CALEB WALKER FOR TWOA lot of stuff going on last night at Region VI — here’s my article on the Butler men’s team winning their first title since 1996.
There’s a couple of things I’d like to share about what I saw after the Grizzlies won: Butler coach Mike Bargen did two things after the final buzzer sounded — he went and shook hands with Coffeyville coach Jay Herkelman then he made a beeline for his family, who were sitting on the front row to the right of the BuCo bench the entire game. He’s told me before how much it means to him that his team has embraced his two-year old son, John, because he remembers what it was like when his dad, Gary, was coaching basketball when he was a little kid. I didn’t realize how important this was to him until last night. You have no idea, as a little kid, how much an experience like that sticks with you. Bargen knows that his son’s first memories will be of a big group of people — regardless of race, creed or religion – coming together like a family to accomplish something great.
Then there was his father. CMB pointed out that his dad — who won Region VI titles for Hutch in 81 and 86 — essentially gave up a coaching career and went into athletic administration (he’s the assistant AD in charge of compliance at Nebraska) so he could follow his basketball career when CMB played at Marquette in the mid-late ’90s. After the nets were cut down, CMB and CGB finally met up around midcourt for a hug … and the tears flowed, my friends. Rightfully so. Funny thing was I got to talk to CGB when CMB was doing radio and I asked him if this was surreal, watching his kid win the same tournament he won a couple of times.
“I don’t know about surreal,” CGB said, smiling. “But I know it wants to make me get back on that sideline again.”
Good stuff. Joking aside (although he may have been serious), he praised CMB for his preparation more than anything — there was nothing Coffeyville threw at them Monday that they weren’t prepared for. CGB also said he and his wife went to about 15 of Butler’s games last season, and this season …
“We went to more than 15, that’s all I’ll say,” CGB told me. “A few times it was Lincoln to El Dorado then right back to Lincoln.”
Last thing: Caleb Walker. I’ve been to maybe 10 Region VI Tournaments and I don’t know if I’ve ever seen anyone like him before as far as imposing his will on the outcome of the game. Dude really, really, really didn’t want to talk about himself after the game — to him, team means everything – but he was the reason they won. Don’t be surprised to see him keep up the hero act at Hutchinson next week.
Fun four days. Next up? NAIA DII Tournament and state basketball tourneys.
Ps — here’s the song the BuCo players were singing after they won. Just because I know you were curious.