ST. LOUIS — Matt Gordon stood inside Loyola's locker room Friday with a look of relief on his face. The former Illinois State manager knew the Ramblers had survived and advanced, which is the name of the game at this time of the basketball season.
Gordon, a Loyola assistant coach, had the scouting assignment for the Ramblers’ quarterfinal game against Northern Iowa in a Missouri Valley Conference Tournament quarterfinal game. Top-seeded and regular-season champion Loyola pulled out a 54-50 victory at Scottrade Center.
“Oh, my gosh. That’s not your typical 9 seed. They’re a great team and a great program,” said Gordon. “As soon as we saw the way the field fell out we said, ‘We have to face one of these two (UNI or Evansville) in the first round?’ You’re going to have to face three great teams (to win) in this tournament regardless.”
Gordon was a Redbird manager for four years — and known as “Flash” to everyone — when Porter Moser was ISU’s coach from 2003-07. As head manager his last three years while majoring in sociology, Gordon said he got valuable experience for a future in coaching.
ISU didn’t have a director of operations or graduate assistant at the time. So Gordon said he was responsible for many of those duties.
“Managing is whatever you want to make out of it,” he said. “I got some valuable experience (at ISU) and it taught me some sense of responsibility at a young age. I was able to do what a lot of coaches do.”
After graduation, Gordon got a job with the NBA’s Memphis Grizzlies through his connections with former ISU assistant coach Brian Barone, whose father, Tony, was an executive with the team. When Moser went to Saint Louis as an assistant after leaving ISU, Gordon was brought in as director of operations for three years under legendary coach Rick Majerus.
Moser got the Loyola head coaching job in 2011 and took Gordon with him. The 35-year-old Gordon has served as director of operations and as an assistant with the Ramblers for the last seven years. Loyola’s surge this season to the MVC title and a 26-5 record heading into Saturday's 2:30 p.m. semifinal against Bradley has Gordon grateful.
“What was really cool was the way the campus started to return (to games),” said Gordon, a native of Chicago’s south side. “I thought we had a great crowd here today. From what I understand, there’s going to be a lot more people coming tomorrow. We talk to our guys that there is no finish line to this season. There’s no finish line to the number of people we can bring aboard this thing.”
Ticket sales down: MVC commissioner Doug Elgin knew crowds would be smaller this year after Wichita State’s departure from the league last spring. The Shockers typically brought a couple thousand fans to St. Louis, all wearing black and gold.
But Elgin is taking a glass half-full look at the situation.
“You’ve seen an energized league this year, competitive balance,” said Elgin following Loyola’s victory. “It's encouraging to see the enthusiasm and play and talent out there … we’ll be down a little bit. It depends on the semifinal draw. That's where it really gets to the walk-up (crowd).”
Elgin said all-session ticket sales were off about a thousand without Wichita State, which translates into $140,000. The MVC has put a curtain around the upper bowl of the arena, which really hasn't seen many fans in recent years anyway. The lower bowl has a 9,904 capacity.
Goy goes into MVC Hall: Former Illinois State track and field standout Christian Goy was joined by four others during induction ceremonies for the MVC Hall of Fame during a breakfast Friday morning at the Peabody Opera House.
Goy was the second ISU runner to win an NCAA championship when he claimed the indoor mile title in 2002 in a school-record 3 minutes, 59.43 seconds. He earned three All-America honors and captured 12 MVC championships.
A native of Rheinsberg, Germany, Goy currently manages the Behavioral Science Lab (of which he is co-founder) and serves as Vice President on the Gazelle Foundation Board in the Austin, Texas, area.
Other Hall of Fame inductees were Southern Illinois basketball player Darren Brooks, the only player to twice win the Larry Bird Trophy as league most valuable player and the Defensive MVP award; long-time administrators Bill Rowe of Missouri State and Lois Patton of Evansville; softball player Dani Taylor of Drake; and track/cross country standout Mary Ellen Hill-Schupbach of Bradley.
Honoring Bain: Officials during the tournament are wearing a special badge with the name “BOOMER” on it.
That’s in recognition of former Valley coordinator of officials Jim “Boomer” Bain, who passed away in November at the age of 85. Bain also was a Mattoon resident and long-time Big Ten Conference official who served in numerous Final Fours and was as an official at the 1972 Olympics in Munich, Germany.