Friday, February 26, 2016

Assist of the Game: Remembering Father Ted One Year Later

Given their stellar record, it's hard to get tickets to a Golden State Warriors game this season. However, if you do, there is so much—maybe too much—to take in.  On the one year anniversary of the death Father Ted Hesburgh, CSC, former president of the University of Notre Dame, I would like to call attention to something all of those lucky enough to be inside Oracle Arena might see. It reminds me of Father Ted.
Ask Warrior fans what they love about the live experience and you might hear them talk about the ardent energy from start to finish or the opportunity to see just how big and strong these athletes are "en vivo." Perhaps you love the pregame ritual. For some reason, I just can't get enough of that jig, that dance that the team performs after the starting five have been called out. (In fact, I like it so much, I continually look for it on YouTube. This is the best we can do...for now). Many enjoy calling the name of head coach "Steve Kerr!" in unison. There is much to appreciate in person that you just won't get from watching the game on television. And one tradition, that I noticed for the first time this season is worth implementing at every NBA, and NCAA basketball game: Assist of the game.

The assist is the most selfless of all statistics in basketball, An invaluable offensive maneuver, according to, the assist 
is a pass that directly leads to a basket. This can be a pass to the low post that leads to a direct score, a long pass for a layup, a fast break pass to a teammate for a layup, and/or a pass that results in an open perimeter shot for a teammate. In basketball, an assist is awarded only if, in the judgment of the statistician, the last player's pass contributed directly to a made basket. An assist can be awarded for a basket scored after the ball has been dribbled if the player's pass led to the field goal being made. A great passer must have an understanding of his teammates' abilities, outstanding ball-handling skills, court vision and the ability to see plays develop before they occur. 
I think it's also worth noting that "the recorded of assists in a single D1 game is 22, held by Sherman Douglas of Syracuse. Avery Johnson of Souther and Tony Fairley of Charleston Southern. Duke's Bobby Hurley holds the career record with 1,076.  In the NBA, Rajon Rondo's leads the league with 12.0 assists per game.
Fans love playmakers, especially those who drain the three...who put up the mid-range jumper....who slam the dunk. But those buckets, buckets and mo' buckets are largely made possible by someone who has the vision to see the open teammate. The assist is a result of a player who looks maybe less for personal glory and more for a collective one.  
Draymond Green leads the Warriors in assists this season. Second to him? The guy putting up the shot, Steph Curry
Yes, the Warriors have the greatest back court in the NBA but they are also an organization who has decided to identify what they consider to be the "assist of the game." It is shown on the electronic scoreboard late in the fourth quarter. I think it's an invaluable addition; whatever we can do to recognize those who make something possible is worth doing. I love that the late Dean Smith instilled this value into his players by a simple ritual. Anytime a player made a basket, they had to point to their teammate who gave them the assist. This exercise is a simple way to remind ourselves that what we achieve is made possible with the hands of others (And hockey does a better job of this! Two players—can get a stat for the assist if there are multiple passes).

And I write about this selfless stat and this important ritual, because today, as I have many times, I point my finger in salute to the late Father Hesburgh. He made co-education at my alma mater possible. Without his efforts, I don't know that I would have been able to attend Notre Dame. The fact that women were admitted just twenty years prior to my entrance isn't something I take for granted. I don't think I should. I realize that the only ND I know, is a co-ed one, but it wasn't always that way. Father Ted believed women made Notre Dame better. I wrote about that in my tribute last year: Remembering Father Ted Hesburgh for a Lifelong Assist.
This is what Coach Smith had his players do. I would like to think the program has continued that tradition.
With that, I would like to conclude with Father Ted's own words, that were included in the Daily Gospel Reflection by Faith ND. And "thank you" for something much more than an "assist of the game," thank you for the lifelong assist. Pax et requiem. 

There's only one way to do it—that is to put yourself in the hands of the Holy Spirit and the Blessed Mother. You will see heartbreaks as well as days of great joy. There will be a celebration as well as days of mourning in this Church. But with the Holy Spirit behind you and the Holy Mother inspiring you, these will be great years.
In prayer and meditation, we can find the tranquility and the transforming power of the presence of God. Union with God is, ultimately, the only basis on which our community with others can rest.
Just this week one of our students asked me a very difficult question: “How do you know God, how do you perceive him, contact him, relate to him?” I told him that God, for me, was Christ incarnate, fully God, fully man, joining in his person God and man, the hopes, the desires, the hunger of man with the transcendence of God. And when Christ left us, he promised us the Holy Spirit to abide with us, to guide us, to give us what we find as the recurring theme of St. John’s Gospel: life and light—light to guide us and life to live divinely. Nothing less is needed to find our way out of the labyrinth of human problems today—with the light of divine guidance.
I pray every day to the Holy Spirit, as my friend, to give me the light and strength to do the right thing. And the Holy Spirit has never failed to show me the way and to give me the strength of purpose to struggle on in the face of all kinds of adversity.

The Holy Spirit is the light and strength of my life, for which I am eternally grateful. My best daily prayer, apart from the Mass and breviary, continues to be simply, 'Come, Holy Spirit.' No better prayer, no better results: much light and much strength.

Our Prayer: Loving and merciful God, you bestowed upon Father Theodore Hesburgh, CSC, a great intellect and a compassionate heart, and he used it to strengthen the University and mend the world. As a priest and as a leader, he lifted up the lowly and proclaimed the greatness of the Lord in all things. We are grateful because our lives have been touched by his hope and faithfulness; we are thankful to have witnessed and shared his life’s work to love God and humanity. With him, we “ask again and again for wisdom and courage, the light to see and the strength to do what the times demand and the richness of our heritage promises.” May Father Ted now enjoy eternal life with you, resting in the peace of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Photo Credits
Dray-dray to Steph

Father Ted
UNC Assist

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