My recent visit to Ball State allowed me the chance to witness four individuals who have left very prominent marks in the Mid-Majority. One has long ago completed his career, another is nearing the end of his career, yet another also may very well be at the end of that road, and the fourth finds himself in a strange place wondering what will come next.
The Head Coach
Miami's Charlie Coles celebrated his 70th birthday two days after this game, and his contract expires after this season. 27 years ago, he had a heart attack and triple-bypass surgery. 14 years ago, he suffered cardiac arrest while coaching a MAC tournament game. Four years ago, he had quadruple bypass surgery.
I've never met Charlie Coles, and this was my first time watching his team play, but I greatly admire him as a person. When I hear him speak, I think that if I would have had any significant talent in the game, I would love to have been recruited by him. He owes nothing more to basketball, and he may benefit from stepping away from it, but if he leaves the bench after the end of this season, our game instantly will become a little less enjoyable.
There are some interesting videos of Coles available on the internet, but I think this one is my favorite. This shows how he makes an effort to connect to the student body - more than a coach, indeed. And, "take your coat off!!!"
Miami entered February at the bottom of the MAC standings, and came into this game with a 6-14 record, 2-6 in the conference. I hope they can put together a nice winning streak for the old coach. He deserves better than that.
The Hall of Famer
Bonzi Wells was one of the recent inductees into the Ball State Athletic Hall of Fame, and he was honored with a ceremony at halftime of this game. When his career ended in 1998, he left Ball State as the MAC's all-time career leader in points (2,485) and steals (347).
Wells went on to become the 11th overall pick in the NBA draft, and averaged over 12 points per game in his ten-year NBA career.
Two numbers (for now) hang from the rafters at Ball State's Worthern Arena - Wells' number 42, and his college coach Ray McCallum's number 10.
The Somewhat Anonymous Assistant Coach
Seated quietly on Miami's bench, his presence here announced to noone, Todd Lickliter's role was limited to providing encouragement to the Red Hawks and subtlely suggesting some defensive adjustments. Five years ago, "Coach Lick" took a semi-obscure collection of returning talent and a couple of promising transfers at Butler through a magical season - Pre-Season NIT Champions; wins over Notre Dame, Indiana, and Purdue; a top ten national ranking; a 5 seed in the NCAA tournament (as an at-large); a Sweet 16 berth; and a great scare to the eventual national champion Florida.
Soon thereafter, he chased a rainbow at Iowa, and well, things didn't turn too favorably after that time. In April of 2010, having just been fired by the Hawkeyes, Lickliter addressed a gathering of Butler supporters just before its Final Four game against Michigan State, and said that the best thing he ever did for his alma mater was to get out of the way and let Brad Stevens take over. That was a very bittersweet moment for a very good man.
Lickliter's presence on the Miami bench has spurred rumblings that he will be the heir apparent when Coles retires. I don't know if that will occur, but Coach Lick is certainly deserving of another opportunity.
At the end of this season, Morry Mannies will complete a 56-year career as the voice of Ball State football and basketball. Beginning in radio in his hometown of Peru, IN in 1953 at the age of 15, Mannies spun some records, hosted a morning show, and served as the station's janitor, all by the time he reached his junior year of high school.
After winning a debate tournament on the Ball State campus, Mannies was able to meet the school's debate coach and speech professor, and was awarded a full scholarship there. He ended up landing the play-by-play gig for Ball State football as a freshman, even though he had never before announced a football game, and began as the play-by-play man for basketball that same year. He hasn't stopped since.
Mannies has broadcast over 5,500 Ball State and local high school football and basketball games, and his extraordinary career is weeks away from its end. The home radio booth at Scheumann Stadium is named for him, he has been inducted into the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame, and was awarded the Sagamore of the Wabash, the highest honor given out by Indiana's governor.
The highlight of this game figured to be a showdown between two of the better frontcourt players in the MAC. Miami's 6'8" senior Julian Mavunga, once thought by many as the best player on Gordon Hayward's Brownsburg (IN) High School team, looked like the dominant power player on the court, but played more like a shooting guard. Ball State's 6'9" senior Jarrod Jones got several good looks at the basket in the early minutes of the game, but could not convert on any of them. Both teams got off to a rather sluggish start, with several missed shots and turnovers on each end of the floor. Mavunga was visibly upset with his team's early offensive execution - too often they ended up with their big men on the perimeter and their guards posting up down low; if there was a mismatch there they were trying to exploit, they didn't do so effectively.
