The Grateful Dead made a song about what Brian Crow has done in the past year. Something about what a long, strange trip it's been.
There are a lot of places to start but we might as well start with The Phone Call.
Five weeks ago Sonoma State University men's basketball coach Pat Fuscaldo received a voice message on his cell. It was from Kevin McKenna, assistant men's basketball coach at the University of Oregon. Call me. Fuscaldo practically jumped out of his skin in anticipation, which is unusual in itself, as Fuscaldo can't jump.
"Great," Fuscaldo thought to himself. "Oregon is calling to get a game with SSU next season."
Instead, McKenna asked, "What can you tell me about Brian Crow?"
Oops, Fuscaldo thought to himself, I didn't see that one coming. Not even from a mile away.
A year earlier Crow had left Sonoma State. He had played for SSU his freshman and sophomore years, loved the experience, loved his teammates, but as Fuscaldo said, "Brian always had this thing for Oregon."
Born in Santa Rosa, lived a bit in Rohnert Park, the Crow family moved to Marin and Crow played basketball for Novato High School. He played basketball against Sonoma County schools like Petaluma, Santa Rosa and Elsie Allen. Crow knew the area, loved it, but wanted to be farther away from home than 20 minutes, at a place that wasn't as familiar as the back of his hand.
"I like the rain," Crow said, "and I wanted to go to a high-level Division I program."
"But the chances will be slim that you'll play," said Fuscaldo, noting there's a big difference between Division I and Division II college basketball.
"I'm not going to play," Crow told his coach. "I'm going there to study. I want to sit in the stands and root on Oregon's teams."
On Wednesday, Crow amplified that last paragraph.
"I retired from basketball at the age of 20," he said.
His physical dimensions made that decision attractive. Crow is 6-foot-6, 220 pounds. He's a tweener, not small enough and quick enough to be a guard but not big enough to push 7-footers out of the way.
Fuscaldo told McKenna that Crow was a quick study, very coachable, not afraid to shoot, not afraid to throw his body about. Fuscaldo had only two reservations. One, how good of shape could he be in after taking a year off from the sport? Two, would Crow dedicate himself completely? Crow had moments at SSU of less-than-intense commitment.
McKenna thanked Fuscaldo. He had enough information. He had just received an email from Crow asking to be given a tryout at Oregon as a walk-on. Crow gave Fuscaldo as a reference. How Crow arrived at the decision to send Oregon an e-mail answered satisfactorily the two concerns Fuscaldo had.
Crow had spent most of the summer at an on-campus gym working out twice a day. Was he doing it to prepare himself to be a walk-on?
"I honestly don't know," Crow said. "I was missing basketball. I just wanted to get in shape."
To get in shape? That's all?
"Yep," said the senior, who is majoring in business.
As for his dedication, Crow found that a year off as a competitor refreshed his desire. And that casual effort at a Division I school would not be tolerated.