Dave Leach answered the phone in Sisters, Ore., on Saturday night and claimed his heart rate was doing better.
“It held up OK there at the end,” he joked.
Leach was excited by Wichita State’s heart-stopping victory over Ohio State in the NCAA West Regional final in Los Angeles. Leach, a member of the Shockers’ other Final Four team, in 1965, watched with pride and plenty of nervousness late as WSU’s 20-point lead shrunk to three late in the second half.
“We’ve been back to Wichita a few times for reunions,” Leach said. “Now it’ll be nice to have another team to reunion with.”
Leach, a 6-foot-5 senior who averaged 12.3 points on the 1964-65 team, said he probably would’ve made the trip down the West Coast to Los Angeles for the regional semifinals and finals, but his family was in town from Idaho for Easter.
The 1965 Shockers were an improbable team to reach the Final Four because of the midseason loss of All-American Dave Stallworth, whose eligibility had run out, and Nate Bowman to academics.
Apart from being an underdog, Leach said he saw few similarities from his Shockers to the 2013 Shockers.
“(Kelly Pete) was really athletic, but most of the rest of us got by our wits and not our skill,” Leach said. “This team is much more athletic and plays better defense than we did at the time.
“Basketball is so different to compare the years, but put it this way, I wouldn’t want to face them.”
Leach’s last time at a Final Four team reunion was in 2010. He said he has been impressed with Gregg Marshall’s coaching.
“He’s done a great job with those kids all year,” Leach said. “It’s just wonderful they’re getting to go to the Final Four. It’s a special feeling.”
Leach said he had two pieces of advice for the 2013 Shockers.
“One is enjoy the moment,” he said. “Two, keep playing the way you’re playing. They’ve played tough, hard-nosed defense and that’s been the difference.”