HUNTINGTON, W.Va.—Thundering Herd basketball coach Dan D’Antoni has already sent out a challenge to the other coaches in Conference USA, but it has nothing to do with basketball.
D’Antoni, Assistant Coach Chris Duhon and Athletics Director Mike Hamrick took part in the Chillin4Charity Challenge Monday to raise money for the Jimmy V Foundation. The challenge that has swept across social media is simple. Each participant must donate $25 to a charity and get “watered down” by a bucket of ice water. If they don’t they must donate $250.
Now, D’Antoni has issued the challenge to Rutgers and the rest of coaches in C-USA to continue raising money for the Jimmy V Foundation. Hamrick issued the challenge to WVU Athletics Director Oliver Luck and Wake Forest AD Ron Wellman while Duhon challenged his assistant coaches while he played at Duke.
D’Antoni’s challenge was an offshoot of the women’s basketball coaches’ efforts to raise funds for the Kay Yow Foundation. In fact, women’s Coach Matt Daniel had honor of dumping the ice water on D’Antoni.
For D’Antoni the challenge was an opportunity to help an organization that his near to his heart.
“Jimmy and I played against each other in the NIT and he came down to Myrtle Beach when I was a coach down there,” recalled D’Antoni.
D’Antoni and Jim Valvano were the starting point guards for The Herd and Rutgers in 1967 when the two teams met in the NIT consolation game. Rutgers rolled over The Herd 93-76 but D’Antoni and Valvano would cross paths again years later.
“The next time I saw him, Jimmy was at State and one of the coaches who came to Myrtle Beach to speak to a sports club there.
“Lambo Schwartz, a very prominent local businessman – he owned a cleaners and laundry service – was a big part of the club and helped promote our Beach Ball Classic. He was a man-about-town kind of guy. Lambo’s bringing Jimmy around to introduce to people before the dinner, and they start coming toward me.
“Lambo had this really deep voice and he says to Jimmy, ‘I want you to meet our coach. This is our coach at the Beach. This is Dan D’Antoni.’ And Jimmy says, ‘Aw, I know him. I played against him.’
“Well, I knew who he was, and knew we played against him, but as you might recall, Jimmy always liked to be the man in charge, so I decided to mess with him.
“I said, ‘Who did you play for? Where did I play you?’
“Jimmy says, ‘I played at Rutgers.’
“And I said, ‘Rutgers?’ The only one I remember is Bobby Lloyd (the All-American who scored 44 points against the Herd).’
“Jimmy looked at me and backed up. He didn’t know what to say.
“It’s first time and maybe the only time I ever knew of Jimmy being speechless.”
“He recruited one of my players. He’d come down to the beach and we’d get together, we’d usually get together. We were together two weeks before he found out he had terminal cancer,” said D’Antoni.
Valvano died from cancer in April 1993 and D’Antoni’s recollections of him are still vivid.
“He was a remarkable person and he was always fun to be around. He always made you feel special. If I can give back a little bit to someone who could always get me laughing. If I can be of help then that’s what I wanted to do.”