May 24, 2007
Kuwait City, Kuwait – This morning they took a small group of us to the Kuwait Naval Base about 30 minutes away. The Kuwait Navy runs it, but there is certainly a strong occupation by the US armed forces and they patrol all around that area. They actually took us out on a boat and we went up and down the coast. That is a safe harbor now. As I mentioned yesterday, this was the area Iraq stormed when they invaded Kuwait. They drove us by a wall that had all these pock-marks of bullet holes still all over it. Apparently that is where they lined up the Kuwaiti soldiers for executions. They have also drudged up a boat that is now a memorial. The Iraqis would make the enlisted soldiers shoot their own officers. If the enlisted soldiers refused, they were handcuffed to boats which the Iraqis then sank. It was incredible to be there at this site and see all of this in person.
This was the first time we drove off the base. They say that driving off base is the most dangerous thing you can do over here – everyone is going 90-100 mph. We drove by several fenced-in areas just filled with tanks and humvees. It’s still staggering to the see the amount of equipment and what it takes to get it done over here. One area had to have at least 1000 humvees in it, just sitting there front to back, all with guns, all ready to be shipped out.
ESPN TV analyst Fran Fraschilla (L) joins NCAA basketball coaches (L-R) Dennis Felton (Georgia), Ed Conroy (The Citadel) and Mike Brey (Notre Dame) as they tour a vessel reportedly used by invading Iraqi troops as a prison for Kuwaiti naval personnel in August 1990, on the coast of Kuwait. (USO photo by Mike Theiler)
When we got back to the base, the afternoon games started up and I am happy to report another win for LSA! We are now 2-1 in pool play heading into the double elimination tournament tomorrow. There are actually a couple of teams with a 2-1 record, so I think they’ll have to go to the point totals for seeding since we’ve all beaten each other. My assistant coaches tell me that there is a bus coming down from the LSA base tomorrow to watch the championship round. They’re into it!
Today’s game was made even more exciting when I got a technical with 2 minutes to go! Now, this actually had nothing to do with the game itself. As some background, Nike is the equipment sponsor for this tournament, and I did put on my red Nike shirt this morning. But when I got to the gym, they wired me for some interviews and I wound up taking the Nike shirt off and was wearing an adidas shirt. So we’re up by 25 points with two minutes to go and the ref comes over to tell me he’s going to give me a technical for not wearing my Nike shirt, so I made sure he called it and lent some drama to the situation. The whole thing was actually orchestrated by Rick Kell, a Maryland grad and huge Maryland fan, who is the organizer of “Operation Hardwood.”
The General was actually here at the games tonight, and the Colonel who I met with yesterday morning brought his son to the games this afternoon. I asked the Colonel what he was doing this morning – he was up in Iraq, trying to secure some roads up there where they have lost some soldiers. That certainly brought some perspective to the day.
I haven’t been able to adjust to the time yet. I fell right asleep around 10:30 last night, but then was up at 2am and couldn’t get back to sleep. I went down to the TV room to watch some TV and probably got another hour of sleep between 5 and 6. The other coaches tell me they had the same problem.
A little about our setup here on the base – we’re staying in the barracks, a concrete/cinder block building, and we’re all mixed in with the soldiers. I’m on the 3rd floor and it feels just like a smaller single in Fisher Hall back at Notre Dame, although the building is co-ed with the women on one side and the men on the other. All the hard building here are Kuwait owned and built, with all the mobile buildings being the US’s. There are hall phones where you can go and use your calling card, and TV rooms where they have DVD’s that you can watch. Today I met a guy using the hall phone who went to Oxon Hill High School back in Maryland. We discussed some kids he knew who I had recruited to Duke and Delaware.
The barracks is about 100 yards from the gym. The dining hall is right behind the gym and the food is actually pretty good. The P/X is also behind the gym, and it has a Subway and a Baskin Robbins. They’ve got some tables in there and that’s where the coaches have gone to hang out at night – late nights just talking basketball. It’s just like being a camp coach.
More tomorrow with reports from the double elimination tournament…
Just found out we’ve got the 4 seed in the double elimination tournament, and will play the 5 seed in our first game tomorrow. They seeded everyone 1through 8, even though there were two different brackets in pool play. The 5 seed is the Kuwait Naval Base, where I visited this morning. More tomorrow…