A Cardinal, A Crusader, and a Wildcat

I was sitting on my couch when I heard the news, “Valparaiso University Hires Matt Lottich as New Men’s Basketball Head Coach“.

Matt Lottich…the name rang a bell, but I wasn’t sure why…I continued to repeat it in my head…Matt Lottich…Matt Lottich…something was familiar about that name…Lottich…Lottich…Matt Lottich…

“Kia,” I said to my wife as she read the press release, “I know that name from somewhere.  Why do I recognize that name?”

“Well,” she said, “let’s see…he played professionally in Japan and Europe…he’s been an assistant coach with Valpo for a couple of years…he played for Stanford in—”

“Stanford!  I knew it!  I knew I knew that name!” I loudly exclaimed.  “That guy hit a buzzer beater against the Cougs to beat them.  I was at that game.  I’m sure of it!”

My memory was impeccable.  Google + YouTube confirmed it.

It was Spring Break 2004, I was a Junior at Valparaiso University, and I had travelled back to Pullman, WA to visit my family.  Just like old times, my Dad and I walked across the street to watch a Pac-10 basketball game, but this time it wasn’t just a game; the Stanford Cardinal were in town and they were undefeated.

My entire childhood was filled with the Cougars trying to play spoiler.  A top ranked team would come into town and optimism, hope, and an ‘anything-can-happen’ attitude would permeate the often frigid air.  I had the privilege of watching top ranked teams such as Arizona and UCLA play at Beasley Coliseum and, unfortunately, the story seemed to end the same every time.  Cougs lose.

But not this time.  This time was going to be different.  This was going to be the time that Washington State got more than just close; they were going to win.  I was sure of it.

And, for 39 minutes and 59 seconds, that was true.

Freaking Matt Lottich.

“Kia,” I continued, “I can picture it perfectly.  He was right in front of the scorer’s table, by the bench.  He heaved up a 3 pointer and made it at the buzzer.  It might have even been near half court…no, maybe not half court…yes, half court…well, it was a 3 for sure, I’m sure of that…Stanford was undefeated and the Cougs were going to win, Kia, the Cougs had it!  I have got to look this up.  I’m pretty sure I’m right on.”

I was rambling a little bit.

Google Search:  Matt Lottich Stanford University vs Washington State University buzzer beater

I watched it three times and that was enough.  It was just as painful as it was 12 years ago.

Fast forward a couple of hours and Valpo Athletics posted on Facebook the following:

“Over the next couple of days we will be releasing fun facts about Coach Lottich”.

I thought that sounded pretty cool so I clicked on it.

Unbelievable.  The first “fun fact” just wasn’t very fun.  At least not for me.

Valpo’s previous head coach, Bryce Drew, who just left to take a job at Vanderbilt, has one of the most iconic buzzer beater shots in NCAA history.  I still get excited every time I see it.

Now their current coach has a game winner very few people outside of Pullman or Palo Alto remember.  But I do.  And it’s not a fond memory.

Perhaps Coach Lottich and I can sit down for some coffee and clear the air.  You know, start the season off fresh with the past staying in the past.  I can tell him about how excited I am for him to be the coach, he can tell me about how he plans to hire me as an assistant, and maybe we will come to an agreement to never mention that shot again.

However, on the off chance that he refuses to stop talking about it, I will interrupt him with the story of my half-court heave in 7th Grade, at the first-half buzzer, while playing for the Pullman Wildcats.  It happened less than a mile down the road from Beasley and it was equally as impressive, I just don’t have any video to prove it.  My dad turned off the camera to save the battery for the second half.

But, trust me coach – it was the most memorable buzzer beater to ever happen in Pullman.

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