BUFFALO If the Western Michigan offense and defense resemble those of the vaunted UCLA championship teams coached by the legendary John Wooden in the 1960s and 1970s, its by design.
Broncos coach Steve Hawkins, whose club plays Syracuse in todays NCAA Tournament second-round game, was a longtime friend of the late Hall of Fame coach and the head counselor at Woodens camps in California when he was in college and breaking into the coaching ranks.
Hawkins said Woodens influence runs the gamut from what we teach the kids about basketball to what we teach them about life. Its immeasurable what he has meant to me. Hes my mentor and was one of my dearest friends.
Hawkins said he would relish in Woodens stories about life and sport as he drove him home each day after camp.
Coach Wooden had a way of keeping you grounded, Hawkins said. He always considered himself an educator first, and thats the way I approach my job. Almost everything we do here is based on his philosophy for success.
One of Hawkins assistants also has a UCLA connection. Larry Farmer, played for Wooden, was the winningest college player in history, going 89-1, and coached the Bruins for four seasons.
Coach Wooden believed in discipline on and off the court, Hawkins said. To him, it was all about giving your best. And staying true to yourself. I realize that no matter what happens here, Ive still got to take out the trash on Thursday night.
When the NCAA Tournament brackets were announced, one of the loudest shouts came from the McIntyre family in Brampton, Ontario.
Toni and Suzette Ennis McIntyre were certain one of their sons, Syracuse freshman Tyler Ennis, was coming to Buffalo for the NCAA Tournament second and third rounds. But when Villanova, which includes older brother Dylan Ennis, was also chosen as part of the eight-team field assigned to the South Region here, it was a joyous day.
Brampton, a suburb of Toronto, is a little more than an hours drive from Buffalo, which means the entire McIntyre clan will be rooting on their favorite sons this weekend.
It was really cool when Dylan came to Syracuse to play against us in the Carrier Dome (a 78-62 SU win on Dec. 28), Tyler Ennis said Wednesday. But being at the same site for the NCAA Tournament! And the family being able to be here together. It cant get any better than that.
Tylers father traveled to Greensboro, N.C., to watch him play for the Orange in last weeks ACC Tournament.
At the same time, mom was in New York City, rooting on Dylan as Villanova competed in the Big East Tournament at Madison Square Garden.
It was tough on them not being able to be together, especially because we both lost our first games, Tyler said. My dad told me hes been scouring for tickets for three days, and he hopes to come up with a couple dozen.
We text three or four times a day, just to keep in touch and let the other know whats going on, Tyler said.
Dylan said, I couldnt be more proud of what Tyler has accomplished. But to me, hes just my younger brother and my best friend.
BUCKEYES, FLYERS STRANGERS
Although they are located just 75 miles apart off Interstate 70 in Southern Ohio, the University of Dayton and Ohio State are only infrequent opponents.
Before todays NCAA South Region second-round game, the Flyers and Buckeyes had met six times, with Ohio State winning four times.
Their last encounter was in 2008 during the third round of the National Invitation Tournament. Before that, the neighboring teams had not met since 1988, the end of a four-year series. Their previous only matchup came way back in 1934.
Granted, they play in different conferences. Dayton is now a member of the Atlantic 10, while Ohio State is one of the founding members of the Big Ten. But you would think they would schedule each other in the nonconference season just to satisfy their respective fan bases.
Its just one of those things, Ohio State coach Thad Matta said. We would love to play Dayton, but its been tough to get them on our schedule for one reason or another. However, well probably rethink that in the future.
Many people in Ohio have criticized Matta and his athletic director, Gene Smith, because the Buckeyes dont play in-state Division I teams away from their home court. Dayton has not been able to entice the Buckeyes to make the short drive to play at the Dayton Arena.