When news of Bobby Knight's dismissal as basketball coach at Indiana University broke Sunday, it hit like a ton of bricks at the home of Tom Maurer in Carson City.
Don't be surprised. Maurer, an Indiana native, was hired as head boys coach at Galena High School nine years ago after he submitted a resume that included a personal recommendation from Knight. As it turned out, the move was a good one for both sides because Maurer coached Galena to successive Northern 4A zone tournament championships in 1997, '98 and '99 and a runner-up finish this past season.
The program at Galena is modeled, in many respects, after the one Knight put together at Indiana. Both on and off the court.
"The guidelines of my program, the academics, the kids are always dressed appropriately, the mannerisms- when we go to a hotel, my kids make their bed; they ask, 'Isn't that the maid's job,' I tell them, it's just good manners - a lot of my learnings have been from coach Knight. And I'm not sure those are bad qualities."
The same similarities can be seen on the court.
"The motion offense we run, that came from watching coach Knight's practices and from talking to Danny Dakich. A lot of my rules come from watching Indiana's motion offense. It's the same with our fundamentals."
So what's the connection between Knight and Maurer.
Dakich, who formerly played for Knight at Indiana and is currently the head coach at Bowling Green, and Maurer played basketball at rival schools in Gary, Ind., back in the late 1970s and early '80s. Dakich went on to play basketball at Indiana and Maurer went to Northern Idaho to play baseball.
An injury ended Maurer's baseball playing days, and after returning to Indiana, he returned home to finish his education at Indiana. After graduating in 1986, he looked up his old friend, Dakich.
"Danny was starting as a grad assistant at Indiana and I called and begged him to let me come along and help work at the Bobby Knight summer camps. That's how I started and I just kept coming back," said Maurer, who has worked Knight's camps every summer since.
"I thought, coming out of high school I was knowledgeable because I had played for an Indiana Hall of Fame coach (Frank Kollinzas, Highland High School). But when I sat down with coaches that had won state championships in Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, that's where I really learned about the game of basketball. Those guys all live, eat and drink basketball."
Maurer followed up on those summer camps with visits to Knight's fall coaching academies at Indiana, where coaches have a chance to sit in on practice sessions.
"It's great. You have like 500 coaches there on a Friday, Saturday and Sunday," Maurer said. "I call it the pilgrimage. I do it four or five times a year. I learned from every practice, took notes from every film and from every conversation I had with Danny."
After learning of Knight's dismissal, Maurer quickly made one change on his own schedule.
"I canceled my trip to Indiana in October and changed the ticket to go to Bowling Green and watch Danny."
On one of those fall trips back to Indiana, Maurer took along Galena standout Matt Siebrandt.
"The first thing Matt recognized after we left Indianapolis was that every house had a backboard," Maurer said, referring to Siebrandt, a former Nevada Player of the Year who is now on scholarship at Kansas State.
Basketball is obviously a vital part of Maurer's life. Just look at the Indiana Hoosiers memorabilia in his office at Galena. Tom and Dianne Maurer have two sons: Trey, 4, and Ty Basketball Jones, 2. The family dalmations are named Coach and Dauber.
Knight was willing to make a call to Nevada when Maurer applied for the Galena coaching position.
"It was just a recommendation," Maurer said. "If you show him loyalty, he will make a phone call for you. Loyalty is in his bag, and I think by watching his program, yes, that absolutely taught me about loyalty."
Does Maurer respect Knight? The answer is yes.
"I think he is Indiana. I don't think people in the West understand; you've got to be from the Midwest to truly understand what he does," Maurer said. "The thing I find so ironic is that now, all you hear about are the bad things, how he throws chairs. What you don't hear about are all the kids who went through the program and went on to become doctors and lawyers. His graduation rate is phenomenal. He teaches the fundamentals and teaches discipline that builds good citizens.
"He put that university on the map in a good way. Even when they don't win a championship, they are respected as an institution. It's just that if you step into his territory he's going to challenge you. I think that's what happened with this incident.
"That's what I respect out of coach Knight, he isn't afraid to take chances, and in reflection, that's how I try to live my own life. I'm not afraid to tell people how I feel."
Now, the speculation is that Knight will resurface as a college coach somewhere else. Maurer doesn't believe any differently.
"I look forward to see where he ends up," Maurer said. "He does enjoy the game, and I think he wants to surpass Dean Smith and be the winningest coach of all time."
Maurer well remembers his first actual meeting with Knight.
"I was opening a door for him at the end of one of the camps. He said to me, 'What do you do?' I said, 'I'm a coach.' He told me, 'No, you're not a coach; you're a teacher, and don't ever forget that. I haven't, either. I always feel I'm a teacher of the game."
Dave Price is a sports writer for the Nevada Appeal