Last shots

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column-rick olivaresDUKE University Coach Mike Krzyzewski came under fire for his postmatch talk with Oregon forward Dillon Brooks after the latter threw up a three-point shot from Steph Curry range with eight seconds left despite leading 79-68.

After the match, Coach K told Brooks that he was “too good of a player to do that” in reference to the late shot. Brooks apologized but the next day felt he didn’t do anything wrong.

Now some quarters, including Oregon Coach Dana Altman, say that Coach K should have spoken to the proper people and not the player. Krzyzewski apologized later for reacting incorrectly and distracting the Ducks before facing their next opponent.

While I agree Coach K should have not talked to Brooks but to Altman instead, I think Oregon was wrong for rubbing it in. Now, if there is such a thing as a quotient in determining who moves on, then it is justified. Besides, no way is Duke going to catch up with eight seconds left in the match.

Now if there was a good one minute, then fine. Fire away.

It might have been inadvertent but still it can cause problems down the road because the other team will want to get back and you can be sure some of those Blue Devils will want to settle that score.

I’ve seen it happen locally. Five years ago, en route to their fourth consecutive University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) championship, Ateneo Blue Eagle Chris de Chavez threw up an underhanded shot with about a second left from about 30 feet away. It went in, further burying National University (NU). Ateneo Coach Norman Black was furious at de Chavez.

About a month later, during the University Games, NU had its revenge when Jean Mbe swooped in for a dunk with seconds left in the game and the Bulldogs way, way ahead. There was a near fight as some Ateneo coaches charged the NU side. One Bulldogs’ assistant mentioned the de Chavez shot. Since then, the battles between the two teams have been hotly contested.

And more than a decade ago, there was a similar ending during a match between San Beda and Philippine Christian University with a Red Lions player jacking up a trey toward the match’s end. Harsh words were exchanged and that nearly led to a fight. Luckily, cooler heads prevailed.

Because of today’s intense level of competition, it is easy to forget sportsmanship that is oft-lacking these days. Sometimes, in the heat of the battle, people lose it or forget themselves.

Also recently, Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton was too down following their Super Bowl loss to Denver that while addressing the media postmatch, he used mono-syllabic answers and walked out after hearing the Broncos’ Chris Harris talk about their game plan and how they stopped the potent Panthers team.

I think that just as there are preparations for postgame victories so must there be for losses. Especially the painful ones.

I recall how during the finals of UAAP Season 77, NU Head Coach Eric Altamirano made a mental note of shaking Far Eastern University counterpart Nash Racela’s hands with seconds left to spare during their historic championship. “I knew when that buzzer sounded, everyone will be trying to hug one another and so on so I made sure that even before the game ended, I shook Coach Nash’s hand.”

Sometimes the best end to any game, no matter how hard fought, is that gesture of class. A handshake. Consoling a vanquished opponent. Taking a knee. Or even not taking that inadvertent last shot (or not) just to pad one’s stats.