Van Chancellor: Final Four experience is something that will never be forgotten

Photo Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Van Chancellor: Final Four experience is something that will never be forgotten

Van Chancellor is a former head coach of women’s programs at Mississippi, LSU, and the Houston Comets. He won four WNBA titles with the Comets, won a Gold Medal as an Olympic team coach, and reached five Elite Eights and a Final Four in college basketball.

Every coach, player, and team at the start of the year has goals at every level.

The ultimate goal in college for a team is to make the Big Dance, or March Madness as it is called.

Once they get that invitation, it becomes all about winning a National Championship.

To be the team on the final night that cuts down the nets and hoists the National Championship Trophy in front of their cheering fans is the ultimate shining moment for a college basketball team and its coach.

For the coach, when your team makes the Final Four weekend, your job as a coach intensifies. You have to really focus your energies as there are so many things demanding your attention outside of getting your team ready for its first opponent.  

The media demand instantly becomes a juggling act for you and your players.

Your ticket demand and the player’s demands ratchet up as you discover friends you never knew cared.  

Travel arrangements have to be made, the educational demands for your students must be arranged.

Sure you have staff for this, but the ultimate decisions are yours as you try to weigh what will be best for your team.

Once you arrive at the site, you must block everything and everyone else out but your team and its preparation.  

You and your team have many outside influences pulling on them. Your job is to get everyone on the same page and mentally focused.    

When you get on the big stage in an arena like NRG, you must get them through their initial star-struck phase. This is where the coach can help his team the most.  

Game night jitters will be there, but it is important that your players realize the court is the same size, the goal is the same height, and nothing else matters.

Remember Gene Hackman in Hoosiers?

By staying calm and positive, a good coach can help the team get off to a good start, even when the arena and crowd may be different from any past experiences. By trying to follow the same routine you have always followed with practice, rest, and game preparation, you help diffuse the magnitude of the game as much as possible. This is hard to do with all the demands on you and your team.

In my college coaching career, I experienced the Final Four excitement and lost in the semifinal game by one point to Tennessee.

At that moment, the loss was heartbreaking. One rebound would have changed our story. Later, however, all the memories the team and I made to get to this point made the journey unforgettable.  

This weekend that will happen for three of the four in the tourney. Only one will put on the caps and shirts as the confetti falls in NRG.

They can hoist the trophy high, but all four are winners in their own right.

In the days and years to come, the good and bad memories and friendships made will make the journey worthwhile.  

Only a few each year get to experience it.

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