Honoring the glue that holds the NCAA together   

Updated: March 10, 2009

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Every college basketball team with designs on the Sweet 16 needs one. It's not a low-post presence or a control-the-tempo point guard. No, judging by what I hear from the people announcing the games, the one thing every team needs is The Glue Guy.

The Glue Guy doesn't do the big things, as we're constantly told. He does the little things, but he does them so often and so well that you probably could make the case that they add up to at least one or two big things. (Which raises a question: How many little things does it take to create one big thing? And how many intangibles does it take to add up to one tangible?)

The Glue Guy is usually a small guy who bounces around a lot and slaps the floor on defense and yells whenever possible. He steps in to take a charge and always, always passes off on a two-on-one break. There's one reason for that: The Glue Guy knows the guy to whom he is passing is a better bet to make a hoop. That's why he is The Glue Guy.

And let's be honest -- The Glue Guy is almost always white, he usually doesn't start and he's always the first guy off the bench during a timeout the other team calls to stop a run by Glue Guy's team.

Sometimes it seems like Glue Guy's biggest contribution to teamwork is his willingness to yell "Help!" every time he gets beat off the dribble. Does he bring his team together in such an intangibly adhesive manner by making the other four guys on the court concentrate on team defense? Hey, whatever it takes.

I've heard five or six guys be described as "Ultimate Glue Guys" in the past week. If so many teams have an Ultimate Glue Guy, it's not really "ultimate," is it? You might think this is nitpicking, but if we're going to overuse superlatives, we at least have to be judicious with our overuse. Too much overuse can lead to meaninglessness, and if that happens, we'll need more than glue to hold things together.

It's remarkable that no big-time college coach has come up with the idea of recruiting a team comprised solely of Glue Guys. Forget the NBA-ready power forwards like Blake Griffin and the game-altering big men like Hasheem Thabeet. Give me five Glue Guys on the court at once, and I'd like my chances.

Imagine how together they'd be and how valuable all their contributions would be. Imagine the back cuts and the floor burns and the clever use of the shot clock. Imagine, if you can, the patience. And then imagine how tough our team of Glue Guys would be on those who compile the box scores, since nothing they do would ever show up.


It's right about now that people start writing and talking about how much better college basketball is than the NBA. The NCAA tournament brings almost as much schmaltz and weepy sentimentalism as spring training.

However, the differentiation most college-over-the-NBA proponents fail to make is obvious: The basketball is infinitely better in the NBA -- far better players, of course -- but the game is better at the college level.

The appeal of the college game is the beautiful panic. Consider the scene just after a timeout call. There always is some backup forward hopping out to midcourt, getting into his point guard's face to exhort him to greater heights. There are eight 19-year-olds going absolutely nuts while the coach, clipboard in hand, neck veins distended, is trying to impose some level of order. He's trying to calm them down, and the only way to do it is to scream and point. And pretty soon, he's completely out of control trying to get the fellas under control.

During the Illinois State-Northern Iowa MVC title game Sunday, a bench player from Northern Iowa was screaming nose to nose with one of his teammates as he came off the court during a timeout. I don't know what he was saying, but the guy on the receiving end seemed to enjoy it. UNI was ahead by eight at the time, but if you looked at the two of them, you would have sworn Illinois State was up by 20.

Then, of course, there's the star of March: the clapping coach. You know this guy -- every bench has one. His job is to clap and nod vigorously as the guys come off the court, then clap and nod vigorously when the head coach is finished screaming and the guys are heading back onto the court.

This Week's List

One more thing we all can do without: "Last four in, last four out."

Yeah, it cost him his job, but without a Facebook account, how would anybody know he's a fan of Coldplay and "Survivor"?: A gate chief at Lincoln Financial Field -- strictly a game-day employee, like a vendor -- was fired after he insulted his employer, the Philadelphia Eagles, by calling the team "retarded" as part of his Facebook status.

You mean, like a mouth?: I forgot which team it was, but while the television screen showed a college team's trainer checking a player's teeth on the bench after a collision, the announcer said, "They're checking his oral cavity."

In his attempt to reverse the economic downturn, only one man has the kind of counterintuitive brilliance to change the entire paradigm: Warriors coach Don Nelson, in a stated attempt to get more time for his younger players, has instituted a policy of keeping one veteran in street clothes for every game.

Just for the heck of it: Jud Buechler.

They were a trendy Final Four pick at the beginning of the season, and now they finally are playing like they should be once again: Gonzaga.

One coach who should land a big-time job before long: Portland's Eric Reveno.

Not to say that it was planned or anything, but given the timing and the circumstances, it just seems really, really convenient: Alex Rodriguez and the hip surgery.

Peaking too early?: Adam Dunn in the World Baseball Classic.

Let's all shed a barrel of big ol' dadgum tears for: Bobby Bowden, whose chase for Joe Paterno's win record might be curtailed by that big bad ol' NCAA, which wants to take away some wins because of some little ol' itty-bitty violations like systemic academic fraud in the program.

And finally, doesn't he have fees to raise or liberal-arts programs to cut somewhere?: Bowden's program is put on probation again, and the Florida State president's first response is to threaten a lawsuit against the NCAA if it denies Bowden the wins the school has to forfeit?

ESPN The Magazine senior writer Tim Keown co-wrote Josh Hamilton's autobiography, "Beyond Belief: Finding the Strength to Come Back," which is available on Amazon.com. Sound off to Tim here.


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