There aren’t many blank spots on longtime NBA player Derek Fisher’s resume: five world titles, an AAU National Championship, a high school state championship, six years as National Basketball Players Association President. On every big stage the Little Rock native has played, he has left his mark.
Yet there’s the stage he never played on.
It doesn’t matter how many big-time events Fisher has been a part of in his 16-year pro career. Nothing will erase the memory of how close he got as a college senior to making his sport’s most dramatic competition: the NCAA Tournament. His University of Arkansas at Little Rock Trojans were up 56-55 in the 1996 Sun Belt Conference Championship game with four seconds left.
The University of New Orleans had the ball. Fisher closed out quickly on the opposing guard with the ball, but he spun past Fisher’s outstretched arms and drove to the basket, lofting a teardrop shot that resulted in an upset win.
Despite a 23-6 record, UALR would be left out on the doorstep on Selection Sunday. Fisher’s final shot at the Big Dance was gone.
It could have been much, much different.
What if instead of leading UALR, Fish had helped steer the Razorbacks? “I think he could have played at Arkansas, but coming out of high school, he just wasn’t ready,” said Razorback All-American Corliss Williamson, also one of Fisher’s best friends. There’s a strong chance Fisher was ready for Arkansas halfway through his college career, though, and he was closer to making that jump than many people realize.
See the rest of the story at Sync magazine.
PS – This concludes what has apparently become my blog’s Of(Fish)al Derek Fisher Week.
You’ve seen them.
Maybe they were sitting in the corner booth at Andy’s, near the window at McDonald’s, or camped out near the bathroom of some mom and pop roadside diner.
Grey-haired, huddled over cups of steaming coffee and the morning’s newspaper, these men speak in quiet tones for hours. Whatever the topic, they know it inside and out. They know the people who call the shots, and they know their grandchildren too.
When it comes to Alabama and Auburn athletics, these are the kind of circles I imagine Wimp Sanderson runs in. The former University of Alabama basketball coach has plenty of friends in powerful places – guys like Jimmy Rane, who’s on Auburn’s board of trustees, and Pat Dye, the former Auburn head football coach. Sanderson is a featured guest on four regional sports radio stations.
So I feel he’s qualified to speak on behalf of the speculation that next year Bobby Petrino will coach Auburn. Speculation that has only been fueled by current Arkansas coach John L. Smith and SEC blogger conspiracists.
“They’re not gonna make a change at Auburn,” Sanderson said in a phone interview. “I know what I’m talking about.” It might have been the worst September in the history of the Auburn football, but that 1-3 start isn’t enough to get Tigers’ head coach Gene Chizik canned.
For starters, “it would be very difficult to let somebody go who’s won the national championship in the last four years,” said Sanderson, a Birmingham resident. Moreover, a coaching change would jeopardize an extremely strong incoming recruiting class – ranked #7 in ESPN’s rankings. Finally, Chizik is receiving plenty public support from Dye and Auburn Athletic Director Jay Jacobs, who played football under Dye.
With Alabama, Georgia, Vanderbilt and Texas A&M still on its schedule, Auburn won’t have an easy time making a bowl game this year. When it comes to Chizik’s job security, though, his most dangerous game may be his next one.
If, on October 6th, Chizik loses to a sputtering, Bobby Petrino-less Arkansas, no amount of friends in high places may save him.