A slow start and a spectacular close to the season — former University of Dayton standout, Memorial High School grad and longtime Capital University men’s head basketball coach Damon Goodwin sees a common thread running between the 1984 Dayton Flyers and this year’s mens’ basketball team that has become the darling of the NCAA tournament with a run to the Elite Eight.
Dayton basketball is back to the heights that Goodwin and his teammates reached in the middle 1980s. With their win over Stanford on Thursday, the Flyers are now set to take on the tournament’s top overall seed Florida on Saturday night.
“I’ve been exchanging text messages with old teammates and I talked to Coach Donoher earlier this week,” Goodwin said. “I’ve watched the games and in a lot of ways I think the teams are similar to what our team was 30 years ago. They had a rough stretch in the middle of the season, somehow recovered and made a great run here.”
While the crowd-surfing university president and bracket-busting wins by Archie Miller’s bunch have put the national spotlight on the Flyers for the first time in years, former Dayton teams have already been on this path.
Goodwin, who has been the head coach at Capital University for 20 seasons and been named the Ohio Athletic Conference’s Coach of the Year five times, averaged 10.1 points per game as a sophomore on a team that beat LSU, Oklahoma and Washington before falling 61-49 to John Thompson, Patrick Ewing and the eventual national champions, the Georgetown Hoyas. Georgetown went on to beat the Phi Slamma Jamma Houston Cougars in the national title game.
He says Dayton is a special place to play basketball.
“First of all, it’s one of the greatest basketball arenas in the country,” he said. “It’s made for basketball. The seats are tight and it’s a wonderful place to play basketball. I think that’s why the NCAA goes there every year. I have a daughter at UD who works in the arena and she’s able absorb this whole run as it goes on, as well. It’s a neat experience.”
Dayton’s 1984 Cinderella run was led by the offensive heroics of Roosevelt Chapman, along with the help of Goodwin, Sedric Toney, Larry Schellenberg and Ed Young. After starting the season 2-4 and entering the NCAA tournament with a middling 18-10 record, the Flyers ran through a gauntlet of big-conference opponents.
“When we were chosen, we were told we’d be that TV game on CBS on Thursday morning and it was a neat thing for our school,” Goodwin said. “There was no selection show or anything. We got called in after the selection and told who we’d be playing.”
In the opener against the LSU Tigers in Salt Lake City, Goodwin scored 16 points and grabbed nine rebounds to go with four assists.
The Flyers moved on to take on the Oklahoma Sooners in the round of 32. Damon Goodwin scored 14 points and grabbed six rebounds in a game that Chapman went off for 41 points.
Dayton went on to play the Washington Huskies, led by future NBA star Detlef Schrempf. Goodwin had eight points and five boards, Chapman added 22 points and nine boards and the Flyers advanced with a 64-58 win.
Then came the game against Goliath — the Georgetown Hoyas. Led by Hall of Famer Patrick Ewing along with a cast of future NBA standouts Reggie Williams and David Wingate. Dayton held Ewing to 15 points, but the Hoyas emerged with a 61-49 win. Goodwin had four points in the loss. Dayton made the NCAA tournament in 1985, only to lose again to the eventual (and unlikely) national champion — Rollie Massimino’s eight-seeded Villanova Wildcats.
Goodwin would go on to have a career that would put him in the University of Dayton Hall of Fame. As a junior Goodwin averaged 12.7 points per game on a team that also had Marion Local grad Rory Dahlinghaus on the bench. As a senior Goodwin averaged 14.3 points per game as the team went to the National Invitational Tournament.
As a head coach at Capital, Goodwin and the Crusaders are coming off a rare rebuilding season. Goodwin sees good things for his team coming up for a young roster that includes Delphos St. John’s standout Curtis Geise.
“We had a rough year this year, one of the worst ones we’ve had in quite some time,” said Goodwin, who has won the National Association of Basketball Coaches’ Great Lakes Region Coach of the Year award in 2009.. “So we’re looking to rebound and we have a very young team. We’re looking for big things from Curtis and have our young kids improve.”
As a coach who has guided a team to the NCAA Division III Sweet 16, Goodwin said the key to tournament coaching is staying focused on the little things. “I think what Coach Miller did well was getting the team to come back down after winning those games on the first weekend,” Goodwin said. “You have to get things done in practice and playing well fundamentally. He’s obviously done that. They played well on Thursday and hopefully they’ll do it again on Saturday.”