With eight minutes remaining in the first half, Miami caught a spark. Brian Sullivan, a 6'0" freshman with a sweet jump shot, knocked down three three-pointers in a span of about six minutes, leading the Red Hawks on a 19-5 run to close out the half. During this stretch, Ball State's defense was very passive, allowing easy entry passes into the low post and leaving Sullivan and others free for wide open superhoop attempts. To reflect the degree of this passiveness, a check of the halftime scoreboard showed the Cardinals with a grand total of two team fouls. While you might think this was the product of some homecourt bias, I would attest that Ball State rarely had a defender active enough for most of that half to have even a chance to get called for a foul. The home crowd was somewhat stunned by the 34-18 deficit for their team at the break.
After the Hall of Fame celebration honoring Bonzi Wells, and at timeouts throughout the game, fans were treated to Charlie Cardinal riding his scooter all around the court. My son, a current Ball State student, pointed out that Charlie's feet had picked up some dirt over the course of the day's activity. I suggested that he might be able to volunteer to clean them on behalf of the university and I received a scoff in response. Ugh, the work ethic of kids today...
When the game resumed, Ball State coach Billy Taylor also must have been unimpressed with his team's effort, as starters Chris Bond and Jesse Berry began the half on the bench, and weren't seen on the court again. When Jones picked up two fouls on the defensive end within the first nine seconds of the half, he too found a spot on the bench for an extended period. In their place, lesser known players such as Tyrae Robinson, Jauwan Scaife, and Aaron Adeoye provided considerably more defensive intensity, and forced a number of Miami turnovers early in the second half.
With ten and a half minutes remaining in the game, the Cardinals had cut the lead to eleven, and had an offensive possession consisting of a missed three-pointer, an offensive rebound, another missed 3-pointer, another offensive rebound, and a missed layup. When Miami finally corralled the defensive board, Taylor was incensed by what he considered a blown call on a push-off (though it looked like a clean rebound from my perspective) and was assessed the first technical foul of his ten-year coaching career.
As often happens after a technical, the Cardinals responded. Ball State went on a 7-0 run to cut the lead to 46-39, but Sullivan responded with his fourth three of the game to extend the lead back to double digits. A three-pointer from Quinten Rollins with just over two minutes remaining gave Miami a 54-42 lead, and looked to be the ultimate dagger. However, the Cardinals struck back with another run. Trailing 54-49 with 33 seconds left and a timeout on the floor, the Ball State band delivered a highly inspired rendition of "We're Not Gonna Take It" that surely would have made Dee Snider proud, but it seemed as if that sentiment might better have been expressed a few minutes earlier.
A Mavunga miss at the foul line, and two free throws by Robinson cut the lead down to three. From there, Mavunga and Sullivan combined to go five-for-six from the free throw line, and Miami came away with a well-earned 59-53 road win.
After the game, I went to the car and flipped on the radio to hear Morry Mannies and his radio partner David Eha recap the game. After Eha went through the sad shooting stats for the home team (33% from the field, 14% from behind the arc, and only Robinson in double figures), Mannies asked Eha if he was sure there weren't some extra points hidden in the scoresheet somewhere. Alas, there were no extras available. All that was left to do was for Morry to sign off with his trademark "good night, and good sports". For Mr. Mannies, and perhaps also for Coach Coles, I wish for many good nights and much good sports over these next few weeks.
MIAMI (OH.) 59, at BALL STATE 53 02/04/2012
MIAMI (OH.) 7-14 (3-6) -- J. Mavunga 3-8 4-5 10; J. Harris 2-2 0-0 5; Q. Rollins 5-7 2-2 14; B. Sullivan 5-9 4-6 18; A. Thomas 3-5 0-2 8; J. Sewell 0-1 0-0 0; D. McGhee 2-4 0-0 4; W. Sullivan 0-1 0-0 0; V. Legarza 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 20-37 10-15 59. BALL STATE 12-9 (4-5) -- J. Jones 3-12 1-2 8; J. Scaife 1-8 5-6 7; A. Adeoya 4-8 0-0 8; R. Davis 1-7 0-0 2; T. Robinson 5-7 3-4 14; Z. Chapman 2-6 0-0 5; C. Bond 2-4 1-2 5; J. Berry 1-6 0-0 2; Z. Fields 1-1 0-0 2; M. Kamieniecki 0-1 0-0 0; P. Sneed 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 20-60 10-14 53.
Three-point goals: MIO 9-18 (J. Mavunga 0-3; A. Thomas 2-4; J. Harris 1-1; Q. Rollins 2-3; J. Sewell 0-1; B. Sullivan 4-6), BSU 3-21 (R. Davis 0-5; J. Jones 1-3; J. Scaife 0-4; J. Berry 0-2; T. Robinson 1-2; Z. Chapman 1-5); Rebounds: MIO 30 (J. Mavunga 10), BSU 31 (A. Adeoya 11); Assists: MIO 10 (J. Mavunga 5), BSU 8 (R. Davis 5); Total Fouls -- MIO 12, BSU 14; Fouled Out: MIO-None; BSU-None.