That Phi Slama Jama did not win the 1983 NCAA basketball championship remains both an American tragedy and an all-time blessing.

No offense to North Carolina State, but no way should Cozell McQueen walk the earth as a national champ while Clyde Drexler, Hakeem Olajuwon and Larry “Mr. Mean” Micheaux do not.

Thirty-five years later, the saving grace remains Jim Valvano.

The Wolfpack’s wisecracking, self-deprecating coach never entered a room he didn’t light up. He never spoke a word that didn’t grab those who listened.

We all paid more attention to Jimmy V after NC State’s crazy run through the ’83 tournament. Thank goodness for that, since what he had to say at the 1993 ESPY awards remains gospel.

“To me, there are three things we all should do every day. We should do this every day of our lives. Number one is laugh. You should laugh every day. Number two is think. You should spend some time in thought. Number three is you should have your emotions moved to tears. Could be happiness or joy, but think about it. If you laugh, you think and you cry, that’s a full day. That’s a heck of a day. You do that seven days a week, you’re going to have something special.”

Only a spirit like Valvano could pull this off daily. The rest of us should heed his words on a more weekly basis. That doesn’t seem to much to ask.

Here’s how it went for me last week ...

This made me laugh

It was the fourth quarter of Saturday’s Class 5A boys state championship. Booker T. Washington was rallying and the Hornets’ student section was wigging out.

“We! Can’t! Hear! You!” they taunted the Memorial crowd across the Mabee Center.

Out of a timeout, Chargers senior Shemar Walker caught sight and sound of the noise. The 5-foot-7 captain marched across the court and straight toward the Booker T. student body. He nodded his head vigorously and started chewing on his mouthpiece through the biggest grin you ever saw.

What does it mean to be point guard of a state champion? That right there.

Watching nearby was Mike Boynton. The Oklahoma State coach had a courtside seat as the coveted Boone twins joined Walker and led the Chargers in holding off Booker T.

Boynton split as soon as the game ended. He borrowed Mike Gundy’s recruiting chopper (at least I assume he did), trekked to Oklahoma City and was courtside at State Fair Arena for the Class 4A final, watching coveted freshman Trey Alexander lead Heritage Hall past Kingfisher.

And here I was foolish enough to consider the possibility Boynton might spend the weekend holed up in his office, banging his head against the wall over the whims of the NCAA Tournament selection committee.

Picture this the next time you hear coaches say, “Control what we can control,” and your first inclination is to roll your eyes.

This made me think

Kelvin Sampson coached Houston over Wichita State and into the American Athletic Conference championship against Cincinnati over the weekend. The Cougars played their tails off the same week Sampson’s former program, the Oklahoma Sooners, were outfought by Oklahoma State in a Big 12 tournament qualifier.

Lon Kruger has an outstanding body of work to show for his seven years at OU. He is responsible for a Final Four appearance and the development of National Player of the Year Buddy Hield.

He also must answer to his team’s six-week nosedive, and the fact that over that slump the Sooners had stretches where they looked like they’d rather have been sitting through a timeshare presentation than playing basketball.

Before Kruger there was Jeff Capel. He coached the Sooners to an Elite Eight and helped get Blake Griffin the same awards Hield would win.

And yet Capel’s 2009-10 team with McDonald’s All-Americans Willie Warren, Tiny Gallon and Tommy Mason-Griffin played so carelessly it was pitiful.

Is this to suggest OU basketball fans would welcome back Sampson tomorrow? No sir. There were too many who couldn’t stand Sampson’s dump-and-chase style of basketball in Norman. There remain too many who recall Sampson left the Sooners just as the NCAA was about to sanction them for his phone call infractions.

But say this for the guy: You never question whether his players will scrap.

It was that way then. It is that way now.

I just wonder if that has crossed the minds of OU backers who wish these Sooners would scrap.

This made me cry

I didn’t think the geniuses at TBS would really go through with it, but they did. On Sunday evening’s selection show, they trashed the best drama sports television ever produced, the line-by-line NCAA bracket reveal, and unveiled the field of 68 in alpha-freaking-betical order.

Never ... for the love of Georgetown-vs.-Princeton, left-handed Bo Kimble and One Shining Moment ... never, ever, EVER do that again.

Guerin Emig


Twitter: @GuerinEmig



Sports Columnist

Proud father of Gretchen and Holden. Devoted husband to Christy, who has been my best friend since biology class at Booker T. Washington. I covered the Oklahoma Sooners for 15 years. That was both challenging and rewarding. Now I get to write columns.