By Don Markus
The Baltimore Sun
10:17 AM EST, November 12, 2012
Sean Woods hit a shot that was nearly one of the biggest in Kentucky basketball history, a high-arching bank off the backboard on a drive down the lane in the waning seconds to put the Wildcats ahead against defending national champion Duke in the 1992 East Regional final.
Nearly, because after Mike Krzyzewski called a timeout at the Spectrum in Philadelphia, Christian Laettner hit what might be the single-most replayed shot in NCAA tournament history, an 18-foot turnaround that lifted the Blue Devils to the Final Four and ultimately to a second straight NCAA title.
I haven’t thought about Woods for years, until I noticed that he coaches Morehead State, another team from the Commonwealth and one that Maryland, coming off its near upset of the defending national champion Wildcats on Friday in Brooklyn, N.Y., will play tonight at Comcast Center.
I remember talking with Woods six years after the first Duke-Kentucky game, as well as several others who played in that iconic NCAA tournament game, when the two schools met up again in the 1998 NCAA tournament.
Woods stayed around Lexington, where his jersey and other players on “The Unforgettables” -- as the 1991-92 team was named -- hang in the rafters of Rupp Arena. He was working for a local television station, but he eventually got back in the game as an assistant at High Point.
He made a few other stops before winding up as the head coach at Mississippi Valley State, where he took the school Jerry Rice put on the map to last season’s NCAA tournament. I spoke to Woods again Saturday as he and his team headed down to College Park by bus from New York.
Woods said that he’s never watched tape of the 1992 game that many believe is the greatest college game ever played. (Even Len Elmore, who played in the classic Maryland-North Carolina State ACC championship game in 1974, said it was the best after serving as the color analyst on the ’92 game.)
Woods said that all the players he has coached along the way know about his history and the shot he made against the Blue Devils. He also said that he preferred to be a player in that situation than a coach. “You have more control as a player than you do as a coach,” he said.
Morehead State, the school Phil Simms first put on the map after being drafted out of the there by the New York Giants and the one Kenneth Faried led to an upset of Louisville in the 2011 NCAA tournament, won’t be a pushover for the Terps.
The Eagles won’t be a surprise, either, given that they played at the Barclays Center against host LIU in the opener Friday night, and I’m sure Mark Turgeon scouted it like he would an NCAA tournament game. Woods said he is trying to change the style of play at Morehead State.
“We’ve got a long way to go. Everyone in the country has a long way to go,” Woods said. “We’re a brand new team. Brand new coach. They’re trying to find out how to play fast, my style of play, change the culture.”
Woods and his team hung around at the Barclays Center to watch the coach’s alma mater play the Terps.
“They’re a big-time offensive rebounding team,” Woods said of Maryland, which grabbed an outstanding 28 offensive boards against Kentucky to help keep the Terps in the game.
I will be curious to see what kind of emotional hangover, if any, Maryland might have tonight after its near-miss against Kentucky.
Duke and Kentucky will be playing again as part of the Champions Classic at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta on Tuesday night. The shot by Laettner – and maybe even the one by Woods – will likely be replayed in the pre-game leadup.
Woods, for one, won’t be watching.
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