TOLEDO — During the 1978-79 season, senior star Stan Joplin led his Toledo Rockets all the way to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament.
During the 1978-79 season, Dane Fife was a fetus.
Somehow the two coached against each other Wednesday night in UT's Savage Hall. Fife, the youngest NCAA Division I head coach at 26 years, brought his young and inexperienced Indiana-Purdue Fort Wayne to the Glass City and were outmatched by Joplin's more athletic Toledo Rocket squad.
Despite a 14-point deficit, IPFW battled back to within 7 points of the Rockets, but Joplin and the home crowd pulled away to an even 20-point advantage.
And although the IPFW Mastodons out-rebounded UT 39-33, the young 'Dons turned the ball over 31 times. 31. Thirty-one! They had 10 fewer field goals than that.
But I was looking forward to watching Fife coach in action.
When the teams took the court, I initially saw a young guy in a suit come out of the visiting locker room. "That must be Dane Fife," I tell my dad.
Then five more young guys in suits come out. "OK, never mind." Turns out their alpha male was the tallest and blondest of the bunch.
Fife played for the esteemed Indiana Hoosiers, and received a taste of both Bobby Knight's and Mike Davis's tutelage. He took another spoonful of knowledge from Davis as one of his assistant coaches for the past two years, and in March was named IPFW's head coach.
And the young'un did his Bob Knight impression in the second half. Fife was given a technical foul, because you know how kids are these days. No chairs were harmed.
But even though I grew up on UT basketball, I felt for the other team. (Dare I say ... cheered?) IPFW is one of 10 D-I teams without a conference affiliation, and of their 28 regular season games, they play more than half — 16 — on the road at places like Michigan State, Purdue, Penn State, Northwestern and Kent State. They also play Notre Dame at home, for some strange reason.