Roger Valdiserri was a Notre Dame sports information director of legend within the media. Annually, he was among the SIDs brought in by the NCAA's David Cawood to work the Final Four.
The unlikely location for the 1983 event was Albuquerque, and was played in "The Pit," the home arena for the New Mexico Lobos. The semifinal games on Saturday were North Carolina State vs. Georgia, followed by Houston and Phi Slama Jama vs. a couple of McCrays and Louisville's other fine athletes.
Louisville hung around for a while and then Guy V. Lewis' club — featuring Akeem Olajuwon, Clyde Drexler and a host of slammers — went on a thunderous spree of dunks.
I was in a press row on the side of the court, down by the basket where the dunks were taking place. The Georgia team, after digesting a semifinal loss, was sitting a couple of rows back.
And when Phi Slama started to Jama, it was so dramatic the Georgia players — a bit more than an hour removed from elimination — were standing, hollering and high-fiving over what they were seeing from The Dream, the Glide, and particularly, Benny "The Jet" Anders.
Louisville's Denny Crum attempted to stop the carnage with a timeout. And that's when Valdiserri stood up, turned toward his media acquaintances and showed a piece of paper on which he had written in large letters, "Welcome to the 21st Century."
Ah, Roger, if only it was true. Who among us could have guessed, on that wonderful late afternoon in a great college arena, with its court dug into a hole 37 feet below street level, and followed two nights later by N.C. State's incredible 54-52 upset of the Slammers, that one-fifth of the way through the 21st Century we would have coaches yelling:
"Dadgum it, Clyde, don't jump over that guy and dunk. Pull up and take the three."
We didn't have NCAA adoption of the three until the 1986-87 season, and Rick Pitino, a young coach at Providence, made the Friars the first three-based team to reach the Final Four.
OK, patient readers, admit it: You thought this was random … that it was just a tale from yore with no point to it.
Ye have little faith. Here's the deal:
It was Rick Pitino using math (three is 50% greater than two) to overachieve with the '87 Friars who started us down a path that ruined Valdiserri's vision of new century filled with more fraternities of spectacular athletes soaring, and instead has given us a bunch of players standing behind a three-point line, then clanking, clanging, rattling in and rattling out jumpers, to a degree that what was intended to be basketball's home run is now less exciting than a six-hop dribbler through an over-shifted infield.
And worse yet for the family dynamic, Rick Pitino taking Providence to the 1987 Final Four with the three-ball, basically, wound up creating the momentum for getting his son Richard run out as coach of the Minnesota Gophers 34 years later.
Richard came to the Gophers as an underqualified 30-year-old in 2013. He was hired by a desperate athletic director (Norwood Teague) who had suffered several turndowns, went 8-10 for seventh place in the Big Ten, then won the NIT and gained early approval from the fan base.
As it turned out, that was among three of eight seasons in which Pitino's Gophers did not finish 10th place or lower in the Big Ten.
He was saved last spring when the 2019-2020 season was stopped short by COVID-19. There was significant hope early in this Big Ten schedule, with wins over what would become a No. 1 seed (Michigan) and a pair of No. 2 seeds (Iowa and Ohio State).
Eventually, Pitino was left putting a horrendous collapse on injuries; no surprise, nearly all failed coaches would have done that.
The real blight on his coaching in his last season was allowing a team that couldn't shoot to fire away on threes as if he was a 4-year-old watching Billy Donovan, Delray Brooks and Pop Lewis do that for his dad.
Athletic director Mark Coyle was said to be sitting close to the Gophers bench at recent home games. With few spectators allowed, the sound of those rattling rims had to be disturbing, to the point the AD had to say, "We have to try someone else."
The sidebar here is Pitino interviewed for the New Mexico job on Friday in Chicago with Lobos officials. He was named as the coach on Tuesday morning, roughly 12 hours after Coyle's statement at 9:10 p.m. Monday that Pitino and the Gophers had "parted ways.''
In Albuquerque, Pitino will have a more rabid following in The Pit than was the case during his disappointing tenure in The Barn.
The advice to Pitino from Gophers fandom might be this: Recruit better — namely, shooters if you plan to be three-happy, and a skosh of depth in case of an injury or two.
And, by the way, Richard … 14-61 on the road in the Big Ten. We'll never get over that.
Write to Patrick Reusse by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org and including his name in the subject line.