Monday, 17 March 2014

Barry Goheen: The adventures of Crazy Whitey

As March Madness approaches, I was thinking about the first tournament I ever watched at length, and a guard from Vanderbilt who captured our imagination with his last-minute heroics. His name was Barry Goheen, but a friend who watched along with us dubbed him, “Crazy Whitey”.

Buzzer beater
It was the 1988 NCAA men’s national championship tournament, which was best known for the heroics of Danny Manning and the Kansas Jayhawks who upset the Oklahoma Sooners to win it all. That team was dubbed “Danny and the Miracles”, and for good reason.

By the time Danny and the Miracles were cutting the nets down, another hero had already begun to fade into memory. It was a few weeks earlier, when the tournament was just getting going when Barry Goheen captured our imaginations.

It was in the round of 32, and the underdog Vanderbilt Commodores played the heavily-favoured Pitt Panthers. Pittsburgh led by three with time running out. Me and my roommate Chris Vining were watching the game with a buddy named Doug. He said there was no way Pitt could lose this game. Pitt hit a foul shot to extend their lead to four points – a two possession game.

Well, Vandy’s guard dribbling hard, his head bobbing as he moved, went straight down the court and put up a three. It went in to cut the Pitt lead to one. It was actually two guys, the dribbler and the shooter. The shooter was Barry Goheen, and he was a junior.

“Look at Crazy Whitey go there,” Doug said.

We were now into this game.

Pitt had to foul to stop the clock. They did. Pitt made both foul shots to go up by three.

Goheen went straight down the court and dropped another three at the buzzer.

“Look at Crazy Whitey,” Doug, said mimicking his head bobbing.

We were heading to overtime.

The fact was, Vanderbilt was not a chump team. They had Wil Perdue, who would go on to play for the Chicago Bulls where he was part of their first three-peat. Perdue, Goheen and company, took control of overtime and beat the Panthers by six. They were off to the Sweet 16.

Their magic ran out there, but Barry Goheen made an impression that still lasts.

More magical moments
Wikipedia actually calls Barry Goheen, “one of the most clutch college basketball players in NCAA history…He won a total of nine games during his career on last-second shots, often in some of the most important games of each season…ESPN once created and aired a half-hour special documentary summarizing Goheen's last-second basketball game-winning heroics.”

As it turns out, Goheen had a lot of clutch performances left in him. The next year, he hit a half court shot at the buzzer to beat Louisville, and hit a buzzer beater to beat Georgia by two. That caps off a career that included an amazing performance in his freshman year. The Commodores were playing Tennessee, a major rival and, according to Wikipedia they trailed 58-50 with only 48 seconds left in the game. Goheen individually scored seven points in the last 30 seconds of the game, including the game-tying shot and go-ahead free throw in the waning seconds, to beat Tennessee 60-59. Goheen was carried off the court by elated fans.

Parting thoughts
Barry Goheen is a lawyer now, and by all accounts a successful one. Perhaps that is what makes his accomplishments so amazing. He nevr became an NBA star. Instead, he was a lot like the rest of us – an ordinary guy who did some extraordinary things when he had the chance. Those are my favourite stories.

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