Recalling 1987: Keith Smart, Indiana

Indiana's Keith Smart (23) puts up a shot in the final seconds of the NCAA Championship game on March 30, 1987.

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Indiana's Keith Smart (23) puts up a shot in the final seconds of the NCAA Championship game on March 30, 1987.

Keith Smart’s 16-foot baseline jumper with four seconds left in 1987 NCAA Championship game is frozen in time as one of the more scintillating moments in Final Four history. That shot beat Syracuse 74-73 at the Superdome and secured for Bobby Knight his third and last championship at Indiana.

Smart had little success professionally as a player, appearing in only two games with San Antonio of the NBA, before kicking around another decade in the sport’s lower levels at home and abroad. Coaching was a different story. He currently is head coach of the Sacramento Kings.

Q: Regardless of anything else you do with your life, that single shot will be mentioned in the first sentence of your obituary. Are you OK with that?

A: Yeah, I'll be the guy who made the shot.

The shot is always chasing me. It makes me do things the right way 98 percent of the time. If I run a red light, it won’t be coach Smart of the Sacramento Kings — that may get some attention — but it will be the guy who hit the shot in ’87.

Q: Do you ever get tired of talking about it?

A: No, it was a great moment, for me and for the fans. People like talking about it. I don't want to rain on their parade.

When I was in Macedonia (2011) doing some coaching in the offseason, I was talking to a guy in the hotel who recognized my name and said, “You’re the one who hit the shot.” I’ve heard about it all around the world.

Q: Does it ever strike you how the planets had to align for that game-winner to happen? Syracuse misses a free throw. Bobby Knight doesn’t call time out with less than 30 seconds left; you get into your normal motion offense. First option Steve Alford is blanketed by the Syracuse defenders. You get the ball low to Daryl Thomas, who looks to shoot, but is well defended by Derrick Coleman. He finds you just as you shake free, cutting toward the baseline.

A: Everything had to fall into place. For Daryl Thomas not to take the shot, to pass back out. For us not to force the ball to Steve Alford. We went through every progression in the offense. We went into the post, the post didn't have anything, it came out to me. And I was supposed to be the guy at the end if there was anything there to make a play.

Q: More than a quarter of a century has passed since the shot. Do your Kings players today appreciate it?

A: It comes on the classics and as the tournament starts to come around. With IU doing well now, every now and then the shot pops up. Some of them told me the other night, 'Hey Coach, they talked about you last night during that game.'

Q: Do any of them try to emulate the shot during down times in practice?

A: Nah, nah. They're in their own world.

Q: Do you still try to re-create it?

A: It has been a long, long time because now I don't make it as much as I used to. All of sudden you start thinking about making it rather than just shooting it and making it.

Q: Asleep, do you see that moment in your dreams?

A: No. The first couple years or so you'd think a lot about the moment. I'd do a re-creation of the shot for different media outlets. I'd even smell the arena. I'd see faces of people around me again. Teammates as well. Not any more.

Q: That would be Bobby Knight’s last of three championships at Indiana. I’m sure you didn’t think at the time you’d be supplying a punctuation mark to his era there.

A: We thought we were going to win again next year (Smart's senior season). The group we had the year before had so much leadership. That's one thing I regret, my senior year I didn't provide the type of leadership that was necessary for that team. I knew the rest of my days I'd strive to be a leader. Long as I live I'll know the reason we didn't succeed was I didn't provide the leadership that Steve Alford provided me.