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Do you remember the old Saturday morning show “Land of the Lost?” That was a live-action Sid and Marty Krofft series that ran in the mid-70s with a park ranger and his two kids swept down a mysterious river that took them back in time. For just a few minutes, let us pretend we are on that strange waterway…traveling back, back, back into the far distant past. Marshall, Will and Holley went back to the days when dinosaurs roamed the earth. We will be going back to a time even hazier and more forgotten: The days when Marshall University used to go to the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.

I must say that I think Donnie Jones is just the guy to lead the Thundering Herd basketball program back to March Madness. But in the meantime, we are journeying back to 1984 when MU was coached by Rick Huckabay. That year, Huckabay led the Herd to a Southern Conference Championship, courtesy of the greatest college basketball game I ever saw: the 111-107 double overtime championship win over UT-Chattanooga (Thanks for the 38 points, Laverne Evans).

With the automatic bid, Marshall was headed to the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament for the first time since 1972. The radio station employing me at the time decided I should follow the team to the tourney and do reports and interviews. My brain raced in anticipation! Where would I be headed? New York City? Chicago? Atlanta? Like Ralphie racing downstairs on Christmas morning to look under the tree for an Official Red Ryder Carbine-Action 200-Shot Range Model Air Rifle, I ran out to buy a copy of The Herald Dispatch to peruse Ernie Salvatore’s column and find out where I was headed
.
Milwaukee.

Milwaukee?

I thought: “Okay, okay. I can do this. Milwaukee. Lots of cheese. Lots of blonde women of Viking descent. Great comic book stores. I can do this.”

At first glance, it didn’t look like it was going to be a lengthy visit. In the first round, MU was facing Villanova, which, if I remember correctly (and I probably don’t) was a top seed. There I was, courtside, press-row. I was sitting in that place where players usually crashed into the audience while trying to recover a deflected pass or tip-off gone astray. I was pumped.

Believe it or not, at the end of the first half Marshall was winning! You want to talk about a Cinderella Team? Marshall was trying out glass slippers, leading powerhouse Villanova at the half 40-33. This was going to be one of the great sport stories of the year and I was right in the middle of it! I double-checked my tape recorder since I was going to be giving it a serious workout after the game when I interviewed jubilant Herd players and coaches after they upset Villanova.

 

 

To read the rest of "The Last Laugh," please visit the Back Issues page of our website to purchase
this issue of the Huntington Quarterly.


 

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