Mar 17, 2009

March Memories - The Fighting Irish

This week is all NCAA Tournament all the time here on The Verdant Dude. Siena College, my alma mater, is dancing once again this year...with a surprising #9 seed. Too bad they open up in Ohio against Ohio State. In honor of Siena's appearance in the Tourney, this week you get five of my favorite NCAA Tournament memories. You are most welcome. - Earl

Happy St. Patrick's Day to everyone!

In honor of this luscious green holiday (for some), my March Memory today is all about the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame. Now I know that most people immediately think of football when it comes to ND and sports. But some of those teams coached by Digger Phelps in the 70's and 80's were pretty cool to watch. I think Digger still holds the record for most upsets over #1 ranked teams in a career. He led the Irish to seven such upsets in his distinguished career. Well, it was distinguished. Then he started dancing on TV. What the hell?

One of his coolest teams was led by David Rivers back in the mid-late 80's. Check out that mini-fro that he is rocking there in that picture. Looking like a young Nipsy Russell, my friend! Rivers was a great player. A 6'0" point guard with fantastic scoring ability. He still is pretty high up there on ND's all-time scoring list. He never turned his sweet ball-handling skills and effective, artistic scoring to success in the NBA. He was drafted by the Lakers after 4 years (gasp!) at ND and there wasn't much playing time behind Magic, Byron Scott and Michael Cooper in the LA backcourt.

So he went to Europe where he became a legend. Seriously. Played for teams in Greece, Turkey, Italy and France and he won championships. He was truly loved by fans of those teams.

But back to college, my favorite team of his was the 1986-87 squad the went to the Sweet Sixteen in the NCAA tournament. This was his junior year, and he almost didn't make it. Literally. He was in a terrible auto accident in the off-season as a passenger in a van. He wound up almost bleeding to death from a terrible laceration of his abdomen while lying in a ditch. Massive surgery and rehab later, he wound up joining the team for the season when no one thought he would. That team went on to beat #1 North Carolina in February of 1987 before eventually losing to them* in the round of 16 in the tourney in March. But what a ride!

All four of David River's Notre Dame teams made it to the NCAA tournament. Not an easy gig back then for ND because they were Independents and they didn't qualify for an automatic bid. 1987 was the only team to advance very far in the tournament, though.

So here's to David Rivers. Easily my favorite basketball player to don the green and gold for the Irish!

*The also lost to UNC in the second round of the 1985 NCAA tournament in River's freshman year. Man, I hate the Tarheels!


Note: Remember to play the Bug-Eyed Trivia Challenge every day. All the Fighting Irish are doing it.


Michelle said...

HAPPY ST. Patricks Day to ya laddy!!!

Anonymous said...

Only don the green for Irish football. For basketball don the Orange(syracuse), red(st Johns, unfortunately they no longer appear to play this sport), tarheel blue and cardinal red for Loiusville. Always appreciate Pitinos pressing defense and running and three point shooting offense.

Dr Zibbs said...

Good ole Nipsy.

Slyde said...

ugh.. should i just check back next monday, then?

limpy99 said...

I remember Rivers as the guy that never seemed to graduate from Notre Dame. I know he only stayed 4 years, but every year when UCONN would play them, I'd be thinking "Rivers? Isn't he 34 now?"

Verdant Earl said...

Michelle - to you as well.

2abes - I still root for St. John's, but it gets harder and harder each year. Orange for Syracuse? Fucking sacrilege!!!

Zibbs - he was the best.

Slyde - no way. Each defeated comment of yours makes my day.

Limpy - That was back in the day that players stayed for more than a year or two.

Anonymous said...

you have to change sports to route for the red storm...mens soccer is ranked and mens lacrosse is trying to break into the top 20

Candy's daily Dandy said...

Right on about the ND-basketball thing. You gotta respect the Irish for their sport legacy.

Being a Longhorn fan, people don't realize they have a kick-ass baseball team and basketball team.

"Hook em horns"

Verdant Earl said...

2abes - that would require me to actually watch men's collegiate soccer and lacrosse. No thanks.

Candy - Remember the BMW scoring machine? Lance Blanks, Travis Mays and Joey Wright during the 89-90 season? Good times for Tom Penders back then. Good times.

Ookami Snow said...

I guess I didn't ever realize that Notre Dame had a basketball team. That is partly to blame because I don't follow sqeakyball much besides the madness that is March. I also just can get my interest up for any team from Indiana.

Seals said...

Guys who had great college careers but did not do well in the NBA are often forgotten. It's sad, but it's one of the reasons I quit watching college basketball many years ago.

Of course, once my guys all retired from the NBA, I didn't have anyone to root for anymore. I stopped watching basketball altogether.

It used to be my favorite sport. I could talk about it for hours. Now, all this March Madness talk grates on me.

white rabbit said...

NCAA Tournament?

Remember Donald Sutherland inspecting the troops in 'The Dirty Dozen'?

Never heard of it...

Verdant Earl said...

Ookami - ND actually was thought to have a decent squad this year, but they screwed the pooch after their lost to St. John's. Fell off the map after that.

ajooja - I stopped watching the NBA years ago. But I still enjoy the NCAA tournament. I used to be crazy for College Hoops for the entire season, but now that it is "one and done" for some of it's premier players there is no continuity. Duke, in general, and Tyler Hansbrough at UNC are welcome exceptions to the rule. I would have loved to have seen 3 or 4 years out of Greg Oden and/or Kevin Durant. Just doesn't happen anymore.

WR - It's an American College Hoops thing. S'okay. We don't get how anyone can watch darts on TV over here. Different strokes, ya know. :)