This article was published on March 17, 2004
Packed house, Seton Hall's run and Knight's diatribe and departure made tournament's 2000 visit to Queen City a memorable one.
Three legendary coaches.
Two overtime thrillers.
An upstart. A future Big 4 villain. A "Shining" moment for an unheralded sophomore.
The three largest crowds in the history of Buffalo basketball.
That's the highlight reel that flips through your mind when you reflect on the last time the NCAA Tournament visited HSBC Arena.
It was the first and second rounds of the 2000 East Regional, probably the best week for Western New York basketball since St. Bonaventure went to the 1970 Final Four.
While the eight teams were in Buffalo, the Bonnies were in Cleveland after getting the Big 4's first NCAA at-large berth and took Kentucky to double overtime before falling, 85-80, in the Midwest Regional.
The East play started Friday afternoon with Seton Hall's 72-71 overtime win over Oregon, an upset of the No. 10 seed over the No. 7. It ended late Sunday afternoon when the Hall stunned second-seeded Temple, 67-65, to become the first team to win consecutive OT games in the NCAAs since national champion Louisville did it in 1980.
Also visiting were Hofstra, Lafayette, Oklahoma State, Pepperdine and Indiana. Oklahoma State won two games, while Pepperdine drubbed Indiana, 77-57, in the last game Friday night and ended the Indiana career of coach Bob Knight.
"It's not an exciting memory, but him losing his last game at Indiana is something that if you're a basketball historian or someone who follows the game, that's a pretty memorable moment," said Richard Ensor, commissioner of the host Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference.
Many media members stayed in Erie, Pa., so they could shuttle to the Buffalo and Cleveland subregionals.
And many more reporters than expected headed for HSBC when it was learned Knight was coming along with Temple legend John Chaney and Oklahoma State's Eddie Sutton.
On open practice day, things get really interesting during Knight's pretournament news conference -- or what should be dubbed the Knightly News.
Knight was embroiled in the height of the Neil Reed controversy. Reed was the Indiana player who accused Knight of choking him during a 1997 practice, an accusation backed by a video acquired by CNN and one that ultimately led to Knight's departure from the school.
Knight sits at the lectern in the arena bowels and goes on a 25-minute filibuster about the Indiana program and its values. The NCAA and the media, two of Knight's longtime targets, take the biggest beatings. Some of the statements are downright bizarre, the ramblings of a desperate coach.
Says Knight: "I don't expect everyone to agree with everything I say or do. In the time I've been coaching, I've probably done over a thousand things to motivate kids and teams. And I'll guarantee a lot of them I wouldn't want to talk about at a church social or a PTA meeting or a garden party.
"But we're not teaching kids how to play canasta. This is a game where kids get bloody noses and get hurt."
Knight admits he hasn't been perfect ("I've had regrets about the way I've treated my wife sometimes") but rails at reporters for the way they are covering the Reed story.
"What's an unnamed source? Somebody, please tell me," he says. "If I said 65 percent of the people in this room had sexual relations with a sheep, would that be coming from an unnamed source?"
Somebody should remind Knight that Watergate was built on unnamed sources. Reporters laugh nervously and look around in disbelief. On Empire, the diatribe is aired live and runs past the 7 p.m. signoff for the network's old "Fan TV" show.
Empire stays with it. When Knight finally walks off the podium around 7:20 -- after answering one question about Pepperdine -- host Howard Simon is laughing so hard he can barely speak. An hour later, there are a couple of thousand fans in the arena for workouts. When Indiana takes the floor in the early evening, there are alternating boos and cheers for Knight.
Seton Hall and Oregon tip off shortly after noon, and the building is packed. All the way to the 300 level.
Shouldn't it be, you say? Well, at most subregionals there are plenty of empty seats for the afternoon session on the first day while locals are at work and out-of-towners are getting to the site.
Not so here. There is an arena-record 19,357, just as Larry Quinn said there would be while the arena was being built and an NCAA subregional was a dream. But Quinn is in exile from his first stint with the Sabres and is watching from the stands.
Ensor spots Quinn, whose vision is a reality. Ensor gives Quinn a thumbs-up signal. Quinn smiles broadly.
Nike chair Phil Knight is in the stands, too, sporting a green Oregon hat. The Ducks' cheerleaders draw raves from the fans and spark an exchange that has press row doubling over in laughter.
A middle-aged man yells, "I love you, baby," at one of the Ducks' cheerleaders, a petite blonde. Instead, the brunette next to her responds by saying, "Thank you." The man is undeterred: "I meant your friend, but I love you, too."
The Oregon-Seton Hall game is one of those NCAA classics. It ends when Hall guard Shaheen Holloway goes coast-to-coast for a layup with two seconds left in OT. The rest of the day is filled with blowouts. Temple crushes Lafayette, 73-47. Oklahoma State buries Hofstra, 86-66. And Pepperdine makes stunningly short work of Indiana.
Lafayette's brief trip to Buffalo was chronicled in "The Last Amateurs," a book about the Patriot League by John Feinstein, the former Washington Post writer who wrote the best-selling "A Season on the Brink" about Knight and Indiana.
Vignettes included the Leopards' game-day shootaround in Canisius' Koessler Center and coach Fran O'Hanlon's frustration with arena security.
