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.