Former Iowa men’s basketball coach Tom Davis met briefly with a group of reporters on Wednesday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena to talk about the legacy of Chris Street. Saturday will be exactly 20 years since Street was killed in an automobile accident on the outskirts of Iowa City. The Indianola native was 15 games into his junior season and emerging as a star for Davis as a 6-foot-8 forward when he was killed.
Street’s memory will be recognized at halftime of Saturday’s game against Wisconsin at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
Here’s a transcript of the interview with Davis:
Q: Can you describe your emotions heading into Saturday’s game and the tribute to Chris Street?
Tom Davis: “It’s a lot like the emotions at the time; you just don’t how to describe how you feel and everything. The one thought I had is I don’t know if enough was ever said about what great parents Mike and Patty Street were in terms of how they raised this young guy. And with the values he had and the abilities to use the talent, it was certainly God given, but he had other great coaches and good people around him in his early years that developed him into the person that he became. People have to understand, when a college coach gets acquainted with (a player), his personality is pretty much made for sure and his habits and the way he approaches people and things like that is pretty much there. In thinking about it, I’ve been thinking a lot about Mike and Patty. And I’m not sure that was ever brought out enough when they talk about how great Chris was. Well, he had help getting there with his parents. He had terrific coaching at Indianola, both his basketball coaches and his football coaches, and of course, Chris loved playing football and his others sports, too. So I know he had a lot of people that helped him get there.
Q: Does it seem like it was that long ago?
TD: “In some way it seems like forever. And in other ways it was like just recently. So it’s kind of mixed as you look back on it.”
Q: Did you have a lot of emotions come back this week?
TD: Oh yeah. It’s funny, over the years as I would speak to a tour group or something and invariably there would be a question about Chris Street. People care and there’s no question. And you guys (in the media) have probably figured out there’s a caring there. I found myself it was hard for me to talk about it. You get choked up. You wouldn’t think that you would. But just thinking back as you start to think and have the memories, it’s tough. So this has been a tough week on everybody, or month as they get ready for this, everybody connected to it. But I think it’s good in the sense that it gives us a chance to reflect on somebody that was pretty special.”
Q: Have you thought any more about Saturday night? Are you thinking of showing up here for the game?
TD: I’m just not sure yet. We’ll just wait and see.”
Q: Do you remember how you found about the accident that night?
TD: (Iowa trainer John Streif) called me. If I remember right, he was notified and then called me right away and said I’ll come over and get you. And then of course, we end up down here (at Carver-Hawkeye Arena) in the lockerroom. It’s funny, you’d think you’d remember the details but that whole thing, like people would ask me, `what did you say in the lockerroom before that Michigan State game?’ I had no clue. I can’t even remember much during the game. I think maybe the good think in coaching you probably just get so; you’ve got to do this. You’ve got to do that. So you do it. But it isn’t that you have a vivid memory of some of the details of the things. So maybe it’s a form of I don’t what a psychologist would say shock or something when you go through a trauma, a tragedy like that.”
Q: What got you guys through that?
TD: I think it has to do with Mike and Patty. I think we thought so much about his parents and his family and his sisters. We were concerned for them. And I remember thinking about that while going to the funeral. My wife’s recollections, which are better than mine, is we all went over on the bus together, the coaches and wives and the players and the managers and the trainer and doctor, you know, everybody. We were all on the buses. That’s her recollection. And the fact that not only did we leave (for the funeral) on time, we left early because all the players showed up early and they were all dressed up in their suits and ties. That was really impressive to her that they were that conscientious.”
Q: Have you had some of the players from that team reach out to you this week or in the last couple weeks?