It seems a guard kept asking O'Hanlon for his pass and wouldn't let him enter the court area without one prior to his game. A frustrated O'Hanlon grumbled that no one would be asking the widely known Chaney for his pass. Feinstein glows about his experiences with the Lafayette players.
"I was at Lafayette the day after the New Hampshire primary, and the kids in the locker room were saying, 'Wow, did you really think (John) McCain was going to beat (George) Bush by that much?' " Feinstein said. "If I was in an ACC locker room, they wouldn't care about McCain or Bush unless they could shoot the three."
Knight is stoic during most of Indiana's disintegration and rarely gets out of his chair. He appears beaten by the Reed scandal, and so does his team.
"He told people (including NCAA representative Jack Kvancz of George Washington) afterward it was the best NCAA site he had attended," Ensor said. "He had told people it was really well run, and I hope that's what he remembers and not the loss."
Star guard A.J. Guyton has just three points and takes only three shots. Asked by a News reporter if Guyton simply wore down at the end of the season, Knight stuns the assembled media by responding, "That's a fair question."
National types make note of a rare Knight plaudit to the media.
"I don't think it's easy for a guard to carry a scoring burden," Knight continues. "A guard . . . has to be a guy the ball is thrown out to and he takes the shot. We just run the hell out of Guyton."
Knight is gone, so things are tame on the off day before the tournament's second round. Practices are closed to the public and media as per NCAA policy. The Pepperdine players get applause as they're walking through the Walden Galleria. Sutton takes his Oklahoma State players to Niagara Falls.
The sun is shining brightly, but it's a problem in the media work room.
The hundreds of reporters are housed in an arena room that features large windows adjoining the Metro Rail tracks; it's where Adelphia set up its computer operations areas before the Rigas empire crumbled.
But reporters are complaining. No one on the left half of the room can see his laptop computer screen. Officials scramble to put makeshift shades on the window to cut down the glare.
"Imagine that," grouses a veteran New Jersey columnist. "We're in Buffalo in March, and the biggest problem is that there's too much sun."
Pepperdine has become a fan favorite for its fast-break style and for its players' afros. The crowd senses the Waves don't have much support in the house, compared to the hundreds of Oklahoma State fans on hand, so they try to boost the Pepperdine team. It doesn't work.
Oklahoma State wins, 75-67, and the Pepperdine players get huge applause as they're removed from the game and as they leave the floor.
"When we first got here there weren't more than two Pepperdine fans -- our AD and his wife," jokes Pepperdine guard Tezale Archie. "By today, three days later, half the building is chanting for us and they know some of the players. So definitely we made a statement."
In the nightcap, Temple looks like it is going to give Buffalo its fifth straight blowout when it jumps to a 14-3 lead and Seton Hall loses Holloway eight minutes into the game with a severe ankle sprain.
But Ty Shine, a 6-foot sophomore, makes 9 of 15 shots -- including seven three-pointers -- and finishes with 26 points to keep the Pirates afloat. He even hits the winning shot on a three-pointer with 18.9 seconds left in OT.
And, lo and behold, there is a local angle. Shine, from Augusta, Ga., is playing in front of nine extended family members from Buffalo and Niagara Falls -- most of whom had never seen him play.
"Coach (Tommy Amaker) gives me the green light," Shine said. "So when Shaheen got hurt, I started taking my shot when it was there. My first one had good form, good bounce on it. So I knew it was going to be a positive game for me."
"It was significant for us to go to Buffalo and beat a No. 7 and No. 2 seed in overtime," Amaker, now the head coach at Michigan, said recently by phone. "It was an unexpected run and something I'm very proud of. We're proud to have brought back the Seton Hall program as we did, and hopefully that will happen at Michigan sooner than later."
Chaney, who often breaks down in tears after the last game of a season, is philosophical after this loss.
"Always a bridesmaid," he says. "There's a lot of good bridesmaids, too."
A drummer in the Temple band is pictured crying in Monday's News.
Most Temple fans feel this was Chaney's best chance to get to the Final Four as All-American point guard Pepe Sanchez was graduating and star forward Mark Karcher was leaving early for the NBA.
Seton Hall and Oklahoma State moved on to the Carrier Dome in Syracuse, with State winning its regional semifinal, 68-66. The Cowboys couldn't get to the Final Four in Indianapolis, however, as they lost to Florida, 77-65, in the regional final.
Tragedy struck Oklahoma State the following February. Ten members of the traveling party, including two players, the radio announcer and the sports information director, were killed in a plane crash on the trip home from a game at Colorado.
Knight moved on to Texas Tech; he's making his second NCAA trip with the Red Raiders. Everyone in Olean, of course, knows where van Breda Kolff ended up. After last year's scandal ended his two-year run at St. Bonaventure, he's now an assistant with the NBA's New Orleans Hornets.
Temple made a surprise run to the Elite Eight as a No. 11 seed the next season before losing to Michigan State and has not been to the NCAAs since, the longest drought in Chaney's career.
Amaker spent one more tumultuous season at Seton Hall, failing to make the NCAAs, before moving on to Michigan. Hofstra coach Jay Wright has moved on to Villanova. Oregon made the Elite Eight in 2002, losing to Kansas.
Neither Lafayette nor Hofstra has been back to the NCAAs since their trip to Buffalo.