He lived in Nashville for five years, attempting to become a country music star. He was an official for women’s basketball in the Jayhawk Conference. There might be a lot more you don’t know about Garth Gardiner, but what is abundantly clear — especially after watching him in action from his court-side seat at Bramlage Coliseum, ranting and raving and causing a commotion — is that he is passionate about Kansas State basketball. He’s passionate about K-State, in general, but let’s be real. “Do I love men’s basketball more than the debate team? Yeah, probably.” With tomorrow’s game against Kansas on deck, Gardiner seemed like the logical choice for this edition of “Five.”
1. How did you become such a rabid basketball fan? How did that all develop?
As a kid, growing up here in western Kansas, I grew up in the (Jack) Hartman era. Rolando (Blackmon), Chuckie (Williams)… We didn’t have a football team then. I was always a basketball fan. I remember playing in my parents’ driveway, doing the play-by-play. I went to Jack’s camp, but I was too slow, too white, and too fat to play. But it was always a dream to play for Jack or K-State… I specifically have a passion for K-State basketball, and it has carried on. Here I am, 40 years old, and some people watch me at games and think I’m an idiot. I think I’m good comic relief for Frank (Martin)… I’ve never seen a win in Manhattan. In 1988, when we went to Elite Eight, we beat KU two out of three times. Everybody kind of assumed we get them again… But in the Elite Eight, the day we lost to them, it was probably the second or third darkest day — when Huggs left, the day we lost to A&M in football and losing to KU in the Elite Eight — of my life as a K-State fan… I love the game of basketball. The last eight years, though, before they hired Huggs, it was absolutely brutal. We accepted mediocrity. Everybody can be mad at Huggs for leaving, but I guarantee he misses K-State basketball more than anyone realizes.
2. How much influence do you have on K-State athletics? You’re kind of a big deal, no?
I don’t have any… I consider Tim (Weiser) a friend, but I’m not Jack Vanier. He has influence and should have influence. I’ve donated to the Ahearn Fund for a long time, but I’m no different from anyone else who has donated to the fund… The difference is I’ve become close to a few of the coaches, Frank and Brad (Underwood). They’re like brothers. I have a good relationship with Ron (Prince) and his wife. Our kids play together… I don’t think I have any more influence than anyone else that donates.
3. Why haven’t they asked you to sing the national anthem? I saw you used to be a country music singer.
I had a dream of being a star, and moving to Nashville gave me an opportunity to move away from home and grow. I came back home and sang the anthem, by myself, at a football and basketball game in the ‘90s… (J-Mart note: Why haven’t they asked you since?) They’re probably afraid I’ll take the microphone and start throwing out F-bombs.
4. Is Michael Beasley the greatest player you’ve seen don the purple and white?
I’d have to say yes. Look at all of the things he’s done in such a short amount of time. He’s much different than anyone I’ve seen at K-State. I can relate to how he compares to Chuckie (Williams), Mike (Evans), Rolando and Mitch (Richmond)… The thing about Mike, he’s not going to be able to turn down a chance to play in NBA. But if he did, he’d break every record at K-State. If he’s not the best, he’s certainly in the top two or three. He makes everything look so smooth. I’d love to know how many ‘and-ones’ he has this year. If you foul him, you’d better grab his arm and rip it off. He’s going to get the shot off, and he’s going to make it. And he’s such a good kid… He’s a great player. He talks the talk but he walks it, too. I think he truly believes we’re going to win tomorrow night, and I believe it, too… He’s a great kid, and what I hope is that he stays attached in some shape to K-State after he leaves.
5. Do you expect any chickens — dead, alive or hypnotized — to make their way into Bramlage Coliseum?
(BONUS) 6. Gotta have a prediction, Garth. How does it play out tomorrow night?
I think what we have to do to win the game is allow them to not make that run they always make. Look at the last 24 we’ve played. We’ve played them tight, but we always allow them to make that 10-0 run. If we can withstand that onslaught, we’ll win the ballgame. If we allow them to score in rapid fashion for two or three minutes… Can we get back over the hump? We’ve done it before. I think the key is don’t give them a chance to make a run. My prediction is I think we have as good of a shot to win as we’ve had in the last 24 years. I think we’ll win. If we don’t, we’re 4-1, and we go to Missouri this weekend. The world will not end if we lose to KU… I guarantee there is no one who wants it more than I do. But if it doesn’t happen, we can’t allow the rest of the season to be ruined because of one game. I expect the place to be electric, and I hope everyone contribute to one of the best environments in the history of K-State athletics… I truly believe we have an impact on the game. You can’t do it sitting on your hands, with your arms crossed. You have to be involved in the game… People think I act like a fool. I encourage everyone to join me tomorrow night. We can do something exciting and get people to stop talking about the streak.
(BONUS) 7. True or false — you out-kicked your coverage in marrying your wife.
True. There is no doubt, I over-married. I’m not the only one who has ever done that. A wise man will always do that.