Wichita State assistant coach K.T. Turner had tickets to the Final Four in previous seasons, at least four or five times. Each time he declined to attend the games.
“I always said that I’m not going to go to the game until I’m coaching in one,” Turner said. “I said that and it really came true. It’s the craziest thing ever.”
Months ago, Turner decided this Final Four was the one to watch. He will, from the sidelines with the Shockers. Coaches flock to the Final Four each year for meetings, reunions and clinics. They search for jobs and search for coaches to hire. Saturday is their big day. Most of them attend the semifinals.They watch their peers on the court and wonder if they will get that chance. For any coach, that moment before the game is a special one, a time to savor.
“It’s going to be unbelievable, walking in and seeing that atmosphere,” Turner said. “I’ll probably find where my wife and my son are at. Once the ball goes up, I think it will be all business.”
Assistant coach Greg Heiar will think about his career path, playing and coaching at small schools and junior colleges. Larry Eustachy, Heiar’s boss at Southern Mississippi, told him that all those experiences prepared him for this moment.
“We’re going to walk out there like ‘Hey, this is what we do. We win and we do it together,’” Heiar said. “There will be tingles, sure. I’ll think back to when I was a graduate assistant at Loras. When I was a student assistant at Mount St. Clare, where I played. When I was an assistant at Chipola, making nothing. Those are the things you thing about when you step on the court, because it’s been a long grind and a long journey. At the end of the day, we belong here.”
Dominic Okon, WSU’s director basketball operations, sat up in the rafters at the Georgia Dome in 2007, when Florida defeated Ohio State.
“I’m sure I will have goosebumps when I go up on the floor, the opposite of ’07,” he said. “I’m going to look around, take it in for a few seconds. I’m looking forward to that.”
Okon and associate head coach Chris Jans came to Wichita State with Gregg Marshall in 2007 and are the only staff members still with the Shockers.
“I’ve thought about it and I don’t think I can even imagine what it’s going to feel like,” Jans said. “It will be a neat moment.”