By Doug Gorman
If you asked me to rank my favorite sports, college basketball would be near the top of the list.
I fell in love with the game in the late 1970s by following the University of Louisville. I still remember the night they beat UCLA in 1980 to win the NCAA title. Later, I jumped on the bandwagon at Georgia Tech, spending many exciting nights inside Alexander Memorial Coliseum watching the Yellow Jackets go from ACC doormat to contender.
I was there when Dennis Scott stole the ball under the basket and fired up a buzzer-beating shot as Tech beat North Carolina in a thriller.
I followed the team throughout the Bobby Cremins era and admired the man for graduating his players and resurrecting the basketball program in a classy way.
Cremins' led the school to one Final Four during his storied career and several ACC titles. Tech was a regular visitor to the NCAA tourney. The success made Georgia Tech the hottest ticket in town in a city known more for its passion for football.
Paul Hewitt is now doing great things at Tech too. Last season's trip to the title game was a magnificent piece of coaching. Like Cremins, Hewitt is a gentleman who does things the right way.
Tech fans better hope he's on the bench for years to come.
I don't have the same passion for the pro game. Big-time money and big egos have made the game unexciting in my opinion.
Professional basketball is no longer about a team concept. It's about showboating and who can come up with the most spectacular highlight for ESPN Sports Center.
Until the playoffs start, it almost looks as if the word defense isn't part of a professional player's vocabulary.
American-born NBA players are supposed to be the best in the world, but now the gap is closing. As the entire sports world gets ready to turn its attention to the Olympics in Athens, I have my doubts as to if this version of the Dream Team will bring back the gold, or if they really even care.
The loss earlier this week to Italy in an Olympic tune-up was the most disgraceful display of basketball I have ever seen. An American basketball team stocked with high-paid NBA players should never lose to Italy.
Granted, Wednesday afternoon, the United States redeemed itself some with a 3-point victory against Germany when Allen Iverson hit a trey at the buzzer.
Could it be this group of players thinks it can waltz through the Olympic tournament and bring back the gold medal just by stepping on the floor?
For years, the United States could do that. Basketball was our game and nobody was going to take away our medal. Throw out the controversial 1972 games where the Soviet Union was all but handed the Gold medal, and the early days of Olympic basketball were no contest.
When we were dominating international competition, we did so with the best college players, not over paid athletes.
Personally, I would like to see us go back to those days.
We may not bring home the gold every year, because international players and countries are far better at the game than 20 years ago, but college players would leave their hearts and souls out on the court.
In 1992, the year of our first Dream Team, America played with passion and rolled to the gold medal.
This version of the Dream Team looks to be nothing more than a collection of high-priced Prima Donnas, not really concerned about winning, and that's sad.
I know the international game is different and takes getting used to, but this team really doesn't show me any spark. Sure, they celebrated Iverson's winning shot against Germany, but they should have never been put in that situation.
In this day and age, the Olympics is about more than just athletic competition.
These players aren't just playing for themselves, they are also playing for those of us who are ready to bleed red, white and blue. College players would come closer to sharing that sense of nationalism.
Unless, this squad goes through an attitude adjustment by the opening ceremonies, this version of the Dream Team could turn into a nightmare.
(Doug Gorman is sports editor of the Daily He can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org)