DAVIDSON, N.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) — A few hours after the final buzzer sounded, then-Davidson head coach Bob McKillop found himself alone, still trying to process his experience from the 2008 Men’s NCAA Tournament.
“I sat on an airplane and tears would just come to my eyes in the aftermath of that,” he recalled.
The range of emotions was fitting for the roller coaster of a ride he and his team had just taken, and while they ultimately fell short of winning it all, for a brief moment, the Davidson Wildcats had captured the imagination of everyone watching.
“We were the risk takers, we were gun slingers, we were going after it,” McKillop smiles.
Heading up the charge, of course, was a sophomore guard named Stephen Curry. After leading the Wildcats to 22 straight wins and a SoCon tournament title, the legend was growing for the four-time NBA champion, but it wouldn’t be until the first round of the Big Dance in which he’d truly experience his coming out party.
“This wasn’t just some young skinny baby-faced guard from a mid-major program,” McKillop explained. “This WAS a guy who could compete at that All-American level.”
Curry poured in 40 as the 10th-seed Wildcats would upset 7th-seed Gonzaga in the first round in Raleigh. He then dropped 30 two days later as he helped stun No. 2 seed Georgetown to move to the Sweet 16.
“Steph put us on his back, and carried us,” McKillop says bluntly.
Against third-seeded Wisconsin Badgers, Curry did the same thing, scoring 33, as Davidson advanced to the Elite 8 for just the third time in school history.
“It resonated so much for our team and our fans, that we were going for the kill,” McKillop says.
Now all that stood between the Wildcats and a trip to the Final Four was No.1-seed Kansas. It was a game that went down to the wire, but this time luck was not on their side.
“I can recall the shot going up and it looked from my vantage point, like it was right on target,” McKillop recalled. “(But) it hit to the left and didn’t even graze the rim.”
Davidson’s incredible run was over.
Having retired from coaching last summer after 33 years in Davidson, McKillop admits he still has regrets about that game against the Jayhawks, but more importantly, he also has experiences he wouldn’t trade for anything.
“It was the creation of yes, iconic Steph Curry but it showed more about what this team was,” he says. “There was a joy. There was a celebration of teamwork.”
Fifteen years later, the stories still bring a smile to McKillop’s face.
No, they weren’t champions, but that Davidson team was something special.