No regrets for Coverdale

No regrets for Coverdale

Indiana turned out to be right choice for Noblesville guard

By Lynn Houser, Herald-Times Sports Writer

February 20, 2007

Indiana’s Tom Coverdale celebrates after the Hoosiers’ 73-64 win over Oklahoma in the national semifinals at the Georgia Dome during the 2002 Final Four. H-T file photo
From the Feb. 20, 2007 Bloomington Herald-Times

After playing only 41 minutes his freshman year under Bob Knight, Tom Coverdale was wondering if he had a future at IU.

If a year at prep school before that had only earned him mop-up minutes … well, the 1998 Mr. Basketball did not consider himself a mop-up player.

Fortunately for the Hoosiers, Coverdale chose to hang in there and prospered when Knight’s successor, Mike Davis, saw something in him that convinced the new head coach he had a point guard ready to emerge.

Coverdale rewarded Davis by giving him three years of exceptional play. When his career was finished, he was third all-time in assists, second in 3-pointers made and sixth in steals.

It has been just four years since Coverdale hung up his No. 3 jersey, but it seems like only yesterday he was beating mighty Duke with a last-minute baseline jumper.

Who can forget that Sweet Sixteen game against the top-ranked Blue Devils at Lexington? Behind Jared Jeffries, Jarrad Odle and Jeff Newton, the Hoosiers erased a 17-point deficit and took their only lead of the game on Coverdale’s only basket of the game, a soft 5-footer that used all sides of the rim before falling in.

And when Newton hauled in the game-saving rebound at the frantic finish, all hell broke loose.

“That was one of the wildest sounds I ever heard,” said Coverdale from his office in Monroe, La., where he is now an assistant coach at Louisiana-Monroe.

“The thing that really stands out is the celebration out on the floor and in the lockerroom.”

Indiana followed that game with a 3-point onslaught against Kent State to return to the Final Four for the first time in 10 years. And then they upset No. 3 Oklahoma to reach the final game before losing to Maryland.

“It still hurts that we didn’t win that last game, but we accomplished a lot,” Coverdale said.

Coverdale and the Hoosiers extracted a measure of revenge the following December when Indiana met Maryland at Indianapolis in the Big Ten-ACC Challenge and defeated the Terps in overtime, 80-74.

The catalyst in that victory was Coverdale, who pitched in 30 points, six rebounds, five assists four steals and only one turnover in playing 43 of a possible 45 minutes.

“I had been looking forward to that game after the way they beat us (the previous March),” Coverdale said. “That game meant a lot to me.”

Tom Coverdale urges on his teammates and the crowd during a game against Northwestern at Assembly Hall on Jan. 15, 2003. H-T file photo
From the Feb. 20, 2007 Bloomington Herald-Times

The Hoosiers got off to an 8-0 start that 2002-03 season but couldn’t sustain it like the previous club had. They lost in the second round of the NCAA tournament.

But Coverdale wasn’t ready to give up basketball yet. He gave the CBA a try and then played some ball in Europe before getting it out of his system.

“I’m glad I tried it, though,” he said. “Looking back, I won’t have any regrets.”

After hanging around his native Noblesville for six months, Coverdale received a call from Louisiana-Monroe, a Division I school in northern Louisiana. New head coach Orlando Early offered him a spot on his staff and Coverdale leaped on board.

“I always wanted to be a head coach and wanted to get started at a young age,” he said.

At age 26 with no family obligations, Coverdale is in a position to devote all his energies to his new profession.

“I love it,” he said. “It’s definitely something I want to do the rest of my life. After actually getting into it and seeing what it’s all about, I know it’s the right decision.”

Just like his decision to stick it out at Indiana.

“Those memories are always going to be there,” he said. “That (2002) team was such a great group. They were so close, so fun to play with. You really can’t describe the Final Four until you’ve been there. It is something I will always remember.”

TOM COVERDALE

Age: 26

Occupation: assistant coach, Louisiana-Monroe

IU CAREER (1999-2003)

• Points: 1,217 (29th)

• Assists: 500 (3rd)

• Steals: 137 (6th)

• 3-pointers made: 200 (2nd)

PRO CAREER

• Played for Rockford in CBA, 2003-04

• Played one year in Germany