SACRAMENTO – He tried to draw up a scenario when the most public moment of his life comes up on an average ordinary day.
“I don’t think about it that often,” said Keith Smart of his seven seconds of fame on March 30, 1987-but there are some who do.
For Indiana fans it’s the last time their team reached the pinnacle of college basketball-winning a national championship and getting the chance to hang an iconic banner. Smart’s baseline jumper with three seconds left to go against Syracuse in the National Championship game at the Louisiana Superdome gave the Hoosiers a 74-73 victory and the fifth title for the program.
That’s how a situation like this might come up for Smart: “Someone may say ‘Hey, I saw you on Television last night’ and I’m thinking ‘Did I have a game? Where did you see me? Re-run or something or they may have seen it on classic sports.”
Those questions grow in volume for Smart when March comes around and “The Shot” is replayed on a multitude of networks. Inquiries have increased over the past few days when his Hoosiers advanced to the Sweet 16 to face Syracuse-rekindling the match-up that made him famous 26 years before.
“All the memories return again,” said Smart on the Hoosiers and Orange East Region semifinal game. “When you saw that how the two of those teams were shaping up with the possibility of them meeting each other you knew everything was going to come back from ’87 and the other years those teams have played.”
Yet Smart insists that it’s not the game-winning shot that first comes to his mind when reflecting on March 30th. The shot made him one of the icons of “March Madness” but the former Hoosiers guard believes his shot was apart of a broader effort by a talented team to bring a fifth title home.
In that championship game Steve Alford led the Hoosiers with 23 points and shot 7-of-10 from the field while Daryl Thomas added 20 points.
“I remember it more than what I just did in the tournament but the teammates, what we had to do to get to that point,” said Smart. “To be in a position where we actually could win a championship but then also the fact that we were bonded by that moment. I got all the credit and the fame from it but was our group of players who came together.
“We shared the same thing, that’s a goal and actually have a chance to win it.”
Smart hopes the Hoosiers can have that same chance on Thursday at the Verizon Center in Washington D.C.. He admits to catching the Hoosiers here and there since his schedule with the Kings prevents long periods of watching games as a fan.
One thing he has noticed, however, is how much the history made by that 1987 team has been embraced by the newest generation of the Indiana basketball program.
“Coach (Tom) Crean has done a great job with Indiana alumni basketball players to be important and be back in the role of being apart of Indiana and what they are doing now,” said Smart of the program. “So he’s gone out of his way, his staff has as well in trying to keep us all in the loop of what’s taking place and how he’s trying to shape that team once again.”
Smart won’t have the chance to see the Hoosiers do that live on Thursday since the Kings play the Suns right around the time Indiana and Syracuse will tip-off. If Crean’s team wins it will be the first time in 13 years that Indiana will be in the Elite Eight and for just a minute will have Smart recalling the good fortune he helped to create a generation ago.
“I’m glad it went in. It would have been a little different legacy if I had missed that shot. I think when you’re a kid-boy or girl-when you play the game of basketball or whatever sport you pick up, your goal is to do well in that sport and hopefully you can win a championship,” said Smart. “The goal in college for every college athlete was to go to school, get an education and then eventually have a chance to win a championship in your chosen field. I was able to do those things.
“Having a chance to be apart of history.”
One he’d like not to be remembered alone.