Whenever you go to a basketball arena, do you ever notice if or who the court is named for? Better yet, do you ever care? Didn’t think so.
Which makes this whole Dale Brown/Sue Gunter thing at LSU equal parts typical, laughable, and, of course, political. (After all, this is Louisiana.)
A year ago, the LSU Board of Supervisors voted to name the court at the Maravich Assembly Center in honor of Dale Brown, longtime LSU men’s coach. They trotted out Dale and his supporters for the ceremony and the whole nine yards.
But then, the wind started blowing and a movement began to add Sue Gunter, the longtime women’s basketball coach (who passed away 15 years ago) to the floor naming. Last week, a new vote was taken and was approved.
Insert uproar here.
If it is your inclination to say “who cares,” you certainly have my permission. To me, there is only one person in the history of LSU athletics who has reached the level of greatness that should merit a naming opportunity. Take a bow, Skip Bertman. You take a program that few even knew existed and then win five College World Series titles? Now that’s where the standard ought to be.
That’s it. That’s the list.
What has been truly amazing is to see how polarizing the basketball court has become. And don’t let anybody try to tell you differently; there were plenty of folks who would tell you that it shouldn’t have been named for Brown in the first place.
But we all know that we live in a world where the standards have been lowered. Harold Baines, who was a .289 career hitter, never led the league in anything and was never higher than ninth in MVP voting, is in the Baseball Hall of Fame.
For some reason, people feel compelled to put up statues at sports arenas for coaches and athletes who are no one’s idea of legendary.
Now, if you ask who has had the greatest impact on LSU basketball? Then Dale Brown is your guy. He didn’t build LSU basketball out of nowhere – that Maravich kid was pretty good and Bob Pettit would like a word – but yes, he was the dominant force behind LSU’s rise to a new level for an extended period of time.
Plus, Dale was a dominant personality. You always kept your eyes (and TV screens) on him.
But let’s be honest as well: there are plenty of answers from the other side as to why naming the court after him wasn’t standard worthy. Most will point out that he won as many Final Fours as you did. And there are many other reasons that get thrown around.
Let’s see if we can agree on this – if you say that LSU has to name the court after somebody, then Dale Brown is the best choice. (The better question is, do you have to?)
If Sue Gunter were so worthy, then why wasn’t her name brought up originally? You know the answer.
But the furor over this is really something to behold. Just like to point this out: no one is saying Brown’s name was ever going to be taken off the court.
Naming the court at Duke for Mike Krzyzewski? Of course. Tennessee named its after women’s coach Pat Summitt, who won eight more titles than Gunter (8-0). That’s the kind of standard that should be met.
Instead, Lou Henson, who never won any national titles, has not one, but two courts named for him (Illinois and New Mexico State).
We have accepted the Lou Henson standard instead of the Krzyzewski-Summitt standard when it comes to all of this.
So what should LSU do? At first, this idea seemed laughable, but now it seems perfectly in keeping with what this has all come to. Have two decals ready to apply to the court — one for Dale Brown when it’s a men’s game and one for Sue Gunter when it’s a women’s game.
Everybody wins! And we all get orange slices afterward!
Contact JJ at email@example.com