Kentucky Suffers Crushing Defeat
Mar. 28, 2005
AUSTIN, Texas - As the officials huddled around a tiny courtside monitor, trying to determine if Patrick Sparks' desperation field goal at the end of regulation should be worth three points or two, Chuck Hayes strolled away from his team. The other Wildcats from Kentucky huddled, but Hayes stood on the court, his gaze fixed on the men in black-and-white striped shirts.Finally, at least five minutes after Sparks' buzzer shot had bounced four times on the rim and dropped through the net, the officials determined that it was a 3 and there would be more basketball to play. That ruling extended the greatest two-day period in college basketball history not only by another five minutes, but then that was followed by another overtime, as well.
But it didn't extend Hayes' career. And that's too bad. See, the best thing about college basketball is Louisville-West Virginia, Illinois-Arizona, Michigan State-Kentucky. The worst part is that these players who you become attached to sometimes end up losers, though Hayes never could be described as a loser.
The oldest of four children, Hayes had a little more expected of him growing up. "My mom had to work, my dad had to work, and things needed to get done," he said. Things like cleaning the kitchen, changing diapers, cutting the grass and making dinner. "My dad would say, 'You can cook anything that needs to be cooked. The directions are on the back of the box.' "
You get the idea now how he was Kentucky's Mr. Everything? Hayes' list of Wildcats chores also were lengthy. He provided a little scoring and passing, a lot of defending and rebounding and a ton of leadership and toughness. He rarely did anything spectacular, and he rarely did anything wrong. Hayes always knew exactly what his team needed. The day before losing that classic against Michigan State, Hayes was asked, "How does it feel to be the face of a team with so many faces?" In other words, on a team where 13 players regularly saw action, Hayes was the one player Kentucky couldn't do without.
Though Kentucky rarely promotes players for individual awards, it sent out notebooks to reporters early in the season that campaigned for Hayes for All-American consideration. Knowing that it couldn't push any of Hayes' modest statistics, the cover of the notebook simply read: "Chuck Hayes. All he does is win." Not only did Tubby Smith approve of the promotion, it was his idea.
Hayes also has shown the way away from basketball. He helped his household run smoothly when growing up in Modesto, Calif. His first job was at the Salvation Army, where he helped underprivileged kids by refereeing their basketball games and setting up games of pool. He will graduate in May with a degree in broadcast journalism. He beams when he talks about his Mom getting order forms for his graduation announcements.
Hayes also has a special bond with his youngest brother Thaddeus, who has autism. Chuck loves to tell stories of the two acting out a scene from an action movie by wrestling over the remote control, pretending it to be a sword. Thaddeus can't put complete sentences together, but whenever he sees a basketball game on TV, he'll point to the screen and say, "Chuck, Chuck, Chuck."
It was easy rooting for Chuck Hayes. After losing to Michigan State, even a microphone struggled making his voice audible. "You give it all you can," he said. "You put in all of that hard work and you think everything will work out. But sometimes, it doesn't."
No words could console Hayes at that point, but you wanted to remind him of the previous day, when he was asked that if the Wildcats lost to the Spartans, would his legacy be tarnished by not playing in the Final Four. Hayes said he didn't think so. Asked a few moments later how he thought Kentucky fans would remember him, he said, "As a guy who gave it his all. I just want to be remembered as a normal student-athlete."
Chuck Hayes. All he does is win. Even after a loss.