The forecast said clear and windy the next day. It appeared to be clear sailing to Denver. The windy part of the forecast got us in a lot of trouble. It created a raging ground blizzard. You could look straight up and see nothing but blue skies, but straight ahead, you couldn’t see 10 feet. We crawled onto the Colorado Christian College about 30 minutes before game time. In case you were wondering, I had a player hit her first five shots, all three-point field goals, and we won our fourth in a row in four days. It wasn’t easy.
The strangest snow storm hit also when I coached at Doane. We played Peru State College at Plattsmouth, Neb. As we arrived in town, it began snowing. When we walked out of the gym, a blinding blizzard was in process. Roads were closed in all directions. Now we had to find housing in Plattsmouth, a small community near Omaha. The only place with vacancies was The Rock Motel. It was one of those mom and pop motels with the florescent lights everywhere. Rooms had dirty dinettes, thread-bear sheets and blankets and very thin walls. The players nicknamed it the Roach Motel. What the heck, it was only for one night. I went to the office to ask for a wake-up call. It was Saturday night. The man behind the counter had a very small shirt, a very big stomach, and grease spots instead of a design on his t-shirt. He flipped me a wind-up alarm clock and said, “Get yourself up, I don’t get up that d### early!” Needless to say, we didn’t turn our keys back in to the office the next morning.
Over the Christmas break one year at Doane, two friends from the Admission’s Office and I went to Illinois to watch a high school game. On the way home, the snow really started to fall. We made it to Iowa City before it got dark and we lost all confidence that we would make it home. The three of us, all males, checked into the Iron Horse Inn. I think it’s now a Days Inn. As I was checking in at the front desk, my friends went to the lounge for happy hour. The place was packed with beauty queen dressed people. Many had ribbons across their chests that said things like Miss Iowa, Miss Ames, or Miss Clinton Livestock Market. There was just one problem; they all had deep voices and a five o’clock shadow. I ran back to the front desk to see what was up at the Iron Horse Inn. They explained to me that they were hosting an Iowa Transvestite Convention. I was told not to worry, they were harmless and most of their wives were with them. We still didn’t stray far from rooms.
My second year at Northwest, we were seeded seventh in the conference tournament. We were scheduled to play at Southwest Baptist on Monday. Back then, we played all the tournament games on campuses of the highest seeds. Again, a blizzard approached. Dr. Jim Redd, then the Northwest athletic director, put us on a bus Sunday afternoon to beat the ominous forecast. When I loaded the players on the bus, I didn’t recognize the bus driver. It was someone who had driven for my team since I began coaching at Northwest 20 months earlier. Appropriately, his name was Frosty. Is that a great name for a bus driver ready to face the perils of Mother Nature? I asked Frosty about himself and what I found gave me a lot more confidence. Frosty had once lived in Alaska and he had driven a bus. Frosty told me he often had the tricky job of avoiding avalanches. Since, I didn’t think we’d get anything near an avalanche, I stuck my tongue out at Mother Nature and we hit that blizzard head-on.
During my 25 plus years as a head college coach, my team, my assistants and I have not only overcome blizzards, but insect-infested motels, strange ground blizzards and unusual habits in wardrobes. Now, sitting in my very nice motel room with conservatively dressed people in near-by rooms and not an avalanche in sight, what do I have to worry about? Oops, I just remembered…we forgot Tommy, our radio guy. He was supposed to broadcast our game against Hays.