|Monday, November 25
Updated: December 6, 12:49 PM ET
Chaminade's shining moment a win-win upset
By Jay Bilas
Special to ESPN.com
Ralph Sampson is in Maui this week -- to celebrate a loss. An impossible loss.
Twenty years ago, Sampson was the consensus national player of the year and Virginia was the undisputed No. 1. But on Dec. 23, 1982 -- in its ninth game of a season that saw the Cavaliers go 29-5 and reach the Final Four -- Virginia lost to Chaminade.
Today, it's a game everybody seems to have won.
Virginia had already beaten Duke in Cameron Indoor Stadium (where, as a freshman starter, I held Sampson to a meager 36 points). The Cavs took care of Georgetown at the Capital Centre (where Sampson outplayed Patrick Ewing). And halfway around the world in Tokyo, Virginia beat a Houston squad that featured Clyde Drexler, Hakeem Olajuwon and Michael Young -- without Sampson.
Ah, but on the way home from Japan, Virginia stopped in Honolulu to play tiny Chaminade, an NAIA school. The game was not on television, and the only record of it on the mainland was the shocking 77-72 score ... Chaminade had beaten Virginia.
I was just a freshman in college, but we had already played Virginia, and a NAIA school beating them did not seem possible. There are plenty of excuses to go around. Virginia had traveled halfway around the world, Sampson had been ill, there were local referees with quick whistles, and Virginia was looking to go home. But nobody cares about that in the aftermath.
Chaminade beat Virginia, a devastating loss for the No. 1 ranked team.
Twenty years later, there are only smiles, and mutual respect. Sampson was invited to the Maui Invitational as a guest of the tournament, and he has been a true gentleman, gracious in every way about the loss. Out of that game grew the Maui Invitational, one of the best exempted events in college basketball.
This week, Chaminade supporters are wearing t-shirts reading "Yes, Virginia -- There is a Chaminade!" and the former Chaminade players are all beaming when they recount the stories of the night they toppled No. 1.
Richard Haenisch, a forward on that Chaminade team, is a friend of mine, we worked together on a Budweiser commercial almost 15 years ago. Haenisch, humble about the victory, said that the Silverswords used a match-up zone to pack it in on Sampson, and allowed Rick Carlisle to shoot over the top. Haenisch said that Carlisle, the coach of the Detroit Pistons and a great teacher of the game, misfired on shots he would usually hit, and that Haenisch and his teammates had memories to last a lifetime.
"But", Haenisch reminded me, "it wasn't a fluke."