Greg Ostertag’s foot bone is healing nicely, and there’s not a thing wrong with his funny bone.
The Kansas message of the day was matching the intensity of its NCAA tournament second-round opponent Western Kentucky, which figures to enter tonight’s game with the enthusiasm expected of an eighth seed gunning for a No. 1 seed.
Ostertag will be serious for the game, but he figures there’s no need to waste a game face on the off day. The skinny on Ostertag’s foot injury from Sunday, when his van rolled over his foot, allowed him to hone his standup skills.
Q. Would you elaborate on how your foot got hurt?
A. I was out in the woods cutting down a tree, and it fell on my foot.
Q. Roy Williams said your van ran over your foot. Where were you, and why was your foot under it?
A. I went to a McDonald’s, came home, backed into my parking space and forgot to put the parking brake on. I reached in to do something, and it ran over my foot. It stopped against the curb, and it stopped on top of my foot. With my brute strength I picked it up and moved it off.
Actually, Ostertag reached into the van and used his long arms to push in the clutch with his left hand, put in the key and put it in gear with his right. He let out the clutch and drove the van off his foot. Then, with an aching foot, he drove himself to a campus hospital.
“They said it wasn’t worse than it was because I didn’t panic,” Ostertag said.
Neither did Williams, but he was angry. A few days before the NCAA tournament in which the Jayhawks would be favored to reach the Final Four, his starting center had run over his foot. The episode led him to this observation: “I can get as mad at him as any player in my career, and at the same time he’s a breath of fresh air because he can be a kid.”
Yes he can. At a session with reporters, as he walked up behind Williams to his seat, Ostertag gave his coach the peace sign behind his head. While Williams was answering a question, Ostertag made faces.
“This is just the way I am,” Ostertag explained. “I have a laid-back attitude about mostly everything. But when it’s time to get serious, I can.”
With intensity, Ostertag would be “one of the best players who ever played,” Williams said. As it is, Ostertag is one of the most important Jayhawks, a 7-foot-2 and 270-pound presence mostly responsible for opponents shooting a mere 38 percent.
Ostertag averages 9.8 points and 7.6 rebounds. He’s most proud of his defense - 252 career blocks, just as many altered shots.
“And I can go outside to guard somebody small,” Ostertag said. “For a second.”
Out with a Jud
In losing to Weber State, Michigan State (22-6) joined Villanova as the highest seeds to bow out in their opening game. The thirdseeded Spartans led the No. 14 Wildcats 46-37 at halftime, but were outscored 26-7 in the first 9 minutes of the second half.
“I’m not surprised they were good, but they were better than we expected them to be,” said Jud Heathcote, the former Montana coach who plans to retire to Spokane.
Heathcote ended his long career with a 340-220 record in 19 years at Michigan State and a 420-273 mark overall.
Tough Knight for UI’s Pugmire
Indiana coach Bob Knight bullied and berated a tournament volunteer acting as a moderator for the press conference that followed the Hoosiers’ loss to Missouri.
Representatives from the losing team customarily are trotted out to meet the media first. From the Hoosiers, Alan Henderson and Brian Evans appeared. Knight’s chair was empty.
After questions were posed to the two dejected players, Rance Pugmire - a volunteer whose real job is regional development director for the University of Idaho - explained to reporters that Knight would not be making an appearance.
This, apparently, was news to Knight. After Missouri’s players and coach did their act, Knight came on and promptly pulled Pugmire aside. In a heated discussion, Knight seemed to be expressing his displeasure in most emphatic terms.
“There are only two people who would have told you I wasn’t coming out here,” Knight bellowed to Pugmire. “One is our (sports information director) and the other is me! Who the hell told you I wasn’t gonna be here? Who? Was it somebody from Indiana? No!? Then don’t ever…”
At this point, Pugmire made a weak attempt to restore order.
“Could we please … “
But Knight snarled back. “I’ll handle this the way I want to handle this! You (fouled) it up to begin with!” he shouted.
“So you can sit here or you can leave,” Knight continued. “I don’t (care) what you do.”
It should be noted that there were three little kids, in the 6-to-10 range, seated about three rows in front of Knight during his expletive-filled tirade.
As if nothing happened, Knight addressed his game some more. He answered more questions.
While he was doing so, someone came by and handed Pugmire a final stat sheet. Pugmire, as is the custom, slid it in front of Knight. Knight threw it back in his face.
After the session, Pugmire said with complete sincerity, “Thanks, coach.” Then Knight got in Pugmire’s face privately and stormed off.
Later, Pugmire came out and did his best to downplay the situation.
“It was not coach Knight’s fault,” he said. “I can understand it after a loss, and the fact that he was made to wait outside (the room). It was our fault, not his.”