By Mike Pound
It occurred to me Wednesday, after reading the Globe story on the MIAA Basketball Tournament in Kansas City, that I have attended every tournament since it moved to Kansas City in 2003.
Part of that is because my wife’s work requires her to attend the tournament; part of that is because I love to watch college basketball.
Our now 15-year-old daughter, Emma, was 5 when we went to that first tournament. I remember that she thought the downtown Marriot Hotel where were stayed was a castle. While my wife attended to work-related issues, Emma and I walked up and down the long winding staircase at the far end of the hotel lobby.
I also remember that my brother-in-law Tim (who like his wife, Chris — my younger sister — graduated from Emporia State University) spent most of the four days of the tournament watching basketball pretty much non-stop.
In the first few years of the tournament it was easy to get away for a few days during the week and take in the entire tournament. But as our kids got older and school commitments increased, we started scaling back our basketball watching. Some years, depending on what other conflicts popped up, we might miss the first day of the tournament. Other years we might miss the second day, but we never missed an entire tournament.
Two years in a row Emma was in a major dance competition at the same time as the tournament. Fortunately, the dance competition was held at the same location as the basketball tournament. If you’re not familiar with Memorial Auditorium, I should point out that one side of the building is set up for athletics and the other side is designed for the arts.
So I would watch a bit of basketball for a while and then move over to the other side of the building and watch dance for a while.
Globe sports editor Jim Henry did a good job detailing the history of Memorial Auditorium. He pointed out, for example, that the auditorium has been host to more NCAA Division I Championships than any other arena in the country. And with its art deco style of architecture and its old-school feel, it’s easy to conjure up all the basketball history that was created on the courts there.
When I was much younger and working in Kansas City I spent some time in a bar across the street from the auditorium called — appropriately enough — The Auditorium Bar. That bar is gone now, replaced by a parking garage, but the auditorium is going strong.
Over the years, I’ve seen a lot of great basketball played at Memorial Auditorium. I remember one year when Robert Corn’s men’s team was trailing Pittsburg State University by at least 20 points at halftime. The score was so lopsided, in fact, that the coach for the team already set to play in the semifinals told the media that he was looking forward to playing Pitt State the next night.
The coach didn’t get his wish because MSSU roared back in the second half and defeated PSU, and then went on to win that semifinal match only to fall short in the championship game on Sunday.
This year, with an expanded and stronger MIAA, it’s tougher to get into the tournament. On Tuesday night, Maryann Mitts’ women’s team mounted a furious comeback only to fall short against Northwest Missouri and was eliminated from the tournament before it moved on to Kansas City. On Monday night, Coach Corn’s team toughed out a two-point victory at Emporia State to make the tournament as the No. 8 seed.
The Lions play at noon today in Kansas City and I won’t be able to make the game. My wife will be there but I won’t. I have a great deal of confidence in Robert’s team so I’m certain that they will win today and I will be able to see them play Saturday. But if for some reason the Lions don’t win and I miss the tournament for the first time in 10 years, I will be OK.
Because like the MSSU men’s and women’s teams: I will be back.