TD: I talk to quite a few of them fairly regularly. I don’t think anyone has talked specifically about Chris. I talked to Kenyon Murray not too long ago. I talked to some of the others players, too. I talked to Ryan Luehrsmann last week. And guys like Ryan were impacted by Chris Street’s legacy because he certainly came later. I went down to get a newspaper today at a local place and the guy working behind the counter proceeded to tell me he was in fourth grade at the time and he told where he went to school and what time his mother woke him up and told him about it. I didn’t know the guy. But I think it impacted people. And that’s why this is probably a good thing in the long run because it helps people remember how special this young man was. If he didn’t have the values that he had and the parenting he had and the type of personality he had, then there wouldn’t be any of this. He was a pretty special individual.
Q: Isn’t it amazing that every Iowa fan who was alive at that time knows exactly where they were and what they were doing when they heard about Chris?
TD: Yeah, it tough, and it does kind of surprise me because he was so young still. He hadn’t accomplished a lot. I mean he had accomplished some things, but it wasn’t like he won the Heisman or something. And yet he had the same impact. I think it says a lot about Iowa and about what kind of state this is in the sense of it says a lot about their view of sport at the University of Iowa. And it says a lot about television coverage back then because it’s changed since then. Back then we still had three radios stations doing the games live. You still had the coach’s show on Sunday night, which was a pretty heavily viewed show. And you had the call-in show, which I remember very well…one hour-and-a-half a week. It seemed like six months. But I wish I had the letters and things that I would get that came into the office from people who were fans about everything. They’d hear something and then promptly want to send me a picture of their dog. Or they’d be watching TV with their dog and send me a picture of some other stuff, or send me some of the little things they were making. And it says something about the state because I think the state would kind of adopt the sports team. And basketball with the whole Iowa television network and the radio networks combined made basketball very, very popular in the state of Iowa. There weren’t as many cable channels, no twitter or Facebook or other diversions. And so when something happened like to Chris, that impact, I don’t know if it would be like that today. It’d be hard to develop I think that kind of character. I think it’s a pretty good reflection of what life was like around here 20 years ago, and what life was like coaching here because you were on display. I mean that was the whole thing. So if you get a young guy that has problems, they’re on display, too. But if he’s very, very gifted like Chris was; then that positive is on display. And that’s where I think the parenting thing as I started out with, I think that’s a good thing to focus on because it said a lot about what they did and what his coaches did with him at an early ago. I wish we could take more credit here, but I know how hard it is. It’s hard to change somebody when they get here and they’re 17 or 18 years old. Their values and their way of life is pretty much engrained. You can make some changes. We all think we can make changes, but it’s not that easy.”
Q: Chris improved each year at Iowa from a statistical point of view. Was that mostly a result of his work ethic?
TD: Absolutely. And I think that’s where the coaching comes in at the college level because you have good assistants and you have good trainers and doctors and other people to help you. And then you can have him focus on video and all these other things. And the facilities are available at all hours. So if I guy has that desire and that capability and the direction, than he can do something with it. Chris had that. He had those capabilities.
Q: Wasn’t (college) also the first time Chris focused solely on basketball after being a multi-sport star in high school?
TD: He kind of represented the Iowa athlete I think of 20 years ago where you did it all. And he could do it all at the high school level. One story that I’ve told before, but I’ll tell it again because I get a kick out of it; he called me up; it was between his sophomore and junior year when he committed to us, and then I think it was at the end of that summer because he was at camp in the summer. A few weeks later football practice was starting and I get a phone call from Chris, `Coach he says; he was pretty abrupt in his conversations. He wasn’t like a nice, casual gabber type of guy. And as I remember he says, `Can I play football? And said, `yeah, I’ve seen you; you’re pretty good in football. I joked with him. And he said, `no, no, no; the coach wants to know if I can go out for football,’? And I said, `well, sure. I said you’re a high school kid. You’ve got to do what you’ve got do. And he says, `Great, I love football. I love hitting people. One practice I saw him in football he was in the defensive backfield and even then he was like 6-5 or so as a sophomore and he was just like…I wouldn’t want to be hit by that kid, either. So he had that personality. He’d go play any sport at any time and play it hard and play well. And he was coachable. He was totally committed to doing what had to be done. ”
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes men's basketball